“Got a lot of wins to go to be that team. That team was special. I think there’s—Derek Willis was better than Wenyen (Gabriel) today, but Wenyen ends up with 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and one turnover and I’m saying he wasn’t that good. Well, it was more defense. I thought Derek was better. And when you have Derek and Wenyen and then you have the bigs. Again, Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Isaac, just gotta keep growing. One’s the youngest freshman in the country and the other’s the youngest sophomore in the country. They gotta keep growing. Dom (Hawkins)—Mychal’s (Mulder) playing better. Dom, what did he have today? Dominique Hawkins has 22 assists and two turnovers. What? That is outrageous. Twenty-two assists and two turnovers for the season. And that’s why our assist-to-turnover ratio is what it is. We don’t turn it over that much. I mean, Bam—when your big guy goes four assists and one turn. Your big guy? Normally it’s one assist, four turnovers for your big.”
“You know what? There was a lot of stuff that you thought, like the No. 1 pick in the draft—you would think that Kentucky has had it. You would think that some of this stuff had happened, but a lot of times it was a lot of players sharing and it didn’t happen. And it’s happened for these guys. My question now when I go back will be, all right, how now do we take this to another level? We came down here. Some of you were in the open practice for an hour and 15 minutes. We got after it. This team competes. Like, I need to do less drills because they compete and that’s what I’m doing. But we went an hour and 15 and an hour and 15, but that hour and 15 was intense. We still gotta be practicing two hours right now, but the way they’re competing—they’re learning, they’re talking. How about the guy dives on the floor after a ball? The first one was Derek Willis and the second one was Malik Monk. Just dives. You’re sitting there watching it saying, ‘What in the world?’ And then the play he made, which is—he’s freaky that way. This kid—my thing is, you don’t need show time. Just play. You’re unbelievable. You don’t need to—like he shot a lefty. ‘Like, why’d you do that? Just shoot the righty. You got the layup. You had two more points. Why’d you do that?’ ‘I just thought I’d flip it that way.’ What? But that’s what happens when you have a bunch of 18-year-olds.”
“I think they have pride in who they are and what they’re about and what they’ve done in coming here. They all came here understanding that they’re going to share. No one’s taking 35 shots here. Not happening. You go to another place. They also all knew—like, I told Malik Monk, ‘You’re going to be a great defender. You come with me, you will be a great defender. If you don’t want to defend, you want to play a 2-3 zone, go someplace else. You come here…” Now you look at Malik Monk guarding. And so you’re all talking about his scoring, but look at what he’s doing defensively. This kind is light on his feet, he can move, he can block, he’s long, he’s active. Quick mind. He just picks up stuff, real quick. Quick mind, which is probably the most underrated thing. People don’t realize that’s how you get steals, blocks. It’s like a baseball player that sees the baseball coming slower. That’s how his mind works.”
“We’re fast and we’re quick. We’re fast and we’re quick. It’s hard for me to remember year to year. In 2010, we were really fast. In 2012, we were fast. You had to run, but that was Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist), Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb. We flew. Darius Miller. I mean, we flew up and down that court. Marquis Teague. But this team is really fast, too. Wow. Like, if you don’t get back, you better get back.”
“Yeah. Everybody can run. Derek can run. Wenyen can run. Bam (Adebayo) can run. I mean, we got a lot of guys that can get out and go and our guards can all go.”
“Well, it’s funny, when I said that (about this potentially being his best team), I got all kinds of texts from my former players who were hitting me like, ‘Oh, really? This is your best group, huh?’ Like I got a bunch of guys on the ’15 team that won all those games and I just laughed, but this team has a chance. It’s my job now to keep defining reality, where they are. It’s my job to figure out ways that they can improve. It’s my job to—what I told them prior to the game: I’m happy because every individual player has gotten better. They’ve all gotten better. Mychal Mulder is not the same player he was a year ago. Neither is Dom. Neither is Dom. Then you look at Isaac and Sacha. You look at Wenyen and Derek. You look at those three guards. Like, everybody has gotten better. Tai Wynyard has gotten way better. Brad (Calipari) has gotten better. You see the out-of-bounds play I ran for him? That was my son. That was my son. When you’re the head coach, you know you can do that.”
