Kentucky coach John Calipari coached less than three minutes in a 89-62 road win over South Carolina on Feb 13. On Monday night, he called it the best game his team played last year — all thanks to Tyler Ulis.
Calipari was honored as the school’s coach of the year Sunday at the 14th annual CATSPY Awards — an awards event designed to honor Kentucky athletics. But during a roughly three-minute acceptance speech, the Wildcats coach turned the attention away from himself, instead electing to shine a light on his players and staff — especially his 5-foot-9 All-American point guard.
“I got thrown out of the South Carolina game and it was the best game we played all year,” Calipari said, via Marcus Dorsey of The Lexington Herald-Leader.
“I can tell you for me, I think [Tyler’s] going to get into coaching one day, but I’m giving this to him today.”
The blowout win over the Gamecocks acts as a microcosm of the effect Ulis had on Kentucky last year. Ulis was one of the lone returning players to last year’s team.
“This guy took over a team where we lost just about everybody,” Calipari said. “And I can tell you, he coached this team.”
Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said after the game that “he didn’t have to” coach the offense because of Ulis’ on-court direction.
“Between Cal and Tyler Ulis, they’re on the same page, and Tyler Ulis ran the offense,” Payne said. “Every now and then I may have interjected something but at the end of the day it was his show.
Ulis, who averaged 17.3 points and seven assists per game last year, announced after his sophomore year that he would enter the NBA Draft.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time — thirty-something years,” Calipari said, “and I’ve never coached anyone like this guy.”