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How does cautious Calipari assess young Kentucky?

Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

Unlike his players, Kentucky coach John Calipari said he does not watch college basketball on television.

Instead, he said he watches such shows as " 'Alaska: The Last Frontier' and 'Life Below Zero.' "

"I don't want to get discouraged ... ," he said Thursday. "We're so far behind these other teams. ... I've just got to stay focused. And I don't want to have anxiety. Well, we've got to be more, do more. We are who we are right now."

UK, the least experienced team in Division I, plays Monmouth in New York on Saturday. Calipari updated his assessment of the team.

It was a mixed review, leaving listeners unsure if Calipari was delivering a sober overview or trying to temper his enthusiasm for fear the players will believe further improvement is unnecessary.

"I think it's day to day ...," Calipari said of how this work-in-progress is progressing. "Yesterday, I told them I feel encouraged right now. And they were, like, 'Wow! Really!' "

 

Then in a deadpan voice, Calipari added that he'd probably have a different message at Thursday's practice.

"I'll probably say I really feel discouraged right now," he said as reporters chuckled. "That's how things have been. And a lot of it is just, I don't want to be the guy who has to go crazy to get them to compete and play. Because if I am, that means they're real close to letting go of the rope."

A practice earlier this week breathed life in that scenario, he said. The players' heart rates and efforts rose after Calipari unleashed some stinging rhetoric. The UK coach took this as a bad sign.

"Do you mean to tell me I have to be that mean for you to do what you should want to do and what you're supposed to be learning to do?" Calipari said he told the players.

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