Calipari says Cats are doing well in bubble

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Keith Taylor

Kentucky coach John Calipari is making the best of things while his team is in a “bubble” in campus.

LEXINGTON (KT) — John Calipari doesn’t mind living in a bubble and said the Wildcats have things “pretty well in order” when it comes to guarding against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The guys have been great, but this thing has been hard,” Calipari said Wednesday. “I’m more concerned with mental health than with anything else. (The players) know they have to wear masks and gloves and stay away and social distancing. … when you’re locked into a room for 18 hours a day, my concern is what do we do with these guys every other day? I’m dealing with that.”

Calipari has been able to take his squad to different eating establishments in a private setting and the staff has pondered opening up the team locker room, but Calipari isn’t ready to commit to unlocking the doors just yet “so they can all congregate together.”

“One guy doing something dumb can lock you down,” he said. “Even if we are going live (in practice), I will go five, seven minutes and then we’ll do something (on the script), in other words, five of them or three of them are spaced (out).  Then we will come together again for five or seven minutes and then we will separate.”

Calipari added that he’s “trying to be respectful” and that he’s “learning something new every day.”

“I want to make sure with my guys, we’re doing this in a safe way,” he said.

Calipari has been impressed with the way the NBA and WNBA have handled a return to the court in a “bubble” setting and could provide a glimpse into future games at the collegiate level.

“There is no homecourt advantage and you’re seeing it in the NBA right now,” he said. “They’re all in this bubble and no fans. … That’s going to be the case with playing multiple teams together. The NBA and the WNBA have given us a path that we can do it safely.”

As for a league-only schedule, Calipari said his players would favor a traditional schedule as opposed to a league-only approach the Southeastern Conference has taken in football this season. He is also concerned about guarantee money for teams at the mid-major level.

“We don’t have the solutions yet,” Calipari said. “I trust our league so that will come up with stuff (like) how many games are we going to play — we don’t know yet. Do we play on long weekends or come together someplace? Do we play at different on-campus sites?”

“… it’s not going to be exactly the same (as the NBA) for two or three months, but how do we do this and make sure everybody is safe and include all of the programs (in college basketball).”

LISTEN AND LEARN

Calipari spoke out on the UK faculty of African American and African Studies program’s suggestion to change the name of Rupp Arena, the team’s home arena since 1976.

“From what I understand, they were talking about a lot of different things,” he said. “This is another chance for us to listen and learn. Some people agree and some people are not going to agree.

“I would tell you again, for me personally, knowing the family and knowing Herky (Rupp) like I did, what’s out there that tells me there’s something different? I’m all ears and I’m going to listen. Here is what I do know, the university is doing stuff going forward — diversity issues on our campus, they’re dealing with (those issues) — very important for us.”

Calipari has taken a lead role with the establishment of the McClendon Minority Leadership Initiative he launched last month to create opportunities for minorities in athletic administration on college campuses across the country

“What we’re doing in the minority leadership initiative, we are taking the fronts position in this and the lead position as this thing goes and grows, Kentucky is going to be the lead in what we’re doing and be the program that’s going to say, ‘here are the best-case scenarios in this and how we do it.,’” he said.