Here are the pre-game thoughts of Coach Cal, James Young, and E.J. Floreal. We’ve gone through the trouble of typing up rough transcripts of the videos for anyone that prefers reading the questions and answers.
QUESTION: So, you know, I didn’t end up playing basketball at Popcorn State like you did, and we obviously don’t know anything about basketball because we’re the media, but through the years you’ve mentioned this a lot of times that guys play too long and get tired, yet so why did they play so long, why didn’t you pull them out?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, let me just tell you, one thing I KNOW you’ve never done is coach.
MEDIA MEMBER: Sure I have, unsuccessfully.
JOHN CALIPARI: Right. You’ve been fired more times that I’ve been fired.
MEDIA MEMBER: Actually, we’re about even.
JOHN CALIPARI: We’re about even? (Yeah). OK. You just, you get in the heat of the game and you forget. There are times when I forget there are guys on the bench, and I look down and I go, “What are you doing? Get in!” So it happens. Sometimes it’s the flow of the game and you’re just trying to get out of the game, which is what happened there too. You know, we get up, we’re ready to blow them out, I don’t want to make changes–I want them to keep going… Like I told them after, I mean, we didn’t play enough people. So we’re going forward with the idea that, look, some of you guys have gotta play and we’re going to buy time and hopefully you’re going to play well because you deserve to play well because of how you’ve practice and you deserve more minutes and we’ll go from there; but that had nothing to do with them out rebounding us by 18. Had nothing to do with their physical play versus our lack of physical play. That happened earl, not just the last four minutes. So there were things… I don’t know if I could’ve subbed when we missed those first six free throws. We were 0-6. But, I come back to I played guys too many minutes–they’re not ready for that. And that means they go in and that’s when they stop playing and they try to get all their minutes.
QUESTION: Is there a balancing act, Cal, between trying to develop chemistry and have the guys out there for so long?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, yeah. That’s one of the reasons you play less people. But what we have is some guys that were playing with no real intensity that did not deserve to be out there that long… or were just getting pushed and shoved then you don’t deserve to be in there so there is a fine line, but you can’t play that way and stay on the court.
QUESTION: Were you ever surprised with fans or people’s expectations of a freshman team in December and how good they should be at this point?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s my own expectation. No one else’s expectation I even listen to or look at or read–it’s my expectations. This team, what they seem to do is they get it going and do it right and then they get arrogant or… and then they step back. Like the first five minutes of that game–had no pressure on the ball–NONE. No talking. It just got shoved out of the way, and you know, it’s just where did we go from where we were to how did we step back? Well, that’s what young teams do. Look, the way we do it is really hard. The way they’ve always played has been really easy. Now which way do you want to do it? The real hard way, or the easy way? And every chance you can you revert back to see if if still works, you do. Just how it is coaching young teams.
QUESTION: Did you voice your displeasure after the game and did you deliver that message again sort of in practice yesterday?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, we just talked to them about here’s where we are right now. We probably went longer yesterday because we just, look, the bottom line is, we don’t have enough time to teach all the things that these guys don’t know or we’d have 7 hour practices. So we have to narrow into what’s really important for us as a team, and we can’t even worry about the next game. We’ve gotta worry about us. The next game we play, Boise’s 8-0. They’re the second leading scoring team in the country, they shoot threes at a high clip, they run the dribble drive better than we ran it, they spread the court with four guards. They have four guards, so somebody is going to guard a guard that’s not used to guarding a guard. Just how it is.
QUESTION: Do you believe this is a good defensive team–will be a good defensive team?
JOHN CALIPARI: We need to be. I don’t have any other thoughts, but we need to be a great defensive team. We don’t have team confidence right now… team confidence. And the reason is because they’re not relying on each other, they’re not talking to one another, and we’re not a great defensive team. When you become a great defensive team and a rebounding team, and you take great pride in it… we’re not taking great pride. When you take great pride, like when we played Providence, Aaron took great pride and he guarded that kid and all of a sudden the game changed. When you take great pride in your defense and you rebounding, you have confidence. You know we’re fine. They can make a couple crazy shots–we’re fine. We haven’t built that yet. And we’re just trying to get them to understand that’s the only way you build it–they’ve never needed that before cause I’m just going to do my thing and I’m fine… now you have to change. So these are all habits they have to change.
