COLUMN: Cats unite to win for Calipari

Responding to a loss is always tough.

Although difficult to handle for any competitive athlete, a loss represented in the win-loss column proves how sports are so insignificant at times.

After suffering a blowout defeat to Connecticut in the Maui Invitational’s championship game last week, Tuesday’s game against the less-than-intimidating Boston University Terriers was a chance for the Cats and UK head coach John Calipari to respond to a loss—yet not the kind of loss represented in the win-loss column.

The game represented the challenge of coming back from adversity off the court as Calipari’s mother, Donna, died at 74 on Sunday after losing her long battle with cancer.

“It was a nice tribute for our players to wear the black socks for Cal’s mom,” said UK assistant coach John Robic, who was filling in for the grieving Calipari at the postgame news conference. “And he said that to the guys in the locker room afterward and he called his dad and told them that, and that’s a special thing…we’re all in this together and he knows we’re here for him.”

Calipari and his assistant coaches donned all-black suits for the game also, and a smattering of the fans in Rupp Arena sported black in honor of Calipari’s mother.

Whether you love or hate Calipari, there’s no denying that tackling the job on the court becomes increasingly difficult when life off the court isn’t going well, but Calipari didn’t miss any of the preparations for this game. Not one practice. Not one film session. Not the shootaround.

“I’ve been with him for 14 years, and he’s never missed a practice,” Robic said. “It just shows the commitment that he has to his family in Charlotte but the commitment he has to this family in the locker room.”

At halftime, the locker rooms were polar opposites of each other. The Terriers were giving the Cats all they could handle and trailed by only seven at the intermission.

UK freshman guard Doron Lamb said he and his teammates heard the Terriers celebrating like they were up 20 and knew that rebounding from first-half adversity was a must.

After the week Calipari had, the players knew if he could maintain composure, they could too.

“We huddled right before we came out and I say we just pretty much put it on ourselves to come and try to play harder for (Calipari),” freshman forward Terrence Jones said.

The players responded, outscoring Boston 51-24 in the second half. And that is why facing adversity off the court is so much more amazing than facing adversity on the court sometimes.