LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has often expressed respect for Alabama football coach Nick Saban, one of his few real peers as a recruiter, and reiterated that admiration on Friday as the latter prepares to play for his sixth national championship overall and fifth in the last eight seasons with the Crimson Tide.
“It’s incredible,” Calipari said. “I look at what Alabama has done – and done it with different staffs. The advantage they have over us is they have returning guys; some leave and then they’ve got a mass group returning that can really teach the new guys. You have redshirting and different things that makes the kid older, and you get more of a chance to teach them.
“But that being said, so does every other football team, so why in the heck are they doing what they’re doing? He’s incredible. I mean, he’s incredible.”
That’s not to say Calipari is picking No. 1 Alabama to roll over No. 2 Clemson in Monday night’s national title game.
“Clemson is doing it another way, and they’re really good now,” he said. “People are acting like Alabama is just winning. I’m sorry. That other team is showing up and they have an expectation that they’re going to win.”
Speaking of, while Calipari was on the subject of dominant coaches, he gave a little love to Connecticut women’s basketball boss Geno Auriemma. He’s led the Huskies to 11 national titles, including the last four, and is riding an 89-game winning streak. That would be a record if one of Auriemma’s previous teams hadn’t won 90 straight.
“They may win 100 straight games. You cannot make a movie about it. Why? It’s just not believable,” Calipari said. “When you talk about that consistency, year in and year out – and I coach, so I know how hard it is – there’s a culture they’ve created, there’s an expectation within their team, yet their kids stay in the moment. How in the world do you do that? There’s an expectation that we’re going to win all these games, yet you stay in the moment: Let’s just do what we do today.”
Calipari, who has been to six Final Fours, three NCAA title games and won the 2012 national championship, brought all of this back to his latest talking point with the young Wildcats.
“On all those teams I just said, they have trust. Everybody trusts: I can be reckless – do my job, but be reckless and be aggressive – because someone will have my back,” Calipari said. “I trust someone’s got my back. And then they can go play.”