April 14th, 2014 11:30 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Kentucky
Tags: Andrew Harrison, Big Blue, UK, Wildcats
As Kentucky limped into the SEC Tournament with 9 losses and a 1-3 record in its last four regular-season games, John Calipari announced that he’d come up with a “tweak” that would hopefully change the Wildcats’ fortunes in the postseason. The tweak worked, apparently. The Cats made it to the SEC tourney final before losing to Florida by a point. Then they won five straight in the NCAA Tournament before falling to UConn in the national title game.
So what was Calipari’s tweak? UK’s coach appeared on “CBS This Morning” earlier today. As CollegeBasketballTalk.com points out, he there revealed that the tweak was actually a simple request that point guard Andrew Harrison pass the ball more and shoot the ball less:
“I showed Andrew (tapes of NBA point guard Deron Williams). I said, ‘Look at this, let’s watch. Would you have passed or shot?’ He said, ‘I would have shot.’ Would you have or shot? Well, Deron was throwing ball to everybody.
And so, I said, ‘Monday, you will not shoot one basketball. You will pass, we’re gonna run these plays, you will create shots. We will chart; we’re not telling our team.’ He comes in, he has 26 assists attempts, 21 assists that Monday, I’m mad the whole practice because it changed our team. Why didn’t I do it earlier? And then I apologized to him. I apologized to the team and I said, ‘I screwed this up, make me look good now.’”
Now, you know very well that a light bulb didn’t suddenly come on for Calipari. You can be sure he tried to coax Harrison into shooting less and passing more for much of the season, not just at tourney time. But Calipari’s handling of the situation — the tournaments give us a new chance to adjust, we’ve struggled not because of you but because of me, etc — was perfect.
Kentucky’s coach is often saddled with the tag of “great recruiter, so-so coach.” Heck, as his team kept dropping regular-season games this year there were plenty of Big Blue fans who made that exact point on messageboards, Twitter and talk radio. But the reality is Calipari has been able to make deep tournament runs with freshmen-heavy teams in four of his five seasons in Lexington. That takes a good coach. And whether it’s on the court or playing a few mind games with his team off it, Calipari has proven himself to be a very, very good coach.
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