ATLANTA — John Calipari is having a ball coaching Kentucky.
Well, except for movie night.
Calipari has avoided watching other games during the NCAA Tournament, and he wants his players to do the same. His message: Focus on us and don’t worry about everyone else.
To drive that point home, the top-seeded Wildcats usually head to the movies when they’re on the road, so they’re not tempted to flip on hoops at the hotel. After arriving in Atlanta, they went to see 21 Jump Street.
Calipari was not impressed.
“The movie was awful,” he said. “But it did get us out.”
Other than a debatable choice in flicks, Coach Cal’s tunnel-vision approach is working just fine. Kentucky is one win from a return trip to the Final Four, facing Baylor (30-7) in the South Regional final today.
“We’re a good basketball team,” Calipari said Saturday. “Let’s just play basketball. I don’t care what else is going on in the tournament. I’m not watching any other games. Why do I care?”
Clearly, he’s not one of those poor-mouthing coaches, making an opponent sound like the Miami Heat while pointing out every little weakness of his own team. Calipari is fully aware that he’s got at least a half-dozen players on his roster who are likely to wind up in the NBA, a team that could go down as one of the greatest in college basketball history if it wins three more games.
Baylor, the No. 3 seed, is a clear underdog but hardly overmatched.
Bouncing back from one of the most shocking scandals in NCAA history, the neon-clad Bears have pushed their way into the regional finals for the second time in three years. They have a couple of players who are likely first-round picks and certainly believe they have the talent, skill and work ethic to compete with the mighty Wildcats.
“We just want to show the world what we can do,” senior forward Quincy Acy said.
None of the players were around in 2003 when stunning revelations nearly brought down the Baylor men’s program. It all started when a player was murdered by one of his teammates. Soon after, there were allegations of drug use and illicit payments and a widespread cover-up. When all the dirty laundry was aired, the sanctions included a shortened season without any non-conference games.