Notes from pre-North Carolina media session

Defense first. That’s been the motto John Calipari has been trying to instill in his team all year.

“It will make us win,” Calipari said. “Because of our skill level, our shooting ability, the offense will take care of itself.”

Against Ohio State, UK players said they knew defense was the key to stopping the most efficient offense in the nation. They did, with Ohio State shooting in the low 30 percent range from the floor.

“Somebody told me those last couple of stops (against Ohio State), every guy on our team was down in the stance clapping,” Calipari said.

Game preparation. UK will not change how it prepares for an opponent, no matter how long it has between games, no matter what caliber team it is playing, no matter the stakes.

“Our players will not watch tape of North Carolina until the pregame meal,” Calipari said. “They will not get a scouting report. There will be a meeting in my room tonight which will last 15 to 20 minutes. We’ll have an hour on the basketball court where I will go through some of their stuff. The board they will see prior to the game is exactly like the board when we played Mississippi Valley State early in the year.”

UK always focuses on itself, rather than opponents. Not all teams do it that way, but it’s worked for UK.

Calipari still has that one hole on his resume. The lack of a national championship was brought up to Calipari. Does he have to win one to validate his career?

“Maybe but I don’t — it’s not in my mind, but maybe,” Calipari said, adding that there are coaches who haven’t won a championship that he has “unbelievable” respect for. “I look at coaches there, the respect I have for what they do, and (it’s) mainly how they treat their players.”

Roy Williams was in Calipari’s position himself, having lost three times before winning a championship in 2005 at North Carolina (he would add another in 2009). He said the perception of an incomplete resume without a championship exists among fans and media, but not coaches.

“In the coaching profession, we realize there are big-time coaches,” Williams said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s fair because that would be like you guys saying you weren’t a success at all unless you wrote for Paper A, and I don’t think that is the way anybody’s life should be qualified or graded whether it was a success or not.”

Roy Williams was killing it at the podium. The North Carolina head coach had multiple lines during his press conference (which, by the way, was interrupted by a false fire alarm).

The press conference had two assistants passing out microphones to reporters who wanted to ask a question. There were about 50 reporters in the room at any given time.

“A $10 billion contract,” Williams said, referring to the NCAA budget, “and two microphones and no cookies for the players in their holding room?”

Someone asked if Tyler Zeller’s improvement could be attributed to Tyler Hansbrough returning to practice a few weeks ago.

“If I thought it had something to do with Hansbrough coming back, I would have his ass here tomorrow,” Williams said. “I think it helped the restaurants more than anything.”

Williams was talking about Kendall Marshall’s intelligence running the point, and threw in a sly remark about him being “so intelligent a player, but he is not very intelligent off the court.” Williams couldn’t resist acknowledging that: “I am on a roll.”

Williams said his favorite cookies were “peanut butter, snick doodles, sugar. We used to like brownies a lot more but Danny Green told everybody about it.”

Coach on coach: Of course, two high-profile coaches can’t meet in a game without talking about one another.

Williams on Calipari: “You know, John is going to go a little wacko on the sidelines because he is John.”

Calipari was prompted to talk about Williams, and the reporter said Williams was the second-most famous coach in his state. Calipari: “Who is the most famous?” Reporter: “The guy who has 900 wins.” Calipari: “Oh. I forgot about him.”

Later, talking about Williams: “He’s as good as it gets. … And a good man. And a heck of a golfer, too.”