Notes and Quotes: NBA in Louisville, “camp time,” Harrellson and multiple coaching styles


Head coach John Calipari applaudes after the UK men’s basketball 88-44 win over Drexel at Rupp Arena on Monday, Dec. 21, 2009. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

Notes and Quotes from today’s media session with UK before Saturday’s game against Mississippi Valley State (8 p.m., TV: Insight):

Calipari discussed the prospects of an NBA team in Louisville — Louisville has long been deemed a potential destination for an NBA team, and those talks have kicked up again with the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets as the subjects.

UK head coach John Calipari sees nothing negative about the potential of a pro team inhabiting the largest city in Kentucky.

“I don’t see any downside,” Calipari said. “And it’s just that people get scared of it, like they’re afraid of it.”

Calipari said he saw no potential negative effects that a third major basketball program would have on UK specifically.

“It will never take away from the University of Kentucky,” Calipari said. “Ever. Never. It will never take dollars away, it will never take seats away.”

Calipari has been part of a similar process before. While the coach at the University of Memphis, the Memphis Grizzlies relocated into the city. Calipari said it didn’t hurt the college program at all — in fact, quite the opposite, with the more “livable” city raising ticket sales and donations. He said the city of Louisville would be bolstered by the addition of an NBA team, and he wouldn’t mind that because anything good for Louisville is good for the state.

As for the Louisville program, it would help their recruiting, which has recently been tabbed by Rick Pitino as an area of improvement.

“There will be pro scouts there in the (Louisville) gym every day,” Calipari said. “They go to see pro team that night, where do they go in the afternoon? To see the college players.”

And then Calipari dropped a bombshell.

“And hey, twice, when you’re playing LeBron (James), come play here in the new building we’ll have in four years,” Calipari said, before promptly saying he should end the press meeting and walking away.

VIDEO of Calipari discussing possible NBA team in Louisville, via

Calipari talked about learning how to coach more ways than one — Calipari says he’s not the type of coach that likes to ride his players and be the overly demanding guy. But the recent improvement of Josh Harrellson, which largely stemmed from the recent Twitter controversy, taught him there is more than one way to approach coaching players — which largely comes from the fact that there are more than one type of player he has to coach.

“But now I’ve found out that there’s certain guys you separate from the pack and you deal with them different,” Calipari said. “Why can’t I coach both ways? If I need to be this to one guy, then I’ll be that to him.”

Some players, like Harrellson, need the extra pushing from the coach. Some don’t. Calipari sees both types on this team.

“It shows you the (coaches) that beat up their players, that just mentally and physically beat them up, some players, that’s what they need. Josh needed that,” Calipari said. “Now, did Brandon need that? No.”

Now that finals are over, the team can focus on one thing: basketball — Calipari talked a little earlier in the year about wanting to get to “camp time,” the period over the holiday break where there is no school and no distractions for the players.

“What else do you have to do? What do you have to do? You got people to see? You got shopping? You gonna hang out? No, you have nothing to do except basketball,” Calipari said.

His teams have traditionally seen a marked improvement over that time period. With a young team, the improvement can be even more visible. Calipari said the team will probably go to three-a-days, noting that some sessions will be specific and focused, such as “cerebral” sessions or free-throw practice.

And it will help his team, one he labeled as having high potential in the country, grow together.

“Of all the teams in the country, I can’t name a handful that have the upside of this team,” Calipari said. “We have upside. And I’m coaching them, so I know.”

Joe B. Hall and about 40 former players are returning for Saturday’s game — And Calipari loves it. He said it was a great indicator of how good a program UK is and how much the fans love everyone involved. He talked about Joe Crawford coming in to watch a practice last weekend and wondering if he could get in. Calipari said he deserved to be introduced to the team and sit front row, because he was part of what UK what it is.

Calipari on his style of recruitment — Obviously, it’s pretty obvious Calipari goes after the most talent he can get. He said getting them to play for him is just the first part of the challenge — getting them to play for each other once they are in uniform is the difficult part. This is a long quote, but I think it’s pretty revealing of his mindset, and reminded me of a story I did earlier in the year about how freshman have to adjust to a college coach, especially one as fiery as Calipari:

“(Some coaches) get the mediocre guys and you get them to play well. Well, look, I like to get the most talented players in the country and make them play together. Which is just as hard as getting average players and getting them to be good. Go get the greatest who have all been 30 (points) a game and make them sacrifice and come together. How about this? Defend. How about this one? Be coached. How about be yelled at? How about have a guy in your face and sit your butt down? That to me is the ultimate challenge.”

You won’t be seeing Calipari coaching women’s basketball anytime soon — somehow the topic of the UCONN women’s program came up, and Calipari said he could never do what UCONN head coach Geno Auriemma does.

“I tried to coach my daughter, and if I said, you’re not shooting it right, she would cry,” Calipari said. “So I could not coach women’s basketball”


VIDEO: John Calipari discusses 1-8 Mississippi Valley State

Calipari, part 2:

Josh Harrellson discusses his improvement and what the holiday break can provide for the team: