UK Basketball: Delk sees similarities in Pitino and Calipari
Louisville coach Rick Pitino greets Wayne Turner, who played for him at Kentucky, before the Kentucky-Louisville game this year, game as Tony Delk, another former Pitino player at UK, smiles. Turner and Delk are both on John Calipari's staff at UK. (Victoria Graff)
Delk, who joined Calipari’s staff two years ago and played on Pitino’s 1996 national championship team at Kentucky, also offers his insights on actress Ashley Judd:
Question: Are John Calipari and Rick Pitino really a lot alike?
Delk: “In many ways they are. With me being on both sides, I can see the similarities between the two.
“It is so funny that they are so-called rivals and enemies, but they are two guys that think alike. They are two guys that are passionate and love the game of basketball and love to win. That lets you know they put in the time, and that’s why both coaches have been successful.”
Question: Is there a major difference between the two of them?
Delk: “Not necessarily. Coach Pitino is not as fiery as he was with us. He has definitely toned it down a lot. This is a different generation of kids, so he can’t be the way he once was with us.
“You have to be able to relate to these kids now, and it’s not about screaming at them to get them to respond. There is a different way and kinder way to do it now.”
Question: Is Calipari’s best strength the relationships he has with his players?
Delk: “What he does a great job of is, he does not hold grudges. If he screams at you or motivates you, it is for your own good. Sometimes you have to explain that for the younger generation. It’s not because I don’t like you, it’s because I want you to be a better player. Now you have to explain that.
“Back when I was playing, we bought into (that). Now they want explanations for why you screamed at me or said this to me. Once you do that and see how much you care about them and love them, they are fine. That’s the difference I see and have learned from him.”
Question: Has it been hard to adjust to the chatter players now direct back to coaches in practice — and sometimes even in games — something that seldom went on during your playing career?
Delk: “I think that is where the game has changed, too. You do have a relationship with your coach. He respects your viewpoint, but you better be right. If you say something at a game, we will see the next day on the film.
“He gives guys the opportunity to interact back, but not in a disrespectful way. At the end of the day, he is still our superior. He is still the boss and makes the calls.
“I will let guys voice their opinions when I am a coach. I think that comes from understanding your players and personnel on your staff. If you have that and have your assistants that can talk to players, then players can give their viewpoint. Why not? That is something if you feel like your opinion is right, we will deal with it later.”
Question: Was it hard for you to believe that some players on the team didn’t even know who Judd was when she came to her first game this season?
Delk: “No, because probably some of those same guys didn’t know who I was when they got here. With the new generation of kids, it is about the Xbox, PlayStation, everything but the history of program, players that were here.
“That’s where I did a good job of doing my research before I ever came to Kentucky, looking at the history, the championships, the players on those teams and the coaches that were here. Guys don’t really do that any more.”
Question: Is it still nice for you to have a chance to visit with Judd since she was at many games when you played at Kentucky, especially during that championship season?
Delk: “It was nice. It had maybe been 10 years since I had seen her. Our careers had definitely taken different paths. Now I am here, and she is still doing what she does. It’s good to reflect on old memories and mostly just see where we are today.”
Question: But you would admit you were probably her favorite player?
Delk: “But that was some time ago. Hopefully as time has passed she has had some other players she liked just as much as she did me.”