Calipari talked to the media tonight following the win over Eastern Michigan: “It’s so obvious what we have to do. I like the big team. I looked at it, and that’s what we’ve been practicing the last couple of days.” Read full transcript following video.
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Q. On Alex Poythress.
COACH CALIPARI: He still has some glitches, but the team gave him a hand after the game. But we’ve got to continue on the individual work. He and I are going to work tomorrow. There were just two or three things at the start of the game that we have been working on that he didn’t carry over. He reverted back.
But he at least played with some energy. You could see it. He ran the floor hard. You could see it. It’s so obvious what we have to do. I like the big team. I looked at it, and that’s what we’ve been practicing the last couple of days.
But Alex has to play for me to play that team. We can’t come out with the energy or the lack of effort that he has in some of these games. He came after it in this game.
Q. You said you like the big team. Can you talk about Willie Cauley-Stein’s development?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he’s been great. What I told him, I think he made 400 free throws since the last game. So as I’m working out Alex and doing the stuff I’m doing with him, and Kyle (Wiltjer)’s down on the other end working out, and then I’m working out with the two guards or three guards, then he comes in, and he’s on the side charting free throws. What I told him before the game is get fouled, and go show everybody what you’ve been working on. Then I said, and if you miss one, it’s okay, because you just say to yourself, you don’t make every free throw. But I’m still going to show him what I’ve been working on, and it was great that he made it. It was a crier. It kind of went in, but it went in.
Q. What did you think overall of the defense and the intensity?
COACH CALIPARI: Better. Again, this team beat Purdue now. And Michigan and Syracuse they were within 8 to 10 for a long time in those games and then those teams broke away from them. So this defense that they play is a tough defense. It’s something that I think is a zone that’s very effective, and they’ve done a great job with it.
Q. 13 in the first half, you went on an 110 run. What did that do for you, kind of finally the spark that they got things going?
COACH CALIPARI: They were fine to start. The first play of the game made me mad. Alex got hung up on the screen, and the guy got the three right off the start and just gets hung up. But short of that, I thought we defended. I mean, they had 14 points at halftime. Kyle gave up the threepoint play, and Julius (Mays) threw a ball over the top for them to steal, when he’s got a sevenfooter standing right in front of him. All he’s got to do is throw it up in the air on the out of bounds play.
So five of their 14, we just kind of threw them to them. So I thought we defended the whole game. That’s what I wanted to see. All I was talking about every time was discipline. Quit taking chances, stay down, we’re not leaving our feet. We do not want to take chances. Let’s just grind this and get better, and I thought we did.
Q. Did you guys press and trap more, and was that a thing of energy creating? What was that?
COACH CALIPARI: Partly, it’s how we wanted to play this team. Partly it was good. I like Willie up there. It’s tough when you’ve got a sevenfooter running at you now. He’s just got to get a little lower so he can keep the player in the trap a little bit better. But I like him up there.
Q. How important is it for Julius to see some go in?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, here’s what I said. Even Julius missing shots, he doesn’t hurt your team. He just doesn’t make shots. So there is no like, not only is he not making the shot, he’s not guarding, he’s turning over. Well, Alex was hurting us. Julius never hurts us; he just maybe doesn’t help us as much as we want. Today he helped us.
I think the rotation the way we have it right now may be something that I stick with for a while. Having him and Kyle come off the bench, you have scoring right away when you go to it off the bench. You’ve got a very, very big team on the court that can do some stuff. You know, then Jarrod (Polson) can spell Ryan (Harrow).
I thought Ryan was good again today. Had a few turnovers he didn’t need to have. He had two of them. Really, he had two turnovers. Two of them were the late half cool throw to Archie (Goodwin) that was, why did you do that? And then go between the legs. That’s the old kid that used to play but wasn’t very good. The new one is not turning it over. He’s strong with the ball. He’s aggressive. He’s making plays, you know, so…
Q. Cal, you go into SEC play next week. I know you’ve said all along that you like your team. But how do you feel now as opposed to how you felt a couple weeks ago?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, much better. But I’m going to tell you, it’s going to be a process. Here’s what I told them after the game. You understand it’s not wins and losses? The way I coached them today, we were up 40, and I was on them about taking chances. I got on Julius on a play. I got on guys today.
