Calipari: "This will be a players-first program"

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

UK coach John Calipari created quite a stir following the NBA Draft, which saw five of his players selected in the first round, a record from one school.

UK coach John Calipari created quite a stir following the NBA Draft, which saw five of his players selected in the first round, a record from one school.

Calipari proclaimed draft night as "the biggest moment in the history of Kentucky basketball."  Former players and fans have scolded the UK coach, insisting seven national championship banners suggest otherwise.

In this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, Calipari is the subject of Dan Patrick's "Just My Type" column.  In it, the coach explains his comments.

"Well, it depends on your frame of reference and what you're thinking about.  When I took this job, I said this will be a players-first program.  And I said we want to graduate players.  We graduated four.  We want to win national titles.  And it's to help players realize their dreams and we had five -- FIVE-- players that are now realizing their dreams."

When asked if he thought he'd lose freshmen from next year's team, Calipari said no.

"No one thought that Eric Bledsoe would go after a year, let alone the 18th pick.  Daniel Orton didn't play his senior season in high school and played 13 minutes a game for me.  You thought he'd leave and be in the first round?  Everybody said there was no way after one year that DeMarcus Cousins maturity would be where it would be for him to be able to leave.  He may have to stay three years.  And so all of a sudden, all five go.  It's a players-first program, and if they're realizing their dream, I'm going to encourage it.  And then we have to figure out as a program -- I don't agree with one and done.  Kids should be able to go directly to the league if they choose, or they should stay in college two or three years.  I've said that for 10 years.  But that's not the rule.  With the young teams that we're coaching, the hard thing for our program will be to win those last two or three games.  That's going to be hard."

What about taking less talented kids who might stay three or four years?

"No.  I like coaching the best.  What if we won the national title and none of them got drafted?  Or they got hurt and their careers ended?  Think about it.  For me personally, it's not changing my life.  Kentucky has won seven national titles.  I'm hoping we back into a couple more, but who knows."


Cousins featured in SI

Also in the current issue of Sports Illustrated, a four-page story on former UK big man DeMarcus Cousins, drafted by the Kings with the 5th pick.

Entitled "The Big Question Mark," the story obviously centers on Cousins' reputation as someone with a quick temper, who lacked maturity.

Kings team president Geoff Petrie defends the pick, saying he loves the way Cousins plays with passion.

And the shooting stroke Cousins displayed while working out for the team.  Petrie said Cousins made 80 of 95 jump shots inside the three-point line, a higher rate than any other Kings prospect.

Cousins says he doesn't want to be the next Shaquille O'Neal, but rather, a bigger, more muscular version of Lakers center Pau Gasol.

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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