QUESTION: Who’s the stopper now, John?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well you have, Aaron has shown he can do it, James Young has shown he can do it… but you need a team full of guys that are guarding. I mean, it starts with your point guard. If he can’t pressure the ball then someone else has to be playing. Just how it is. It starts with your interior defense–is Willie the only guy going to block shots? Some guys just stand there and I’m not involved in this. We’ll you can’t. And then the other thing is, as hard as we try to play offensively, we’ve gotta rebound the ball defensively the same way, because if we do run we can get out and run. We’re not getting any easy baskets. When the other team gets that many offensive rebounds, why? Cause they’re down and ready to go and anxious to go get the ball, and you’re like, “Well I hope someone grabs this.” That’s all stuff we’re just learning.
QUESTION: How much credit, John, should we give to Baylor? I mean, they’re a ranked team, veterans, wide-bodied.
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, they played. They weren’t in awe of our team. They just said, hey we’re good too. Let’s go see what happens, and they played physical. I think the whole game plan was beat them up a little bit and just about every team I’ve had here… that’s been the M.O. And until you can withstand that, you’re not going to have confidence–like going into the ring, you have real confidence until the first shot to your nose, your eye, your chin, and your ear you’re not so confident anymore. Now if you give him a shot to the eye, the ear, the chin, and the nose you’re very confident.
QUESTION: How much can this team grow with this December schedule?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well this is why we did this. You know, we knew it was going to be hard–we knew we’d lose games. We knew. I mean, you may people thinking, “Oh, we’re going to win all those games and win every game and all that,” but that’s not what I was thinking. I knew coming to this point, they were going to have to find each other or we’re not going to be as good as everybody thinks or I think we should be. Until they find each other, until they understand they are absolutely locked arm-and-arm with each other–yesterday, I taught them how to huddle at the free throw line. [Long pause]. They didn’t know how to huddle at the free throw line. We’ll, how could you not know how to huddle? Cause I never played that way–if we got fouled I was thinking my thoughts and he was thinking his thoughts, and he’s thinking his thoughts–this is all new. We did some other stuff that’s like, you know, come on now. Just teaching them how to be a good teammate and what you do. How about this? A guy comes out of the game, everybody gets up and touches the guy. Isn’t that like we all played? We sit and tell them to “come on and touch me.” There’s just things to become a good team they don’t know yet. Some of it I expected, and anytime I expect them to know something… I’m wrong. I’m wrong. “Well they ought to know this.” I am wrong. And that being said, we don’t rebound, we can’t make a free throw, and we still should’ve won the game. Top 20 team on the road, the women had 9 overtimes, we came out, we’re back in, came out, come back in… if we ever do a double header, they will play after us–I don’t care if it’s eleven at night, you’ll never play before us again. And basically, still, we started the game sluggish. They made 7-8, but we still should have won the game. So, we’re fine. Look, I haven’t lost any confidence in the team, I just have a lot of work to do as a coach, and they have a lot of work to do changing and buying in. We’re not near what we need to be. I mean, the game Tuesday is going to be a hard game for us to win. They spread the court, they play, they sag, it’s going to look like the team… I can’t remember there were a couple of teams that played us, everybody’s in the lane. Like they run back and no one is outside the three point line. That’s how much they sag. They back off the ball handler on the perimeter so you can’t throw it to–what they do, they do well. The way they play, and that’s why they’re 8-0.
