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April 3, 2014

The Final Four Calipari faces skeptics with grins, wins

(Continued)

Then he said, “That’s a heck of a sale, isn’t it?”

His two vacated Final Four appearances at Massachusetts and Memphis leave a stain on his résumé and his one-and-done recruiting bristles some.

This season has been an example of a masterful turnaround.

The Wildcats lost 10 games and looked aimless in the middle of the season. But Calipari said he made a “tweak,” one he declines to go into detail about until the season ends.

He said it made all the difference, although he concedes he should have made the change sooner.

“Bottom line is I screwed this up in a couple of different ways,” he said. “I waited probably two months longer than I should have to put the couple of things in that changed how we were as a team.”

What’s obvious to everyone now is that the Wildcats have been molded into a championship contender.

“People are saying, ‘Boy, he looks more relaxed,’” Calipari said.

He seemed like it Tuesday when he joked with reporters that he was wheeled into practice in a casket, making the point that, “We’re not dead yet.” Of course, on April Fool’s Day, the story wasn’t true.

But it did prove two things. Kentucky has made a great survival story and Calipari really is enjoying himself.

Why shouldn’t he?

“I am more relaxed,” he said, “because I know I don’t have to see a guy not going hard, a guy passing up a teammate, taking five bad shots. I’m not dealing with that anymore. This team has been empowered now and now I can just coach basketball.”

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