During the 1995-96 college basketball season, not unlike today, John Calipari coached the number one team in the country. Unlike today, that team was the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. An upstart group that featured only one long term professional player, Marcus Camby, familiar in a bitter way to me as he led his high school team to the Connecticut class LL state title over my alma mater Danbury High School.
Calipari was a hot young coach viewed as the next Rick Pitino, it was with no small measure of irony that Pitino’s team, the Kentucky Wildcats, would beat the Minutemen in the final four that year on their way to the National Championship.
I had to look up all those details, but I do have an indelible memory of the 1996 tournament. It was Cal getting interviewed getting off the bus going to practice on the Friday before the Kentucky game. He said he wanted his team to “pedal downhill”. It was stuck with me ever since, and I thought of it yesterday as I watched my team coast through practice. We have four days and two games left. There is no district or regional play to look ahead to just an offseason of work. So in one sense I understood the lack of urgency and complacency, but in another I could not accept it.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and that includes practicing and preparing to play. We could coast downhill to the finish, win or lose, collect the uniforms on Friday night, shake hands, hug, and say thanks, but that’s not why you practice, give yourself to the game and compete. That requires more, and in giving more those hand shakes, hugs and thank you’s go a little deeper and last a little longer in the memory. So tonight I will ask my guys to pedal downhill to Friday night.