COACH JOHN CALIPARI
COACH CALIPARI: How about this? Our women's volleyball team is in first place in the SEC. They stomped on Tennessee last night. How about that?
Q. You said if everybody played like Gilchrist you'd have a team on fire. What did you mean by that?
COACH CALIPARI: Yesterday in practice, he was just his (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) level of intensity, DeAndre Liggins' (meant to say –Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's) starting point is where DeAndre (Liggins) finished. That's what he is right now, only he's 6‑7, he's long, he can play inside, outside, he can guard three positions, or four positions for that matter, like DeAndre. He just brings a burning desire to get better. He was in the building last night like at 11 o'clock shooting. He's like the guys that I've had here who ‑‑ they are chasing greatness.
Q. I read that this was your most talented team?
COACH CALIPARI: Who said that? The old, 'I read it somewhere.' (Laughter).
Well, last year's team, it was more that they came together as a group and a unit. That was one of the best teams I've coached. I've coached three teams like that. I coached a team at UMASS like that ‑‑ I've only had three, and that last year's team was that team. They just said, we are bringing it, I know we only have six guys, I know someone else maybe had more talent than we had, but that's too bad, we are winning anyway.
This is different. This is kind of like my first year and a couple other years where I've had where you're in a short order trying to get a group of talented players together to play. So it's ‑‑ am I surprised kids want to come to Kentucky? No. Not at all. I would be surprised if they wouldn't want to come. Why won't you want to come.
Q. Are you surprised how well you've been able to recruit here?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, yeah, the aura of this program, the fans, the facilities, the SEC, there's a lot of things here, and then all of a sudden, they see results of other past players, and what's happening for those, why wouldn't you want to be a part of this. Now, the issue, sometimes becomes, this is not for everybody.
The stuff ‑‑ look at you. I mean, there's ‑‑ this is what it is, and they are going to feel it when they get in there. When they saw 600 tents lining up around ‑‑ let me go back, I think I was misquoted, I think it was 570, what was the exact number, so we don't have to have people search it out and have people say I misspoke. 550? Is that exact?
So we are going with 600. I like that one better. (Laughter) but when they see that for five days and see games they start to realize, uh‑oh. And I really think, that's one of the reasons that Michael Gilchrist is in that gym at eleven o'clock and Brandon was and John Wall was and Marquis Teague, Darius. They do this because there's a sense of, wow, this is big, and I hope I'm for it. And that's why I think the guys perform. They go farther than people think and they go to the league and they do better than people think. It's kind of this whole environment, I call it the Kentucky effect, just kind of does it to you.
Q. On some rule changes heading into the season?
COACH CALIPARI: I like the arc underneath the rim. I wish it was a little bit bigger but I like the arc because we drive the ball and if you are in that arc you run the guy over and it's a block, whether he's there. It can't be your own man now. That arc is under there for the secondary defender, but we are trying to beat our man on the dribble, which means there's secondary guy coming over.
Well, if you're in that area, you don't have to worry about anything. Just run the guy over. Can't be there. The old stand under the basket and take charges; that's why they have done that arc, which I think is a good rule.
Q. How much does the pressure escalate at all?
COACH CALIPARI: Obviously we want to win national championships and I want to win national championships, but I'm more concerned about these players.
Let me say how do I do this, because sometimes I feel like I'm running for president because people tell you what I'm thinking or what I'm saying or what I mean by what I'm saying.
When I say players first, during the season, we are concerned solely about our team. Yes, we are trying to get guys better and we are putting them in positions to help us win.
During the season, it is about our team. The minute the season ends, it is about those individual players, and we help them make decisions. We give them information so they can make decisions on what they want to do. I think, and again, you do right by these kids, they drag you to what you're trying to do, which is put up banners, and that's how I feel.
And I just think that the pressure here, whoever is in this seat, is to win. One of the things I'll tell you is I don't take this as life or death and the reason I don't take it like it's life or death, is because you die a lot. And that's game‑to‑game.
I just ‑‑ I'm doing the best I can. I have the peace of mind that I'm doing the best I can and I do know that I'm doing it for the kids, not myself; so that I can live with myself and know that we are doing right.