“It’s not that. It’ll be—what I talked to them after the game was their diet. And I’m not one to talk about diet, because I grew up where paycheck was Friday to Friday, so Saturday, Sunday, Monday, if it was there you ate it because it probably wouldn’t be there. Someone in that house was probably going to eat it. So by Thursday, you were eating Spam, cereal and oatmeal. That’s what you had left. And Friday was a good day. Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, you were good. My diet’s still—my wife tries to get me to—but I’m working out, I’m doing stuff, but I’m eating. But I’m telling those guys, ‘If you really want to be professional, you gotta take care of your body. You gotta eat right, you gotta get rest. We were just talking, Carmelo (Anthony) had said to somebody, ‘If you had to do it over…’ He said, ‘Ice and diet.’ Because as you get older, it affects you more. More ice, better diet. And so I’m trying to say, ‘Why don’t you learn that as an 18-year-old, 19-year-old?’ So I’ll probably bring in somebody that deals with professional athletes that when they get their chefs and all that stuff to say, ‘Here’s how they’re eating.’ That’s another step for these guys, because it’s going to be, every game we play now, someone’s Super Bowl. I don’t care if it’s in our place or on the road, it’s somebody’s Super Bowl. And that means one letdown, physical letdown because you haven’t eaten right, you haven’t gotten your rest, your body starts kicking away. These guys, listen, in another month their high-school season would have been over. And we’re just starting. What? Oh, the real stuff starts and your high-school season just ended. And you might say, ‘It’s not your whole team.’ Yeah, it is. Six of them. And the other two are sophomores, so yeah. So we got a lot of work to do. I’m—extreme talent. Every day I walk in the gym, every day, I walk in the gym and say, ‘Wow. I got really talented kids.’ You ready for this? Who are great kids, who are smart, who care about one another, who got great hearts, kind people. Yet they have a competitive spirit. The whole group. And I look in there—and I get to coach my son on top of that? Come on. I’m the happiest guy in the world. The kid I’m probably the maddest at sometimes. I can’t stay mad long, but you know.”
“Yeah. Again, we did this when we came down with that ’15 team. We stayed a little too long. I think we were here for about eight days. And I was packed for the last three days to go home. But it’s an unbelievable environment. Everything is self-contained. And we were able to grow as a team together. You want your guys together. You want team-building. You want them to be around each other. So we just spent three days together. You can’t put a price tag on that. Second thing is, I like to take my team and do stuff. I just don’t want to go somewhere and play three games. Just don’t want to do it. And so we come down here. Our fans were here. Probably 1,500 fans here that got to see us play. We took pictures with them. And my team did what they had to do. We played a good basketball game. It was on national television. Everybody got to see it. Great for the Atlantis. Great for us. Everything should be a win and I think it was for both. That being said, I’d like to come back here and do this again next year. Come down for three days, play an opponent. We’re already talking about not this coming summer but next summer doing again what we did and coming back and my hope is our fans leave and say, ‘This was the greatest experience. We got closer to the players than we ever have. It’s not just watching a game. We got to be with them.’ And I would hope the Atlantis looks at this and says, ‘This is good for us too.’ ”
“We need to get him the ball more. We do. But that’s what a great kid he is. He knows these guys are learning all this stuff. But he missed two dunks where he fumbled balls. He should have caught those two. Just can’t believe it.
“Thirty-three assists on 44 baskets is incredible. Incredible. And they defended and worked hard and tried.”
“That was good. The question becomes now: How good can we be? It may not be every night. One of the things I told them before the game was, ‘Look, we need to have a close game. We need to have an overtime game. We need to have a team make their first 10 shots and see how we respond. We need to shoot 32 percent and still win a game. We need to be in tough, physical battles and know who can respond. And that’s what our season is about. We just want to learn. Tonight we learned that if we really guard – we gave up some 3s – but if we really guard and fly, we’re really unselfish. Now you become hard to beat. Just that. Really guard, really rebound and fly and be unselfish. And then we’ll work on the other things where we’re playing a team that’s maybe bigger or more physical or faster than us and gets back. Now how do we play?
“I thought we executed some half court stuff good today. He did great, he did great, Malik. Isaiah Briscoe is just a beast. Just a beast and he leads. Making shots now. Think about it, he didn’t make those last year. It was me. ‘Well, you took me out every time I missed a shot.’ Really? You played like the most minutes in our league. But now he’s comfortable at the foul line, comfortable shooting 3s. He lets these guys do what they do and then he goes out and leads and defends and talks.”