QUESTION: Cal, from your perspective, what do you do well right now? What do you like most about what this team does?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, you would say rebounding, but we didn’t last game. You would say, offensively, we’re being pretty efficient. And that we were getting so much better–I’ll give you an example of free throw shooting. We were shooting 100 free throws a day and the first day one of the kids made 97… out of 100. And then the next time we did it, he made 86, and next time made 82, and the next time 80. Well, why is that? Why would that happen? Basketball Bennies? Why would that happen? Because it’s not that important to him. So he goes in the game and misses two. Another guy shot a hundred, did well, and then I’m watching him shoot them quick [Coach Cal imitates this] just to get them over with like it doesn’t matter–game on the line, missed two. Because, the importance of everything with young guys–they don’t get it. Like, everything is important. You focus on what the task at hand is. That’s the kind of stuff we’re dealing with. Yet, I know they want to play together, I know they want to win, I know they have that desire, I know we have the talent we need, we’re just all 18 and 19 year olds–we’re a really young team.
QUESTION: Coach, if I may, why play that game down there as opposed to say, Indiana?
JOHN CALIPARI: We offered to play Indiana twice in Indiana and they said no.
MEDIA MEMBER: They didn’t say that. They said their counter was out of a four year stretch, two on a neutral court, one here, one there.
JOHN CALIPARI: As I said, we offered to play them two years in Indiana, and they said no. We played Baylor. Where do we play them? So, we move on. Our schedule’s one of the best in the country. And we’ve got other stuff coming up.
MEDIA MEMBER: At Lucas Oil, you mean?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. We offered two years in Lucas Oil.
QUESTION: Would you do that again with how much of a headache that was down there?
JOHN CALIPARI: They won’t do it. What do you want me to do? I can beg them please… we’ll play in you state twice… they don’t want to do it, it’s OK. They’ve got a great program, Tomy’s done a great job, we’re hanging on down here. This hasn’t heard either program.
QUESTION: I think it was John Wooden that had tying your shoe lessons. Have you done that one?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t think they know how to put socks on-they’re having blisters.
QUESTION: You didn’t have a steal the other night, does that speak of defensive intensity? It’s the first time it’s happened since you’ve been here. Is that related to confidence?
JOHN CALIPARI: No. There’s not enough pressure on the ball, which is the main reason. But, we never–my teams historically–have been low in steals.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you had zero.
JOHN CALIPARI: I’m just saying. So what’s the difference between 3 and 0 or 4 and 0? I mean, you’re not talking a big number. But we had no pressure on the ball, and the second thing is, my teams are always high in blocks. So when they say turnovers to baskets, they never include a block, so you don’t really get the true gist of how many blocks did we get and how many run-outs did we get from there. But, that game was low–it’s not like we get eleven steals and now we had none. We have 3 of 4 steals. It’s not how I coach. We’re not out there trying to steal every ball–it’s not what we do. But, we want pressure on the ball so you give us some balls. So those 4 or 5 balls lead to baskets. We had no pressure on the ball whatsoever. Alright, thanks.
QUESTION: How do you guys come back from the loss to Baylor?
JAMES YOUNG: Just let it go and just keep moving forward and practicing and getting better as a team.
QUESTION: What’s the mentality of the team? Everybody seemed down–have you guys recovered from that at all?
JAMES YOUNG: Aw yeah, we’ve recovered. No pressure at all. We’ve just gotta get in the gym and work hard more.
QUESTION: How surprised are you, James, about how all of this has happened?
JAMES YOUNG: Um, it’s kind of surprising, but we just didn’t play to our full potential. That’s what can happen if we don’t come with our full game; so we’ve just gotta try to let it go and try to recover.
QUESTION: Sounds like Cal was pretty ticked off with you guys.
JAMES YOUNG: Yeah, he was pretty mad–we were too, so we just had to get in the gym yesterday for a couple of hours and we just let the steam go and just keep practicing.
QUESTION: So the obvious question that fans are trying to figure out is how do you get outworked and why do you get outworked?
JAMES YOUNG: I think it was just the lack of communication that we had, not coming out with as much fire like we should have–just really, we’re supposed to pick it up at the beginning of the game and we really let that go and they got a little lead and we had to come back.
QUESTION: Are free throws a problem again?
