John Calipari’s defense could be key to Kentucky’s shot at title

John Calipari - photo by Walter Cornett |
John Calipari – photo by Walter Cornett |

did not spend a single one of Kentucky’s 16, one-hour workouts this summer working with his players on defense. Since practices officially began in October, Calipari says he and his staff have instructed “all offense,” and that won’t change until after the season begins.

For those who want to view Calipari as a coach who merely amasses great talent and rolls out the ball, those details are manna. Can you imagine Jim Boeheim not working on his 2-3 zone for 16 consecutive practices? Would Bo Ryan or or another coach known for teaching great man-to-man defense not instruct on that until after games were played?

But there is no madness in Calipari’s methods and more than a little genius. “First, I don’t want [the players] to be miserable right away playing basketball. I want them to enjoy it,” he says. “They enjoy offense.” Second, by focusing almost entirely on teaching his Dribble-Drive Motion offense, Calipari is pulling something of a Mr. Miyagi, Wax-on, Wax-off trick on his players. “Having to guard the ball is the hardest thing you have to learn,” he says. “Guarding against screens, against the picker and rolls and all that, we have schemes for that stuff, but it starts with a guy with the ball coming at you. By working on the Dribble-Drive right away, we are working on guarding the dribbler from the start.”

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