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Calipari hears criticism, and agrees, as Cats continue fight for university, state and athletic department

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

John Calipari has heard the noise and hasn’t tuned out the dissatisfaction in Big Blue Nation.

The Kentucky coach concurs with criticism and agrees he is the “worst coach ever.” You won’t get an argument from Calipari regarding that claim. He also acknowledges that he doesn’t how to coach, another complaint from followers of the program who aren’t used to losing double-figure games, let alone two four-game losing streaks in one season.

“I agree with you,” Calipari said. “Can we move on? That’s my answer to it. I’ll agree with you, what you’re saying about me, I’m the worst ever. I agree. Can we move on now?”

Kentucky forward Keion Brooks goes up for a shot in an 82-80 win over Auburn last weekend at Rupp Arena. (Photo by Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today)

Regardless of the opinion, what Calipari does want the fan base to know is that the Wildcats haven’t given up on the season, despite a 6-13 record going into Wednesday night’s game at Vanderbilt.

“All I can tell you is this team’s fighting for the university, for the state, for the athletic department, they haven’t given up one bit, and neither has our staff,” Calipari said after the Wildcats rallied to beat Auburn 82-80 las Saturday.

Although the Wildcats have struggled for most of the season, leaving Calipari at a loss for words after sitting through some frustrating losses, the Kentucky coach also sympathizes with his squad for enduring an unprecedented season of ups and downs brought by a pandemic that began nearly a year ago.

Calipari said the Wildcats, especially the newcomers, have been deprived of the overall “Kentucky experience.”

“I respect this group,” Calipari said. “I respect them because of what they have gone through.”

Calipari also believes the Wildcats are capable of producing a memorable season in spite of the struggles and losses, especially earlier in the season that were perplexing and left the Kentucky coach scrambling for short-term solutions.

“I want this team to finish and be something people talk about for the next 20 years,” he said. “I’m trying to get them to believe what I believe. And I’m trying to motivate them that way. I’m trying to hug them and be positive. You’ve got to hold them accountable. If you’re working on stuff and they just try to do their own thing, it is not acceptable. If you’re getting beat to every ball, we’re holding guys accountable.”

The past week, a narrow loss to Arkansas and a win over the Tigers, gave Calipari and the players plenty of optimism for the last three weeks of the regular season.

“We are a good team,” Kentucky freshman Isaiah Jackson said. “A lot of people try to doubt us and say that we are not that good. But we know deep down how much work we put into this and it’s all starting to pay off, so we are going to keep doing it.”

Jackson said defeating Auburn, a team that edged the Wildcats earlier this season, was a starting point.

“It’s been a heavy burden lately finishing out close games,” he said. “We would be up in games and then just lose the lead. But this game we finally put everything together and we got the win today. So, everyone’s really happy and excited about the game.”

Calipari hopes the trend continues for the remainder of the year.

“This may be one of those years, if we keep this going, that I talk about this was the greatest year for me ever,” he said.

It remains to be seen if the Wildcats are capable of accomplishing so much so fast.

Gametracker: Kentucky at Vanderbilt, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (EST). TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or Twitter @keithtaylor21

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