Cats have finally exited ‘the process’

Published 2:49 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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John Calipari appreciates how most Kentucky fans have supported his team during what he calls the “process” of building this team going into postseason play.

“Our fans have stuck with us. There’s been some outlying stuff, but the reality of it is they’ve never left. That’s what makes this school, this program, Rupp Arena, what it is,” Calipari said.

He understands fans being frustrated after some losses because he felt the same way.

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“Our fans are engaged. You lose, they get mad. You win, they’re ecstatic,” Calipari said. “But there are those that follow us and watch the tape twice. That’s part of being a fan here. And the connection between this program and our fanbase has never been stronger.”

After Saturday’s win at Arkansas, Calipari said that the players wanted to win for fans because of severe storms in Kentucky a day earlier.

“We knew about the storm. They wanted to do this for our fans,” Calipari said. “Some of you, I imagine, had to go to someone with electricity to watch the game. This was for you. Don’t think we weren’t thinking about that as a team because we know what this team means to the state of Kentucky.”

Calipari likes his team’s tenacity to keep finding ways to win despite injuries and other adversity.

“I’m proud of what this team is doing. I’m proud of these young men. And it’s not been easy. Like I’ve always said, this isn’t for everybody. Playing here is not for everybody. This is a hard road, and you’re going to have to take the ups and the downs, take the lumps,” the Kentucky coach said.

“If you try to be comfortable, you’re not going to get better. There are things that happen. There are mountains you’re climbing, things that fall in your way. You’ve got to stay up and keep stepping forward. This team has done it.”

Kentucky associate coach Bruiser Flint believes Calipari’s philosophy has been perfect for helping sophomore Daimion Collins cope with more than just basketball after his father’s death before the season started.

“I think Cal has done an unbelievable job in terms of not rushing him back. Let him take his time and told him when he was ready to help us, you come help us,” Flint said. “I lost my dad when I was a head coach and I know how tough it was for me. I can only imagine how tough it has been for him being away from home.

“Cal has been very patient. Did not put any pressure on him. He let the kid do it on his own time. Nobody pushed to get him back faster.”