John Calipari after reaching Final Four: 'My mind is never on losing'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday March 29, 2015


It might have been the most adversity all season, but Kentucky basketball came through to move to 38-0 on the season with a 68-66 win over Notre Dame. The Wildcats haven’t lost, and it’s not something Calipari thinks about.

Kentucky trailed at the 14:57 mark and for nearly 11 minutes, with the deficit reaching as big as five, but Calipari said after the win that the key was simply staying close for that stretch. The Wildcats made their final nine shots to advance to their fourth Final Four in five seasons.

“My mind is never on we may lose,” Calipari said. “My whole mindset all the time is how are we going to win? How do we win this game? That's all I keep saying to myself, ‘How do we win the game?’ I want them to know we're not playing not to lose; we play to win. That means be aggressive offensively, and so I'm telling you, I was trying every combination I could just to keep us in the game. And then we had to have (some big buckets) to stay in the game. So they had to make the plays, but we were breaking down defensively… We were breaking down defensively ourselves.

“That side pick and roll stuff is not my team, that's on me. But they did enough, and they wanted to win, they do have a will to win, and I know that. I know that, I've coached them, I know they'll make plays. It's just a matter of you have to keep the game close enough so they can.”

While the Wildcats undoubtedly have the most talent, some have said they didn’t play a tough schedule. But Calipari doesn’t care about that now. He believes in his team’s ability to make plays late. They’re not playing for an undefeated season. They’re playing for a national championship.

“I think that's all they care about right now,” he said. “We know we're not perfect. We're undefeated, but we're not perfect. I mean, we showed that tonight. We're really young and showed it tonight a ton. We had some turnovers that were like, ‘What did you just do? You just threw them the ball.’ We did some things that we work on every day not to drive baseline. We drove baseline, stepped out of bounds. There were things that we did that showed our youth.

“But that being said, you still have a will to win. I'll tell you, if people don't realize it, Andrew and Aaron (Harrison) still drive this team. Willie (Cauley-Stein) does his thing, Karl (Towns) was tremendous today, but those other two kids drive this team. Tyler (Ulis) comes in, Devin (Booker) comes in. Those other two, they drove us last year to the final game, and they're doing the same thing this year.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.