MAR DEL PLATA (FIBA Americas Championship) - John Calipari has won a reputation as one of the best United States college coaches ever and has made it to the NBA. However, he has no shame in assuming he had to study the South American teams' style to make the Dominican Republic play like them.
"We've improved, we're getting better. I learned a lot of differences in FIBA Basketball," said Calipari. "I watched Argentina and Brazil and learned how we have to play."
Calipari accumulates an incredible coaching record of 509 wins and 151 losses (77 per cent) in his career and is one of two coaches to guide three different colleges to a number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
But FIBA Americas is a whole different story.
Two NBA players that were pointed as the most controversial in the Dominican side talked about Calipari's style.
"He has a strong character and makes us focus on defense and make the offense flow," said Francisco García, who had a brief quarrel with the coach during Dominican Republic's 92-89 win over Venezuela.
García has only improved since then.
Even though Charlie Villanueva averages 12,7 points and 3,9 rebounds per game in his six-year NBA career, the Detroit Pistons player had to accept his role coming off the bench and Calipari's shouting.
"It's hard because we are NBA players, especially me that I had to put my ego aside and do the best for the team," expressed the 6-foot-11center.
Villanueva said the team does not belong to García, Al Horford and himself as the three NBA players.
"We're all the same in here, he demands the best from everyone and that's what he's getting.
"Calipari brought a lot of experience and leadership. He taught us that everything is earned and nothing is given."
The Dominican Republic had to recover from a tough blow after guard Edgar Sosa suffered a complete leg fracture near the end of Monday's game against Panama.
Calipari took the player's feelings seriously.
"A Canadian doctor talked to our team and explained to our players the injury so they knew exactly what it was and that Sosa can recover. We explained them the hospital is a great hospital. We gave them all the information and then let them alone," said Calipari after Tuesday's game.
The Dominican Republic has already clinched a semifinal berth but will still have to face Puerto Rico and Argentina to decide their final placement.