Q. The National Championship, getting back there ‑‑ how much do you like to hear it from players, how much do you not ‑‑
COACH CALIPARI: I like our guys to have peace of mind. I want to tell them that they are a talented group and they can do what they want to do. But I want them to have peace of mind, do the best you can, be your brother's keepers; what is supposed to happen will happen. I want them to have peace of mind. I want them to also dream big dreams. I want them to think beyond their surroundings. I want them to feel good about why ‑‑ why make them feel bad about wanting to be the best? I want them to be the best. I want our team to be the best. But in between then, where we are now and that kind of goal is a lot of togetherness and a lot of sacrifice and guys having to give up some of their games and all those things.
It's just what we deal with. I mean, the issue here is, we are doing it with freshmen. So my first year, three freshman, last year three freshmen, and all of a sudden, if you've ever coached this sport, you know, to get freshmen to, one, play without the basketball on offense, to make hard cuts that don't really matter for the play, to make the extra pass, to not worry about stats, and then defensively play off the ball, to do all of the things to help your team, it's just hard. I would like to get them to talk to one another on the court. That stuff's hard and it takes time.
Last year we lost six league games on the road. We couldn't win a road game, and by the end of the season we got together and we were good and we were one of those teams. We were one of the three or four teams that was playing their best basketball at the end of the year.
Q. What does the gold standard mean?
COACH CALIPARI: Goal standard is you want to be that standard that everybody else looks at and says, that's how we want to be. I talked about our grade point average and with all of you in here, we had a 3.16 grade point average last term. Didn't merit enough to write a story I guess. It was a 3.16 this summer.
And I said, let's have the highest GPA in the country. That's my challenge to my team. It doesn't mean it's absolutely a done deal, but that's what you chase, just like you're chasing a National Championship, let's chase that.
Some of you, it gives you an opportunity, well, why would you say that because there's some of you that will write, they only had a 2.4. He said they were trying to be ‑‑ so you have that part of it, but the other side of it is, so that means I'm going to try to tell them not to dream big dreams; go for it. We had the highest APR in the SEC. We had the highest APR ‑‑ you all knew that, right? That wasn't written about, either.
What I'm trying to say is, let's have the best APR in the country, and, let's chase that national title, and let's get five guys drafted in the first round. We want it all. Why shouldn't you want it all? Why don't dream big dreams? Now, we may not get any of it, but I know this; we'll get closer to it if it that's what we are striving for than we would if we weren't.
Q. Now, when you talk about the players, how do you approach the different things about winning championships?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, again, when you make decisions after the season, if it was just about winning championships, what do you think I would recommend to all of these players? I'd say (speaking in mimicking tone): "Come back. I need to help your free throw shooting. You'll be bigger ‑‑ you'll be better prepared in the NBA by staying two more years."
All I know is, I can't do it that way. If I think a young man like Brandon Knight is going to be a top five, six, seven, eight pick and he's got 60 college credits after one year of 4.0 work. I could have convinced him, why wouldn't you want to stay another year or so and get a college degree. Why don't you do that, with the back of my mind saying, I'm just trying to win more games.
I just don't do it that way. And as this has happened, we encourage kids to chase their dreams. If we give them the information and that's what they choose to do, we ‑‑ DeAndre, I told DeAndre I thought he should come back. He chose to leave. I'm for him. If that's what he wants to do, I'm for him.
So that's the kind of decisions you make when you're about players first.
Q. Is there any validity to that, that you can't win a national title with one-and-done players?
COACH CALIPARI: We'll see, I guess, as we go forward. One of the greatest compliments paid to me was by Senator Mitch McConnell. He came up to me and asked me, "How many guys are going to leave this year, Coach?"
I said, "Mr. Senator, probably six, five ‑‑ I'd say maybe six."
He shook his said and said, "You're creating more millionaires than a Wall Street firm." And you know what, I kind of liked it.
But we talk about being socially aware and conscious. There are things that we do in this program that tell them, you will be blessed. Now, what will you do with those blessings. You will be blessed. What will you do with those blessings.
We have those talks as teams, as individuals. I don't want them just leaving here and just having great success in the NBA. I want them also being in their communities, taking care of families, understanding that they have a responsibility now with this blessing to give back and use it for everyone's good.
So you know, those are the kind of things that are out there, and everybody, when we lost five first‑round draft picks, there are some guys that wrote stuff about, you've got to recruit bad players. Well, we had five guys leaving the first round and we just went to a Final Four and if we shot it a little better, maybe we win the national title. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's not right. At the end of the day,10 years from now, we'll be able to look back and say, okay, this is how it played out.
