Krebs on Calipari, Gillispie

He only played under John Calipari for one season — and seldom got to play even then — but Mark Krebs says it's not hard to understand why the University of Kentucky coach has been so successful.

He only played under John Calipari for one season — and seldom got to play even then — but Mark Krebs says it's not hard to understand why the University of Kentucky coach has been so successful.

"Cal is the best coach a player could ever have," said Krebs during his time at the Ohio UK?Convention in Middletown, Ohio, Saturday. "He just knows what players need and is unbelievable with the off the court stuff he does to make it even more impressive."

Krebs had his own impressive journey to Kentucky following his standout career at Newport Central Catholic. He went to Thomas More, a Division III?school in northern Kentucky, but quit midway through the season when the team was 0-10.

"I was good for a high school player, but I quit because I did not love basketball any longer," Krebs said.

A few weeks later, he realized he didn't want to quit playing and decided he wanted to walk on at Kentucky. He started working out, added strength and practiced on his own.

He sent a letter to then UK?coach Tubby Smith asking about becoming a walk-on. He listed all his high school statistics and accomplishments. He got this reply back from Smith in a letter: "You would be a great candidate." That was all Krebs needed and he did earn a spot on the team.

"I was guarding Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas, guys I watched on TV when I was a fan," Krebs said.

He thought his career was set. But Smith left for Minnesota and hard-nosed Billy Gillispie took over the program.

"Not only did Tubby leave, but a whole new regime from assistants to secretaries in the basketball office came in," Krebs said. He suffered through some of the horror-filled times with Gillispie.

He still remembers the time Gillispie had the team run so much that his practice partner, Patrick Patterson, took off his shoe and all the skin peeled off his bloody foot.

"Alex Legion was falling to the ground like a fish. We were all dying," Krebs said. "Patrick knew something was wrong with his foot and then he took his shoe off. I started getting sick. Finally, by the grace of God we got done after I did my running and Patrick's, too."

Another time Krebs remembers UK was having its final practice before heading to Florida to play. "Coach Gillispie got mad and said he was only taking the five starters to Florida," Krebs recalled. "We thought the rest of us were just going to stay home and have fun. Then (assistant) coach (Jeremy) Cox came over as we were leaving and wanted to know why we were not on the bus for the airport. We told him why and he told us to get over to Gillispie's office."

Krebs said all the reserves went into Gillispie's office and could not turn on the lights because Gillispie had a special key. "It was like we were waiting for a surprise birthday party," Krebs said. "Then he came in and said, ‘What are you doing here?' We told him he said we were not going on the trip. He said, ‘Of course you are. We can't play with five guys. What was I thinking?'

"Coach Gillispie was tough like that. But he taught me to value hard work and that college basketball was not a country club. If you didn't work, you would be off the team no questions asked. Every day was do or die with him." Krebs wasn't crushed that Gillispie left.

"I went to UK as a dream and we had been in the NIT and played one game in the NCAA under Gillispie and he didn't even let me dress and sit on the bench for that game,"?Krebs said. "I thought my career was over with coach Calipari coming in and knowing he did not like to carry walk-ons. We were all getting kicked off." Krebs said he thinks Calipari might have initially confused him with Michael Porter, a scholarship guard who did quit after Gillispie left.

When Calipari told walk-on players to only watch practice, Krebs kept aligning himself with scholarship players and participating in practice. Eventually Calipari not only decided to keep Krebs, but gave him UK's remaining scholarship for what turned out to be a 35-win season with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and others and ended in the Elite Eight.

"It was a great year," Krebs said.

Calipari became a Krebs fan, too. The coach says one of his most memorable moments as a coach came at UK's 2010 Senior Day when Krebs' mother, Terri, came to midcourt despite an eight-year battle with cancer.

"When my mom passed away, he was one of the first ones to call. He will help me however he can when I need it," Krebs said. "I try not to bother him too much. The last year they had with the Final Four run was great. This year is going to be hectic. I understand with the schedule they run. I?can't stay away, so I like to say hello. I have been around a few practices. I am still friends with Darius (Miller) and Jon Hood and all of them and like to hang out with them. But Cal is always great with me."

Recently they both spoke a function for cancer awareness where Calipari introduced him. "He said some kind words. Whenever I?am in Lexington,?I always stop by the coaches' office and he is always open when he is there," Krebs said. "Maybe if Tubby had stayed my points and stats would have been better. Having three coaches at Kentucky probably made Kentucky better and made me better personally."

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