The most cringeworthy moment from Kentucky's 68-66 loss at Alabama on Tuesday night wasn't any of the ill-advised shots, sluggish defensive rotations and missed box-outs that cost the Wildcats the victory.
Instead, it was actually the verbal thrashing Wildcats coach John Calipari gave star freshman Terrence Jones late in the game.
TV cameras caught an unusually heated Calipari screaming at Jones and other Kentucky players throughout the night, but in only one instance could savvy lip readers clearly make out what the coach was saying. During a timeout with 2:03 remaining after Kentucky squandered a late chance to tie the game, Calipari unleashed a string of curse words at Jones as he came off the floor, culminating by calling him "a selfish mother[expletive]."
Anyone who played a competitive sport growing up knows that coaches will often resort to foul language when providing tough love or motivating their teams, yet that didn't make the moment any less uncomfortable for TV viewers.
Some Kentucky fans on CatsPause.com called the incident "ugly" and "embarrassing" and suggested Calipari was "out of control." Others jumped to his defense, scolding fellow fans for being naive and correctly noting that this sort of scene happens during practices or games at numerous programs across the nation.
Once he became aware of the backlash, Calipari told fans he was sorry via Twitter a couple hours after the game.
"First of all I want to apologize for my language at the end of the game," Calipari wrote. "I got caught up in the emotion of the game, but that's no excuse. Sometimes you don't realize in the moment that what you're saying is on national TV. The [Big Blue Nation] deserves better and so do my players."
The one-sided shouting match between Calipari and Jones was the culmination of weeks of frustration with the freshman forward's tendency to take contested shots rather than look to set up his teammates for easier ones. Calipari removed Jones from the starting lineup against Auburn earlier this month and criticized him in the media this week, telling reporters "he's not passing enough" and "he's shooting every time" he touches the ball.
What was curious about Calipari's outburst on Tuesday night was that it followed a sequence in which it appeared Jones wasn't at fault. With Kentucky trailing 65-63 after having rallied from 20 down earlier in the second half, Doron Lamb clanked an open corner three and then DeAndre Liggins committed an over-the-back foul when he tried to follow the shot.
Still, while Jones was instrumental in Kentucky's second-half comeback, Calipari's message to him was a good one albeit poorly conveyed. Jones scored 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting, but he often forced his offensive looks and he finished with just two assists.
- John Calipari