This is a season like we have not seen against John Calipari. The Kentucky Wildcats are 1-5, they turn the ball over constantly, and nobody looks like they are having any fun…especially the fans. In an effort to correct course, Calipari has decided to appoint student leaders to take control of the team.
“I’m going to enjoy myself,” Calipari said during media availability early this week. “We named three guys to be leaders to do away with all the non-negotiables, attitudes, how you accept coaching. I’m not dealing with any of that. The players are going to deal. So that’s off my plate.”
While most teams have leaders among the group of players, that is normally something that happens organically based on experience and leadership ability. And it is certainly admirable of Calipari to ask his players to be accountable to one another, but it is somewhat off-putting to see him removing himself from that responsibility.
I am sure he is not going to completely remove himself, and those comments were likely made to encourage those leaders to step it up. But to me, that is not a good look for a John Calipari who now wears pullovers to the game and has not had a haircut since Andy Beshear shut down the first barber shop.
Calipari did not give the names of these three leaders, but his comments made it pretty clear that experience is the most important factor.
“You had to have guys who have the experience of this to kind of give you a hint but the whole point of this to forget about leading and just worry about playing better,” Calipari said. “Worry about being more engaged with our team. But these three — and the reason I did three, I want them to back each other and basically run this team.”
The most likely candidates for this role are Keion Brooks, Olivier Sarr, and Davion Mintz. They have the most experience at the college level, and Sarr and Mintz have often been the most composed players on the court. But what are the non-negotiables Calipari was talking about?
“Controlling your attitude,” Davion Mintz said. “Controlling, can I make this play for someone else? He said something like, not thinking less of of yourself in terms of who you are as a person, but at the same time, thinking less of yourself when it it’s time to help someone else. A lot of those things are non-negotiables.”
I will leave it up to you to decide whether you think it is a good look for Calipari to pass the buck to his veterans. But at this point, nothing else seems to be working. If the Cats are able to beat Louisville on Saturday, that will go a long way toward somewhat salvaging the season and potentially giving this team some confidence. On Saturday, be sure to look for three players that are the most vocal during the game. Hopefully those same guys are also holding up their end of the deal.