I know how it's playing out. We are winning a lot of games and doing things in the league, kids are doing well academically, kids are getting out and we are also graduating the players that stay, including Patrick who stayed three years. So all of the seniors that come, they graduate.
So this is a good one. You either get your graduation, you get your degrees and you're at Kentucky and well known throughout the state and probably throughout the country, or you go pro. You know, it's a tough deal.
Q. You might not know year-to-year how your team is going to look, but what is your best guess at how this team looks?
COACH CALIPARI: We are unconventional. This is a team ‑‑ I coached a team like that in 1992. In '92, our point guard was a two guard. Our two guard was a three man. Our three and four and five were three men, either playing the five or the 3 ‑‑ my four man was 6‑3. He was 6‑3, but he put his head on the rim; Will Herndon. Tony Barbee, who is now the coach at Auburn was my three man. And Harper Williams who is now with him at Auburn was our quote, five, when we didn't have a five and that team did really well.
This year's team is not conventional. We changed our break yesterday. So instead of running people down the rim we are running everybody wide now. And why? Because we don't ‑‑ we have all three ‑‑ we have three fours who think they are twos. We have no fives. So, okay, then we'll play this way and then none of you have to be a five.
So what I try to do is how do we have to play to win. Last year was handoffs. We had to. That's how we played our best because it got Josh away from the goal and it got Brandon Knight to catch and shoot when he's at his best. But we needed Brandon to dribble up the floor because we had to have him dribble up. Well, how are you going to get him to catch and shoot if he's dribbling up? We did handoffs.
I think this year may be a pick‑and‑roll team. It may be. It may not be. It may be a dribble drive team, my old school dribble‑drive where we did it 80 percent of the game. This could be a zone team. Could you imagine us in a zone? 6‑10, 6‑10, 6‑9, 6‑7, 6‑3? Go against that zone. I can't teach it but I bet you it would be a good zone. (Laughter). It may be a pressing team.
Q. You made a comment a couple of weeks ago about Kentucky being the Commonwealth's team. What did you mean by that and what did you make of the response?
COACH CALIPARI: Look, we are the commonwealth's team because throughout this state we have support. Our biggest alumni base other than Lexington is Louisville. It's no disrespect for anybody else's program. Louisville has a great program and it is important to the City of Louisville and important to the state.
When we play them I hope they lose, but other than that I could really careless. We are not following or watching or recruiting against them. They play in one league, and we play in another. So I'm just ‑‑ are we the commonwealth's team, I mean, it's not a statement to ‑‑ absolutely not. We are. That's what we are. No disrespect for anybody else.
Q. On how to play with such a "unconventional" roster
COACH CALIPARI: Well, Denny Crum who is a great coach, you know what he used to do with guys like this? Anybody watch him coach?
Q. He pressed.
COACH CALIPARI: He pressed and what else did they do?
Q. Posted the guards …
COACH CALIPARI: They pushed the guards in. What else did they do defensively? They switched everything. That's how they got those national titles and Final Fours and everything he did, and he and I talked about it.
I even asked him about guarding the post the other day, we were talking, and he gave me some ideas about guarding the post and how they did it. He had unconventional teams and they won. Now, I don't think they were this young, but they were good.
Q. How do you maintain a players' first program with such a program first environment?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, As long as I am the head coach, that's how it will be.
(Rajon) Rondo, by the way, is outstanding. I mean this guy, he is working, and he's ‑‑ I told him, and I told Nazr (Mohammed) the same thing. When they are done if they want to come back and join this staff and finish up their degrees, they are welcome. They are great young people who want other people around them to get better and they are not afraid to share their knowledge and their experiences. So he's been good.
Q. How do you deal with having players come back ‑‑ When people say it's an unfair advantage?
COACH CALIPARI: An unfair advantage is Stanford having a $250 million endowment for athletics is unfair. Us having a couple players coming back is not unfair. I think their endowment for their school is 6 billion. What's our endowment here? I guess there's no level playing field. Can I say that?
Q. The three coming back, what do you think needs to change most this year?
COACH CALIPARI: They just have to be better, and they are. I told Terrence Jones, I said, Terrence, you look at these freshmen and you say, you guys are all really good. You are just not better than me. That's what I told them. You look at them and tell them, you're really good, you're good; none of you are better than me and he's practicing that way. He's trying to say, look, I went through this. I just went to a Final Four. I got 15 rebounds in the Final Four game.