JAMES YOUNG: Not really, we just probably lost focus–and we’ve just gotta stay focused. It’s mental discipline and coach always points that out, we just need to stay focused more.
QUESTION: What did you guys work on yesterday?
JAMES YOUNG: A lot of defensive stuff, rebounding, and at the end some guys just got in here and shot some more free throws.
QUESTION: How big a concern is it with defense? Because it seems like you guys have trouble with quick guards.
JAMES YOUNG: We can play defense, it’s just we tend to stop at times and that’s what can really get us, and we’ve just gotta keep playing through the whole possession and not stop.
QUESTION: Having played a game like you did the other day, does it make you want to work more to get back out on the court to prove that you guys are a team that can play together and play big games?
JAMES YOUNG: Yeah, definitely. We love big games and we’ve just gotta come out and show everybody that we do. We just can’t let stuff like that happen anymore.
QUESTION: Has the expectation that you guys, even though you are young, play like veterans, has that surprised you at all–it seems like a lot of people expect you to have all this stuff figured out.
JAMES YOUNG: Yeah, we’re young just like some of the other teams and we’ve just got a lot to learn. We just take it day by day and Coach Cal just gives us a lot and we just try to take it in.
QUESTION: Are you surprised sometimes when people think the world’s falling apart when you guys lose a basketball game?
JAMES YOUNG: I don’t know, I’ve never seen stuff happen like that before, but it’s just another loss I feel like–we only have two, so I feel like if we just keep moving on we’ll learn from them.
QUESTION: Have you heard from any of the fans on Twitter or otherwise?
JAMES YOUNG: Not really. I don’t really bother much with Twitter, but I didn’t really hear anything.
QUESTION: How weird of a setting was that from what it was supposed to be with a 100,000 seat stadium when there was only 13,000?
JAMES YOUNG: It was kind of weird because there was just too much open space and seeing how there was only like fans on one side of the court–it was just kind of weird, I wasn’t used to it.
QUESTION: This stretch that you guys have coming up now with Boise State, North Carolina, Louisville, how important is December for you guys?
JAMES YOUNG: It’s pretty important to us. We’re just going to take it game-by-game. I’m pretty sure we can get the “W” if we just play hard through the whole game.
QUESTION: What’s going on, James, with your free throws?
JAMES YOUNG: I just tend to lose focus when I’m tired, so that’s what it is; I just need to work on my conditioning more, get my fatigue up, and I’ll be fine.
E.J. FLOREAL: We had a lot of high expectations placed on us, so if we fulfilled those it would still be a tough task. We knew what we had to work on and we didn’t execute this game or even the Michigan State game.
QUESTION: What’s the biggest improvement Calipari wants to see going forward after that game?
E.J. FLOREAL: He wants to just see us play more as a team and not just a bunch of individuals. And then he just wanst us to for the entire 40 minutes just play hard, just sustain effort, you know just keep fighting through everything.
QUESTION: What do you feel about the defense in particular? How do you feel about that part of the game?
E.J. FLOREAL: Um, that it was bad. That we were just at points being lazy and just stopping and letting Baylor get whatever they wanted in the paint especially, and the little point guard, we just let him get any shot that he wanted to.
QUESTION: It seemed like pick-and-rolls were also a problem.
E.J. FLOREAL: Yeah, we just have a lot of stuff to work on defensively. You know, a lot of guys haven’t had to do that since high school, so we’re trying to get everything out because college is a whole different ballgame.
QUESTION: Has Calipari said anything about where you all are relatively to where other teams he’s had on that side of the ball?
E.J. FLOREAL: He always shows us his Memphis team–that’s probably the best defensive team he’s had with Derrick Rose and all those guys. And compared to them, we’re nowhere near… nowhere near that 2012 championship team or probably even the teams before that with Brandon Knight and John Wall just because they defended, you know, so hard and we’ve just gotta realize that, you know, points will come cause we’re so talented that we’ll get buckets, but we’ve gotta defend hard, you know, we’ve gotta make teams fear us, make them scared that when they play Kentucky that they’re not going to score.