Don't Curse John Calipari for What Many Coaches Do
The timing was $%#@&^ awful.
If you're a coach with a potty mouth, you don't want your tongue flapping during a game when large portions of the universe are watching courtesy of an ESPN camera in your face.
Oh, and the Bible doesn't exactly condone the use of words not found between Genesis and Revelation.
Other than that, I hadn't a problem with University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari yelling what he did at highly gifted but occasionally undisciplined freshman Terrence Jones.
What did Calipari yell?
Well, Calipari said Jones was nothing but a "selfish" -- well, um, I can't tell you the rest. Let's just say Calipari used one of the words that once got comedian George Carlin arrested in Milwaukee.
In case you've lived a sheltered life, more than a few coaches and managers have a tendency to express themselves in ways that are offensive to the rest of mankind. Such always has been the case, and if you don't believe me, listen to Mark Price, among basketball's all-time devout Christians. He's also a charter member of the Nice Guy Hall of Fame.
Before evolving into a perennial All-Star during his dozen years in the NBA, Price dribbled at Georgia Tech during the mid-1980s when Bobby Cremins was the head coach.
We're talking about the same Cremins who didn't mind whipping players with some of those George Carlin words.
"Obviously, you would like for folks not to use that type of language when possible, but I think any player that ever played under a coach has been cussed out before," said Price, 46, now with the Golden State Warriors during his post-playing career that has involved working as an assistant coach on the high school, college and pro levels.
Added Price, "When it comes to cussing, it's just going to happen, but most players understand that it's a part of what coaches do, whether it be out of competitiveness or frustration."
Surely Cremins never swore at Price, the perfect son, who was twice an All-America selection and an All-ACC basketball pick during each of his four seasons at Georgia Tech.
"Oh, (Cremins) swore at me, too," he said, still laughing. "At least the coaches I've had, not only do they treat certain players differently, it depends on how important that player is to the team. Particularly at Georgia Tech -- myself, along with John Salley -- we were sort of the cornerstone of that team. So I always felt that Coach Cremins was a little harder on me than maybe most of the other guys, and maybe because he expected more from me and wanted me to be the best that I could be.
"But, no, Bobby, he never was afraid about getting in my face or whatever when he thought he needed to. The only line that I asked him not to cross was putting God's name in the equation, and he respected that. But all the other words he used."
Just like most coaches and managers.
Lou Piniella wasn't Misters Rogers in tone when he brawled in the clubhouse that night with Rob Dibble. You better keep the wife and kids away from the Maryland basketball bench whenever historically profane coach Gary Williams opens his mouth. No way, Rex Ryan says the equivalent of "pretty please" before he asks one of his players to correct something that he doesn't like.
The same goes for San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, the most likely NBA coach to lead interrogations at a POW camp. And you just know Nick Saban says a few things to his Alabama football players that aren't uttered in a Tuscaloosa Sunday School.
As Price suggested, coaches and managers join Calipari (at least to a point) by turning up or down the volume on their verbal jabs depending on the mentality of the player.
It's just that, unlike past generations, when the explosive ways of a Vince Lombardi, a Adolph Rupp or a Leo Durocher were spread only through word of mouth or not at all, such actions now are mostly a click of a button away for everybody to see and hear.
"With the media outlets that are out there these days -- from YouTube to Twitter to all the different other things -- it seems like everything gets caught on tape or on a sound bite," Price said. "A lot of things that used to be kind of behind closed doors, so to speak, tend to be a little more public now, and that in itself has a tendency to make coaches and others a little more careful about what they say or do."
Calipari was the exception last week at Alabama. Along the way to what eventually became a 68-66 loss for Kentucky, he forgot about the roving cameras, and he remembered he benched Jones two games before that against Auburn. He also remembered Jones responded with a freshman record 35 points after he left the bench.
The point is, Calipari knew what he was doing, and Jones mentioned as much afterward to reporters.
"My coach isn't the first coach who's cussed in basketball," said Jones, among the nation's prized recruits when he was an all-everything player in Portland, Ore. "Coach Cal talks to us just to get our attention and (to) make sure we're doing what he wants us to do. However, he says it doesn't mean anything. It's what he's saying and the message.
"(Calipari's cursing) didn't even bother me. I don't think that needed to be that big of a deal."