LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky coach John Calipari said on Thursday that his team’s summer trip to the Bahamas wiped out some of the anxiety associated with this year’s Wildcats.
“To be able to go down there and do what they did, to share, to play together, to know that everybody is going to be involved in this, I think it helped,” Calipari said while speaking to reporters during UK’s annual Media Day. “Did put us ahead more than I want to be.”
“I don’t want us to look like it’s January in November,” Calipari added.
UK finished 4-0 against a collection of teams in the Bahamas, which included two professional teams.
“The anxiety, bringing the team together, having a spirit about them, having an ability to say ‘I get it, I know where he’s trying to take this now,’ it was all really good.”
Calipari is fond of saying “I like my team,” and again championed this year’s version.
“When you don’t have to coach effort, when you don’t have to coach the enthusiasm, the passion you have to play with, when you don’t have to coach a competitive spirit… I don’t have to coach that with this team,” Calipari said. “So now, you know what you’re coaching? Basketball. So now you coach basketball and I love coaching basketball.”
By most accounts, the coach has another talented and deep squad. Calipari said depth is great at UK because statistics don’t really matter.
“They don’t matter here. It’s can you play?” Calipari said. “So a group of guys can come together and be comfortable in their own skin knowing in 21 minutes, Karl-Anthony Towns, you can be the number one pick in the draft. Devin Booker you can come off the bench and be a lottery pick.”
On the current basketball scandal involving the FBI…
“It is a black eye. It’s not good for basketball. I hope the decisions we’re making out of this are all based on what’s best for the kids, not just to change for change sake.”
On playing Duke on Nov. 6…
“It’s just a hard game. It’s a hard game for Duke, too. They’ve got young guys. It’s just a hard game out of the gate playing a program that has really good players and is really well coached, and is not intimidated by the scenery.”
On UK’s 5-1 start in football…
“Best thing? The culture. Everybody was mad and angry. Do you remember where two years ago we’d be sad and disappointed? There wasn’t no sad, now. Their staff was mad. Their players were mad. Our fans were mad. The culture has just changed in football.”
On whether he’s spoken to Rick Pitino since he was fired…
“I’ve talked to him once. I may have talked to him twice. But I’ve texted him occasionally. But if he asked me I’d probably do it because he did my podcast. So yeah, I would. Probably wouldn’t have him talk to the team based on, it would be the… it would put North Korea on the back burner, let me just say that.”