Players First

I've just finished reading "Players First" by Calipari, and I think there are quite a bit that Painter can learn from him. No, of course not the cheating part, but really, just show that he cares more about the players. Whether he is indeed that kind of a guy, Calipari did a fantastic job selling himself that he REALLY CARES about his players. He makes it sound like he is really just there to help the kids and their family. Like he says, it's really a feeling and he is very good at that. Going to a home-visit with a recruit is not really about what to say, but what kind of feeling you leave the family, and the only thing that they care is not how many Coach-of-the-Year awards you have won or the X-and-O that oyu know, but how you are going to help the child to fulfill his dream. Talk about "if you don't play defense you won't get PT," while true, likely not getting that feeling across. It becomes "What I need you to do" rather than "What I can do to help you realize your dream."

For example, no matter how much one dislikes Calipari, you gotta agree with what he is telling his team:

Here’s what we are going to do. Every day, you are going to make someone feel good. You are going to call your mom and thank her for something. Or call somebody else back home – your old coach, your math teacher, your high school principal – and express your gratitude. On campus, talk to someone who maybe you don’t always pay attention to. Look at the person in the eye who prepares your food and say, "Thank you, I really appreciate the care that you take."

Calipari also seems to LOVE recruiting, while for Painter it seems to be necessary evil that he has to do it even if he would rather not. No wonder there's a difference:

You are never going to be any good at something if you have disdain for it.

On his disastrous 2012-13 season, Calipari was reflecting and asking better questions. Meanwhile Painter just seems to stuck at "I recruit players who don't listen / who doesn't work hard 12 months a year" and hasn't addressed the last three questions:

What did I do to cause this? What didn’t I see? Why couldn’t I get through to my team? What do I have to change to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

I also doubt Painter would ever say that to his team. I suppose it is always good to have a coach whose focus is to make you look good, and not about ripping you to make himself look good:

If it doesn’t go well ,I’ll take responsibility, and if it goes well, you are going to get the glory, so don’t worry about it.

For it's only when you can get through to the kids, or in Calipari's words, "when the player surrenders", that the coach can get to the real message:

Basketball is an intimate sport. Sharing the ball. Sacrificing for teammates. Helping on defense. It’s the same words you use in relation to a family. It’s all about shared responsibility.

That's the message every coach knows, but a teenager who has been the best player (by far) throughout his entire life usually hasn't fully grasped it. You can preach all season long but the kids are not buying in until they "surrender." He cited examples of Marquis Teague surrendering, and leading the team to a national championship. He cited Archie Goodwin coming to him and ask him to put it in a letter what areas he needs to work on. He cited example of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming to him and asked to come off the bench so that the struggling sixth man can start and regain confidence b/c the team needs that. It would help if Painter cited specific examples rather than just saying "E'Twaun never gets into trouble; Robbie never stops working on his game."

If you let your success harden into stubbornness, you may actually know less as the years go on. You get stupider because you stop listening.

I hope this doesn't apply to Painter, but some on this board has been frustrated by his stubbornness. Now I am not advocating that Painter needs to switch to zone, and that in a way I respect those who sticks to what they believe in and have that laser-focus on things that they deem important and tune out other noise. However, sometimes I do get the feeling that Painter only knows one way to reach out to players, which is, he talks, they listen, and follow to a T. He is stubborn in that regard. But when the kids aren't listening, perhaps it helps if you first show them that you care about them as a person? I still can't get over how he can leave Bryson or Basil rolling on the floor injured and not give a damn about them.

Overall, the book is a surprisingly good read. I know a lot of folks don't like Calipari, but I believe that there is always something to learn from others, even to people we dislike (e.g. I also enjoy reading Bob Knight's "Power of Negative Thinking."). I dunno if Calipari truly believes 100% of everything he says in the book, but he does a great job selling and presenting that image. That's what it matters. The book also covers Marcus Camby's $1800, Derrick Rose's SAT - of course from Calipari's point of view, and his suggestion to fix/improve the one-and-done (of course his suggestions favor Kentucky-type players). It also has some humor ("My funeral will be large just from the people who come to make sure I'm dead."), and let us fans peek into the life of a CBB coach.

Items in the FanPosts is entirely at the discretion of those that post them. They do not represent the views of Hammer & Rails, SBNation, or Purdue University in any way.

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