Curses of Calipari no biggie to Jones
Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 5:33 pm
By: By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones often does something so spectacular it leaves coach John Calipari practically speechless.
“There are times when I just look at him and I go, ‘I love you, you know,’” Calipari said Monday. “And he says, ‘I know you do, I love you too.’”
So it’s not surprising Jones didn’t get caught up in the mini-firestorm his coach created last week by loudly cursing at the freshman in the final minutes of a loss at Alabama.
Cameras caught a livid Calipari’s profanity-laced tirade at Jones, calling him “selfish” among other things. Calipari apologized several times but the footage became talk show and message board fodder, with some wondering if Calipari had gone too far.
Jones wasn’t among them.
“I just don’t think that even needed to be that big a deal,” Jones said. “My coach isn’t the first coach to cuss. That didn’t even bother me.”
Jones didn’t take it personally. He learned a long time ago to tune out the words of an angry coach and zoom in on the meaning.
“Coach Cal talks to us just to get our attention to get us to do what he wants to do ... however he says it doesn’t mean anything,” Jones said. “It’s just what he’s saying in the message” that matters.
Calipari’s message to Jones and the rest of the Wildcats after consecutive road losses was simple: Get tougher. Kentucky responded with a 67-58 win at South Carolina on Saturday. Jones finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, with eight of his points coming on thunderous dunks.
It’s the kind of play Calipari would love to see from Jones on a consistent basis. Jones isn’t quite there yet.
“He’s young and he doesn’t play with the same kind of desire and fight that he needs to the whole game,” Calipari said. “When he does people look at him and say, ‘Wow.’ My job is to get him to play that way all the time and that’s hard.”
But not exactly surprising. Calipari said it’s commonplace for talented freshmen to take the easy route because they were rarely challenged as high schoolers.
“Players are playing 50-60 percent,” Calipari said. “They’re doing everything in spurts. But they’re learning and they’re trying.”
Calipari believes no team in the country has more potential than the 14th-ranked Wildcats (15-4, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), who are off until Saturday when they host Georgia.
Getting his players to elevate their game to that level is difficult. So is disciplining a group in which there’s a firm delineation between the top six and the next four.
A coach’s greatest weapon — taking playing time — isn’t exactly in play for Calipari.
So Calipari has to endure the ups and downs of a team learning on the fly. The maturation process can be bumpy and sometimes painfully slow.
“I wish they were on top of every game but there’s going to be ups and downs,” he said. “I have to be more patient than I like to be.”
Calipari will make it a point to watch his language. Besides, he can get under his players’ skin without having to resort to profanity.
As well as Jones played against the Gamecocks, Calipari couldn’t resist a few playful jabs at Jones for his sometimes ineffective defense.
“I told him, ‘you know you’re a highlight tape, you got dunked on three times,’” Calipari said.
It wasn’t Calipari popped in the tape that he realized how vicious Jones attacked the basket.
“He’s smashing guys,” Calipari said. “If you’re doing that, you can be a special guy ... (but) the special guys do it all the time.”