Q. On Kyle Wiltjer …
COACH CALIPARI: Best thing is we brought in a speed coach to work with him and he's running now, he's finishing one, two or three in all of our conditioning or running that we do and he's flying up‑and‑down the court and he has a running hook, old school Mikan, and he shoots it, and I'll make him shoot it. Hook; shoot that hook! And he'll run into this flying hook, whoop, and just beep‑beep. And I laugh, I'm out there coaching, laughing, watching it. And he can really shoot and he's a great kid. He's going to be a great teammate. He wants the challenge. It's all good stuff.
Q. With the mix of veterans that you do have coming back do you think you will fare better on the road?
COACH CALIPARI: We are everybody's Super Bowl. We'll have trouble every game we play, including home teams you think we should be because there will be a guy who makes four 3s. And I'll say, who is he? And they'll say, that's the first four 3s he'd made in his career. That's what happens to us.
So every game we play is a Super Bowl. That's why I don't make one game more important than the other. If you do, you put it back on your players. If it's about players first, you just say, hey, every game's important here. No game is more important than any other and that's how we approach it.
Q. How important is it having veterans back?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, it's going to be really good. It's going to be really good. Especially Darius's weight is down, his body fat is down. He's running better. He's moving better. He really looks good.
Q. Darius is a dominant guy in practice..
COACH CALIPARI: Who is that? Well, he was MVP of the SEC tournament. So he's more than a practice player. He's not been consistent with it but I think he knows, this is his senior year.
You know, let's bring it, let's do it. And I've also said it's unconventional, this team, because we have probably six or seven starters. Who do you start? We have six or seven guys.
Now you look at who is the most consistent player, and that's who start. Doesn't mean the other two are not playing but it's hard to start guys who are less consistent than other players. That means, well, who do you start? I don't know yet. I do know that they will be the most consistent players on and off the court, guys that we know we can count on to start that game and we'll go from there.
Whether that's freshmen, or whether it's the seniors or whether it's the sophomores, I don't know yet.
Q. In the Carolina game, can you talk about the amount of talent on the floor?
COACH CALIPARI: It's going to be a good ballgame. Plus we beat them last year, they have everybody back, they have added shooting. They have added their point guard now but we played them early in the last year, they were a different team. When we played them later, they were a much better team. But then again, so were we; so it ended up being a good game.
Q. About winning a national title..
COACH CALIPARI: Are we the only school that wants to win a national title this year, and our fans? Come on. I just don't get bogged down in it.
I'm worried about my team ‑‑ look, if you followed us even in a mean way, if you followed us over the years, you would know that the teams get better as the years go on and that's my whole goal. If that's not good enough ‑‑ that's the best we can do.
If we are playing our best basketball at the end of the year, what if someone just happens to be playing better? Yeah I'm disappointed but I still have peace of mind that my team did the best they could, they are playing their best and individual players are playing their best and that's what we try to do.
You know, if that turns into a banner, great. If it doesn't, next year, here we go, let's do it again.
Q. About the team adjusting..
COACH CALIPARI: How fast, I have no idea. Last year, it was February and we all of a sudden, we kicked it in and we had a couple of home games that we played well and then all of a sudden we caught fire and it was off to the races. This year, who knows. The year before, if you remember, we had about five or six wins that should have been losses.
But we just happened to make a shot or tip‑in or something that we won unexpectedly four or five of those games and we have that kind of schedule again this year. So we could lose four or five early, but last year showed you, it really doesn't matter; it's, are you getting better. The schedule sometimes dictates that you are going to lose some games. You don't want to lose any. You won't win them all but that's how it goes.
Q. What made you go after Ryan Harrow now?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I think, one, he's a terrific player and he's a really good young man that we looked at and said, you know what, he makes us better.
Q. Do you hope Eloy has the same jump as Josh did last year?
COACH CALIPARI: Eloy has gotten better, but Josh ‑‑ see, the term insanity, I'm going to do the same things over and over and I'm going to get different results. You could be a little bit better, but you're the same.
Josh came in and changed how he worked, changed his attitude towards basketball, changed all his habits and all of the sudden, increased his workouts and his work habits and he just took off. But it's because he changed everything. But I've said it to he and Stacey, both of those guys are better. Now are they good enough to be in that rotation? I don't know yet. I would hope so. It would be nice to have nine guys.
Q. Will this be one of your better offensive rebounding teams?
COACH CALIPARI: We are skinny. We are not ‑‑ I don't know. You guys are making assumptions about a team that I've coached seven practices for an hour, seven hours, so you know more than I know. I have no idea right now. Really don't.
