John Calipari knows he probably said some wrong words after Auburn loss but not sure what he said on radio show really helped

Jacob Toppin didn't start the second half at Auburn because coach John Calipari didn't want to "take anyone's heart away" who had not played well. (SEC Photo)

It’s not often that John Calipari admits he might not have said something exactly right. But the Kentucky coach knew he messed up after Saturday’s loss at Auburn. Calipari was asked why he did not start Dontaie Allen and Jacob Toppin in the second half after they were UK’s leading scorers in the first half.

“I want to win every game I coach, but on the other side, I’m not trying to take anyone’s heart away,” Calipari said.

Many UK fans took that to mean Calipari was more interested in making sure five-star freshman Brandon Boston, who has struggled to make shots and not turn the ball over, needed to play more than lower-rated recruits Allen and Toppin and winning took a back seat to that.

“Let me just start with this. Where we are at right now is unacceptable. None of us are happy. I am not happy. If you know anything about me, I want to win just as much as anyone,” Calipari said to start his weekly radio show Monday night with Tom Leach.

“I said some stuff the other night that didn’t come off right but I am trying to protect these players. When the words came out they were probably wrong, but I stand by what I meant.”

Not sure he can have it that way. You can’t say the words were wrong but you stand by what I meant. Either it’s more important not to hurt certain players’ feelings than others or it is not.

Calipari explained his young players are dealing with normal first-year frustrations along with COVID-19 stress.

“I am (different this year). I am coaching emotion more than I have ever coached in my entire life,” Calipari said. “I am being way more protective of these kids and their emotions than ever because that is best for them.”

Protective is fine. But what about the “hearts” of the players not getting to play when they are outplaying some players on the court? Doesn’t that count for anything?

“I am not trying to take the hearts away for our team but got to get BJ, Devin (Askew), Isaiah (Jackson) playing at a high level,” Calipari said.

The coach admitted he didn’t want them to slip into a bad place and insisted playing time was not about names and rankings — even if it sure seems and sounds like that.

“I have a strong belief in each of these kids and a strong belief in what this team can still do,” Calipari said.

Strong words for a team 4-8 that has not scored over 65 points in any of its losses. The Cats couldn’t even beat Auburn when it missed 14 of its first 15 shots and failed to score on 21 of its first 25 possessions.

Calipari noted he had to keep “all these guys” believing in each other and him believing in them while being conscious of all they are going through daily.

“If you have to take a step back for someone else to take a step forward …,” Calipari said. “If it were your son and he was struggling would you want me to give him every chance to bust through or would you say just take him out and try somebody else.”

But what if it was your son outplaying someone who was getting more chances to play and succeed but not being nearly productive enough? Wouldn’t you want the coach to give your son a chance to play more based on what he’s accomplished?

Again, not sure admitting some players get more chances than others is the best thing for fan morale right now. Probably not team morale, either.

Calipari used his standard line of “this is not Communism” and how it takes time to figure out how his team needs to play.

“If you know me, you know I want to do everything we can to win,” Calipari said. “This program is important to me. I love this program.”

So do the many, many fans who are frustrated with the team’s play and the coach’s explanations for some of what he’s done this season. Maybe what he said on his radio show will ease some of that fan anxiety but I still think it is what it is and what Calipari said after the game is simply the coaching perspective he has and always has had.

5 thoughts on “John Calipari knows he probably said some wrong words after Auburn loss but not sure what he said on radio show really helped

  1. TheProfessor

    For 11 years, he could say anything with no repercussions, or at least very little push back. Those who tried to push back got pushed down by those who were intent to intercede on his behalf by silencing all criticism. This pattern began as long ago as the 2010 NBA draft statement, and that pattern of senseless, and revealing statements, standing as the word that cannot be challenged.

    Now, the push back is exploding in his face. His denigrating statements about long time, loyal, and knowledgeable UK fans were treated as nothing but a joke, but now he is being exposed, or should I say, he is exposing himself and his objectives that at least some recognized and tried to expose years ago.

    I take him at his word.

    Yes, he does believe the NBA draft night is the most important day of the UK Basketball annual calendar.

    Yes, he does believe that fans like me and many others are stupid hicks that can’t possibly understand this game.

    Yes, he does believe that it is his job to protect those players he anoints, at the expense of other players on the roster, and at the expense of the program and fan base.

    Yes, he does believe that the long standing record of most consecutive games with a 3 point basket is an irrelevant detail of history even though the fan base regarded that achievement with great pride

    Yes, he does believe that the long standing record of the most games won by any college program is an irrelevant detail of history and that those that matter will not even take notice when Kansas moves ahead of UK.

    This is the weakest UK basketball team in my memory, clearly weaker than any team of the last 20 years, and probably weaker than any team representing UK since Adolph Rupp arrived for the 1930 season.

    This team is weaker than anything Billy Gillispie could have put on the floor, and yes, Gillispie was not the man for this job because of his personal demons that haunted his life. Calipari has no such excuse, and the conclusion is crystal clear, he has no regard for this program and has damaged it beyond recognition with his players’ first philosophy and his determination to be known as the greatest facilitator in history for young kids to realize their dreams of a few years in the NBA.

    Shame on you John Calipari.

  2. nostalgic33

    Calipari is definitely protecting one player…Boston. He has said he will throw away the season to try and make him a lottery pick. That’s his choice and he makes no apologies for it.
    Now, it’s BBN’s choice. We want a coach who puts the program first, not one single player. Calipari could not care less about getting fired. He could walk away from the game now and never want for anything. He is going to do anything he can to help Boston get into the NBA even if it costs him his job. He has made his choice. Now its time to move on from Calipari and get our program back on its winning ways.


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