I said it’s about discipline. It’s about playing together. It’s not about the score of a ballgame. I said, if it were about that, I would have been angry after the last game. I wasn’t. This is a process with this team. We’re starting four freshmen. I’d like to know if anybody else in the country is doing that? We’re starting four freshmen. I mean, now that’s what it is.
So I’m worried about us getting better. I’m not worried about any other team in the country. I could care a less. I don’t watch other games. I’m focused on what I have to do to get individual players better.
Now I told all of you I do some stuff that I told you at a later date what that is. And I’m going to tell and you the Big Blue Nation tomorrow. We’re going to tell what we’ve been doing with the guys. It will be on my website. CoachCal.com.
Q. Do you have to buy any product to get on there and see it?
COACH CALIPARI: If you’d like, that would be nice.
Q. Just wondered. Can you talk about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming back today?
COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he surprised us. He’s such a great kid. He knew that there was a plane coming from Charlotte. He just said, “Hey, can I jump on it?” And he came in, and they beat Chicago. They practiced today and he comes in to watch the guys play.
He was really, really angry when he saw the locker room. He was smoking. He walked in my office, and he said, this is BS. What we had last year. Look at this. So he did it in fun, but he was like but it was good to see him.
So what I’ll do is tomorrow you’re going to have a good idea of what we’ve done that is unique, out of the box. We’re a nontraditional program. We’re doing things that we have to do that have never been done, based on the fact of what we’re doing with young guys. We’ve got to try different things. So it will be out tomorrow sometime.
I’m basically doing it for the Big Blue Nation to see, but since I told all you in the media, I’m telling you now it will be out tomorrow.
Q. We’ve seen Ryan’s offensive game grow and the command of the offense. But how much growth has he made defensively?
COACH CALIPARI: Wow, how about that today? It wasn’t even the steals. He played, he competed, he battled, and he got punched in the face to today on a play and it didn’t affect him. So I’m more than pleased.
But the question is, this is where I thought he’d be at the beginning of this year. Now where do we go from here? He’s got to continue to grow. He’s got to continue to get better. No lapses. When we’re in our league, we’re going to be playing games. We can’t afford lapses, especially by our point guard.
Q. You’ve been doing the individual instruction. You’ve talked before about you want Alex to be the best Alex he can be. But this may be the dumbest question you get all year, but how do you know when you’ve reached that point or know there is nothing more inside that player to come out?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, here’s one thing you can look at. Can you bring something out of a kid that’s not in there? I’ve never settled for that for any young man I’ve ever coached. Because in my mind, he doesn’t believe it’s in there, and I’ve got to convince him it is.
So, I told them, I’m not only building their confidence. You know who else’s confidence I’m building? My confidence in them. Two days with Alex, I decide to start him. He was good enough that I looked at him and said I’ve got to start this kid. He’s that good. So he built my confidence in him, and I helped build his confidence.
But I even told him, what did I do? I didn’t do anything. You did it. But I’m going to tell you, he’s halfway home. Half the way there to where we need him.
So it’s still going to be weeks away. Maybe a month away. If he makes it, I’m okay if it’s a month away. Because at the end of the day with him and the other guys, I like my team. We’ll be fine.
Q. Can you talk about the free throw shooting? It was a lot better tonight than last game. Is that anything that you guys are working on?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, Alex goes 6 for 8 instead of 2 for 6. Like I told you with Willie, I said either you have a vision, you’re going to make them or don’t get fouled. So today he goes 1 for 2. So those two, when you talk about it, one went 0 for 5 or 6, and the other went 2 for 6 or whatever he was. Your percentage is bad right from there. The other guys weren’t that bad at the line.