Q. How would you compensate for your lack of bulk inside?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, depends on how you want to play, how you want to play pick‑and‑rolls, be how you want to play post defense. There's different things that you can do. But I do know this; that length, oohh, when you have length, oohh, and speed and quickness, oohh. You add bulk and all that, well, if you have speed and quickness and length, and the other guy has bulk, you know, and it is basketball, there are officials out there. There's only so much you can do.
Q. Have you engaged with the new guys, what they think, the whole fans and media, I guess nobody is prepared for it.
COACH CALIPARI: I haven't spent any time with them on that. I've been racing around doing stuff. So my time with them has been on the practice court or at my house on more of a laid back situation where we have not talked.
But I think they are all excited and anxious. We are going to go down and do a rehearsal for tomorrow tonight. So we are going to go down and have a practice tonight and then we'll do a rehearsal so they will know and they will be comfortable in what they have to do.
You come here, you have to want this. That's what you want, that's why you come to Kentucky. If you don't want this kind of stuff, you don't come here, you just don't.
Q. What's your biggest concern and what is your strength?
COACH CALIPARI: My concern is we are very young again. We are going to have four freshmen and two sophomores in our top six. So that makes us very young. What I like is our length and our athleticism.
Q. What are your thoughts on conference realignment?.
COACH CALIPARI: I've done that for six months right now so I'm just going to talk about my team, that's okay.
Four freshmen, in our top seven, sorry. See, that's why, hey, was it ‑‑ five, six ‑‑ that's what happens to me.
Q. What did you get out of your Dominican Republic experience?
COACH CALIPARI: Pick‑and‑roll. I'm really looking at exploring pick‑and‑roll for this team. We've been doing it in practice and I kind of like it. It gave me an insight that I have did not have, one, on how to guard it better, and two, on the real subtle opportunities it creates for your team, especially when your Bigs can really shoot. And our bigs can really shoot. So now it makes it a little different.
Q. About the players checking their egos at the door..
COACH CALIPARI: They have been good. They are coming together, looking after each other, challenging each other, and not afraid to police each other from what I've heard in the weight room. A couple of the guys have stepped up and challenged some guys to do what they are supposed to do, not in a mean way, just, "come on now."
Q. About having another freshman point guard..
COACH CALIPARI: Torture. Early on, he'll turn the ball over and take bad shots. Early on, he's going to turn the ball over and he's going to take bad shots. I've got to make sure he stays out of foul trouble because he's really physical defensively.
But at the end of the year, this offense unleashes you as a point guard. It just does. And now what happens, last year, we only averaged ten turnovers a game last year for the season. Do you know what we averaged in Hawai'i? I think it was 19 a game. Then by the end of the season, it was ten. We were in the Top‑10 in the country in the least amount of turnovers, playing fast. I mean, I'm not saying we are coming down throwing 12 passes and getting the guy a shot. We are playing fast.
So I would predict this team will average 11 or 12 turnovers a game, something like that, early on it will be 16 or 17. Later in the season, it will be down there in that ten, nine range. I think we had a game at the end of the year where we had four turnovers and that was with a freshman point guard, and two other freshmen playing a lot.
Q. About the backup point guard..
COACH CALIPARI: I don't know who is going to do that yet. I would say either Doron or Twany, Jarrod. We have to look. Even Darius could play it if he needed to.
Q. What does it take for those teams in the Final Four to become the National Champion?
COACH CALIPARI: Usually it's a play or two or it's shooting. One team is on fire making shots. The other team isn't, stuff like that. But you know, the confident team, the team that has a swagger and has that one player, sometimes in the NCAA tournaments, one guy that separates you from every other team, and you just hope that you've got that guy on your team.
Q. About Anthony Davis at center..
COACH CALIPARI: He's not a center. He's not a center. But the only guy that I can say is somewhat of a center is Eloy and Eloy is a four. They are all three, fours. Eloy is a four, five. That's what we have.
Q. About team leadership..
COACH CALIPARI: They are working. They are really ‑‑ what you have to do is you lead by example, and if you're leading, you're serving your team. It's not just what you're doing. You're serving everybody by how you work, how you help, what you do to pick everybody up; yet, you're still finishing first in the runs. You're the hardest worker in the weight room and then you're doing things, how can I help my teammates. What do I do to make it easier for them. That's what a leader does. So those guys are growing into that. It's not easy to do because you've got to really be one of those guys that works.
