Calipari looks ahead to next season, meeting with Barnhart could come Tuesday

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

John Calipari has yet to meet with athletics director Mitch Barnhart but the Kentucky men’s basketball coach expects a sit-down session to take place in the next couple of days, possibly as early as Tuesday, he said on his weekly radio show Monday night.

“We haven’t (met yet), but it’ll be done in the next couple days,” he said. “Every year we share thoughts with each other and I’m sure he’s hurting. I was on a plane back. He’s hurting like the rest of us. And I look forward to hearing his thoughts. … My guess is we’ll meet, Mitch and I, tomorrow (Tuesday).”

In his first public comments since an 80-76 loss to Oakland in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last Thursday in Pittsburgh, Calipari said he has been at a loss of words following the team’s second first-round exit in the last three years. He added he “probably” had 300 texts and 100 phone calls” on his silenced phone since the loss, but needed to “get my mind back” and “it was devastating to all of us.”

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“I’ve have have had better weekends — hurting, our team, players, staff, their families,” he said. “We’re all hurting, (I’m) hurting for them, but, hurting. I’m hurting for our fans. I know many fans out there are hurting, but I want to say no one is hurting more than me right now.”

Calipari’s immediate concern, he said, is meeting with his squad that finished the season with a 23-10 record. Kentucky won five in a row and seven of its last eight regular-season games, but ended the season with two straight setbacks.

“I’ve got to turn my attention to this current team,” he said. “I have individual meetings set up. My staff has been spending time with the guys because we got to find out where are they right now and where are they is they’re going to go through the process, who’s going through it and how we’re doing that. We’ve got to live through that stuff right now.”

As with in the past, Calipari also plans to re-evaluate the program from top to bottom to gauge future decisions and his immediate concern is getting back to being a defensive-minded and physical team.

“How do we get back there?” he said. “What about in the summers instead of a Bahamas or Toronto? We’re really back to where we’re grinding and we’re working on our physicality and we’re working on defense, and we’re trying to set a foundation of who we’re going to be, because I don’t want to change offensively.”

On the final segment, Calipari said he remains committed to meeting the expectations of the program set by late coach Adolph Rupp and the others that preceded him and added winning and competing for national titles continues to be his mission as long as he’s coach of the Wildcats.

“I’m not changing — 24/7 – let’s go,” he said. “Whether it’s recruiting, all the stuff that we’ve got to do, that is the commitment that I give to the fans. And I haven’t changed.

“This is like wearing a coat. It never goes away,” he said. “But I love it. This is what I want. This is what I wanted. This is why I never left. This is it. And now — let’s come together and let’s go do something. Let’s do something special and we can do it. We’ve done it. Let’s do it again.”