Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari joined the Paul Finebaum radio show on the SEC Network this week to discuss the status of his team as we approach the middle of the offseason. He hit on four major points in the conversation, with those being the status of the program, the facilities, who's returning and what Kentucky has to do to get back on top.
"We were the fifth seeded team in that tournament and lost - I'm still sick over it," said Calipari. "Jacob's (Toppin) coming back. Oscar’s (Tshiebwe) coming back. I mean, we've got a team. Sahvir (Wheeler), CJ's (Fredrick) healthy, you've got Chris (Livingston) and Cason (Wallace), you've got Antonio (Reeves) who transferred in, you've still got Daimion (Collins). You've got Lance (Ware) who I'm really excited about. Adou (Thiero) comes with us from Pittsburgh, so, we've got a terrific group."
He goes on for the next few minutes talking about the addition of K.T. Turner, reflecting on the Saint Peter's loss and how they were (obviously) better than everyone thought, and that his team finished the year statistically as one of the best in the country despite the overall result. "That team was exciting. I loved coaching last year's team, had a ball! But you know what, that last game, really the last couple of games, we just really weren't what we were two weeks, I mean three weeks earlier." He continued with, " I don't think TyTy ever got healthy. Played Kellan too many minutes. But you know what, at the end of the day you can't still the joy of that season."
Paul Finebaum politely asks why he's remained at Kentucky longer than anyone expected him to, probably including John Calipari himself on that, and is now entering year thirteen in Lexington. "I think I got the best job in basketball, and I believe that. Yeah I've had some opportunities to look or leave but at the end of the day, you look at this situation, we have a chance to win it every year."
"Our recruiting, and again Mitch (Barnhart) and I are meeting because my thing is it's unacceptable if we're not the gold standard in facilities and everything else. Not acceptable if the Midnight Madness isn't something that's talked about for a month. Unacceptable. We need the camp out going again."
"Here's what I say. See, basketball is different than football. In football, you need the calvary. In basketball, one guy can make a difference in winning the whole thing, getting to the Final Four... One guy. Because it's not eighty. To have everything the gold standard, we've always been that. We've slipped a little bit in some of the facilities. I'm not saying our facilities are bad. They're not bad. They're just not the gold standard. Mitch and I are going to sit down and talk and say 'what's the path?' How do we get that going to anyone that walks on our campus and see's any facilities knows 'wow, look at this.' We're going to get there," finishes Calipari on a long but important rant.
Reflecting on what his mission as the head coach is, Calipari says, "What we do, the big picture, is getting kids to that next level by developing young people and it's been fun doing it and I'm having a ball doing it now."
When asked how he's stayed relevant to his players for so many decades, he responded, "I would say 'what's next and how can we be first at it? What's next? What's out there? What are we allowed to do? I'll say this, if you care about the kids and you truly care and you're authentic about it, you'll always be able to go on because they'll know you're about them."
In a brief sentence before discussing the Shaedon Sharpe situation - which we aren't going to get into today - Coach Cal says he expects Jacob Toppin to be a first rounder next summer, so that's exciting.
His final message is that he loves his job and everything that comes with it. "(I have) The greatest job, the greatest opportunity, we've got to make everything the gold standard, what it's been, and you know what? Let's go on and do some crazy stuff which we have a chance to do."
If you want to listen to the full interview yourself, you can here.