You're a leader and you're in the tub, come on, guys, work, and you're on the ice, they don't want to hear that. You've got to be out there and finishing first and dragging guys with you. You can do this, keep breathing, I've got your back, just do what you're doing, you're doing great, that kind of stuff.
Q. How much do the freshmen lead?.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, they have all got ‑‑ in their own way, they tell me that Marquis has been the best in the weight room of any freshman that I've had. So that's why when you look at him he's like a pit bulldog right now and Marquis Teague stares at me when I talk to him, I tell you, an open eye, what am I saying ‑‑ he's going to do exactly what I say, it's unbelievable. He looks like one of the most coachable guys I've had to this point.
Michael leads; Anthony leads. You want more than one leader, because it's like flying like geese, somebody steps up and then let this guy lead for a while. It's not your day, let him lead for a while. Those are the best teams I've had where you have more than one guy that can take the reins of the team and run with it.
Q. About Kanter getting a chance to play in Rupp?
COACH CALIPARI: It's great. Good for him. He's a great kid. Great kid. Going to be a heck of a pro, too.
Q. How has the fan reaction impacted you?
COACH CALIPARI: You sit in the seat I'm in, you can stay in your office and watch tape. Or, you can get out and be involved in this community and this state. You can move people for good. You can reach out and visit, and at dinner ‑‑ and just, you know, it's like the other day. We are in Louisville, there are 1,200 people and you have ladies in wheel chairs and oxygen and crying and you're like, what in the world is going on here.
And I just walked around the room and it was like you wouldn't believe, like squeeze hugs, like the kind of hug that you get ‑‑ this position. It's not me, it's the position. And I say, I'm only here for a short period of time. We had one guy that he was here 42 years.
The rest of us are here temporarily. So you use the seat either for good, or you stay in the office, watch tape. And I'm not doing that. I don't get involved in that stuff.
I've chosen to do the other and it doesn't take away from what I do it. It makes me feel better which makes me coach better which makes me help my team understand that they have also been blessed to get involved. We bring kids to practices and help them understand how blessed they are to be in the position they are in.
Q. About Anthony Davis…
COACH CALIPARI: He's really good, he's a great kid. This kid has a smile on his face. If I told him, you're playing center and you're going to have to slug it out, he would say, okay. And the reason we changed our break is I keep watching our team and saying, I don't want to run him to the rim because that's not what he is. Get out there and run and make plays, and then slide in there if you need to. It's interesting. And we don't know how this thing is going to play out and who is going to be drafted where. That's all nonsense stuff at this point.
But I tell you he's good; Michael; they are all good. I've got a good team.
Q. What would be a disappointment this season and what would be a success?
COACH CALIPARI: Just as long as we are getting better and as long as my team is improving and we are playing well, and we are ‑‑ there's a peace of mind for all of us, then it's a success.
Q. About Darius Miller's last go around..
COACH CALIPARI: You'd have to talk to him about it, but he looks great. I'm proud of him. He's a great kid. I mean, he's ‑‑ you know, he'll do whatever this team needs him to do to win. That's what he'll do.
Q. About angering Louisville fans.
COACH CALIPARI: I'm not trying to ‑‑ I'm just coaching my team. That's what I do. I work here at the University of Kentucky and I coach my team. That seems to aggravate a lot of people. (Laughter).
COACH CALIPARI: I was still thinking about what I said. Tell me that again (laughter).
Q. Talk about being in the Final Four, what does it take to get back and win a championship?
COACH CALIPARI: Let me just tell you, to really be a good team, you need three guys, at least two. You know, the coaching up stuff, you need three pros on your team in all likelihood to try to do something crazy. And that's just how it is. I talk about the team they had here in '96. They had nine NBA players. There were nine NBA players on that team. That's ‑‑ you want that. But back then, kids didn't leave early. Now they leave early. So to have those kind of numbers, somehow.
Q. If you couldn't ‑‑
COACH CALIPARI: Couldn't what?
Q. How often have you recruited a kid and can't wait for him to leave?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, you mean to tell me, I've got a kid and said ‑‑ this kid is, just get him out of here? Well, I wouldn't think in those terms. My whole thing would be to get him to change. I'm telling you, there were guys, the best players I coached, I couldn't wait to get them out because I knew they were ready and they were going to go in that league and do well.
But as far as me trying to say, there's a guy that I'm like, aahh, can't stand this guy; you know, there's guys that are easier to coach than others. But listen, I have been blessed because my best players have always been good guys. And when you're best player is a good guy, this is easy. How about when your best player is a jerk? What, are you going to throw him off? He's your best player.
So you're going to get rid of him? I would get rid of him. Okay, then you're going to lose your job. Well, no; well, yeah, you are.
So what are you going to do? When you have ‑‑ my best players have all been good guys. And let me say this, part of the reason, why would a kid, if he were to be drafted, and he gets drafted and he's the first ‑‑ even if he was the second round, but he's a one, two, five, seventh pick in the draft, why would they come back to school and finish the term? Why would they do that? They have only been in school one year. Why would they finish that term? Why would they not finish the term? Why would they just leave?
Because they say, I don't need this. This does nothing for me. I'm going to go pros. I'm leaving now.
It's called loyalty. They are loyal to the program, to me personally. They know I'm loyal to them and they are not going to hurt the program. And that's why our APR is 974. That's what you're trying to create in that family atmosphere, we are all in this together and we are all trying to help each other. I know Coach is for me, and guess what, I'm for this university and I'm for this program, and I'm for him, too.
Q. Is that what you look for in recruits?
COACH CALIPARI: You recruit character, believe me. You want good kids.
Q. About the NBA Lockout impacting college basketball fans..
COACH CALIPARI: No. I think college basketball is ‑‑ it's almost like they are two different sets of fans. Now will some of those fans want to watch college basketball? Probably. Are they going to start buying college basketball tickets and throw NBA to the south? No, they won't.
What you have, though, is a vacuum of how many NBA writers that have nothing to write about. That, what are they going to write about? Probably be right here in Lexington writing, I don't know. But you're going to have a bunch of those guys. I don't know what they do. But I think this thing is not going to go as long as everybody thinks. I'm not talking about knowledge. I'm just knowing these owners and players will come together and they will get stuff worked out.
Q. About having the NBA guys in town...
COACH CALIPARI: It's been great. It's been great. What they were doing was they were working, and they work. They work, and they spend time. So you may say, you mean to tell me they go work in the weight room for an hour and a half, and then do individual work for an hour, hour and a half; yeah, and they get a bite to eat and then come back and play for three hours? What? That's their job. They are professional. They eat, play basketball ‑‑ that's their job. So they go all day. What else do they have to do.
So you're telling your players, understand, yeah, you're going to ‑‑ on your own, there's no one looking over these guys. They are here working.
Right now I can't tell you how hard Rondo is working, it's incredible. As this thing comes back, Rondo will have a knockout year, no question in my mind. They are going to look at who the heck is this guy in Boston because of when I'm seeing, how hard he's working.
But that's what the good thing was for us. They got to see how hard a Durant ‑‑ why would Durant, he's one of the best players, one of the best five; he works his butt off. He works. He spends time. And how about the Oklahoma City doing it together, they are all working, together. Starts with the leadership of their team.
Q. About the defensive system and this team..
COACH CALIPARI: One, we may play different. We may stretch it out. We may press more. We may play passing lanes, which I haven't done for a long time, because we have got shot‑blockers; and we have more than one shot‑blocker. We have four shot‑blockers. Two or three of them may be on the court at the same time. We may do things to scramble up the game to make the game faster, so the other team has to shoot it faster so we can go.
But it's not a system. It isn't like, my system wins. What wins is good players that play together, that care about one another. How they play ‑‑ how many different styles are there to this? Whether it be Jim Boeheim's team is a top‑five team. They play all zone. You have other teams that play all man. You have teams that play fast. You have teams that play slower. You have teams that play flex. There's not one system to this. It's about getting good players, who come together, and play, and care about one another, and understand that together, great stuff happens. We all have to give up.
And that's what it is. Defensively. I can't tell you how we are going to play. I don't know yet. When I get them in there, what will happen is, we will play some and I'll say, I don't like this and I don't like that, let's get away from that and let's play this way. We may start saying we are trapping everything, and I look and I don't like it; we are taking too many chances, giving up shots and don't do it.
We may go back and we may play a zone, and having looked at it, in all likelihood, say, get out of it and we are done. We don't know. Same thing offensively, same deal.
It starts on the ball. Marquis Teague is a pit bull but you also have Michael and then you have shot‑blockers behind. Terrence Jones should be an unbelievable defender. He's in the best shape I've ever seen him. So, it's all good stuff.