Newton has continued to be involved in various basketball activities since leaving Kentucky and his son,?Martin, was director of basketball operations for two years under John Calipari at UK before becoming the athletics director at Samford this year.
Newton shared these opinions/observations on Calipari and the job he's done at Kentucky.
Question: Has the national perception of John Calipari changed since his arrival at Kentucky?
Newton: "I think John is John.?I don't know that it has really changed. I think it has exposed him more nationally than he was before at UMass or Memphis. John is just a very solid basketball guy that loves to coach and loves to be with people. I don't really see him changing much. I think he is a great fit for the job."
Question: Has anything he's done on or off the court surprised you?
Newton: "No, not really. I just felt like he was a great fit for that job. It's a very demanding job that requires high energy and he's like the Energizer Bunny. He never runs down. He has great people skills and he can really coach basketball. He understands the game. I think he is just a great fit."
Question: Does being a great coach or having great people skills make him a great fit at Kentucky?
Newton: "Both. You have to have both. You really have to understand the job. I think John has a great understanding of what Kentucky basketball is all about. I always said I wanted somebody that could do the job, understood the job and somebody who understood the job that really wanted the job. I think John met all three of those criteria."
Question: Has his recruiting success at Kentucky been about what you expected?
Newton: "No, because he has always recruited well everywhere he has been. He is tireless. He is just a very, very effective person and has great people skills that help in recruiting."
Question: Is he more innovative or open-minded about change than most coaches?
Newton: "Most coaches that are successful are innovative and subject to change. You go back to coach (Adolph) Rupp and he was thought of as a person who never changed out of that same old mold, but he changed dramatically. He went to the 1-3-1 trapping defense, shuffle offense. He did a lot of different things. The great coaches change to their personnel and change to the times."
Question: Could Calipari have the same run of success that Rick Pitino, a coach you hired at UK, had before he left for the Boston Celtics?
Newton: "I could envision it. Rick is a great basketball coach, and so is John. There's no doubt about that."
Question: What makes Calipari such a good coach?
Newton: "I think he really understands basketball. He is an outstanding teacher. He gets good players, but he can really discipline them, coach them up, motivate them. He's just got the whole ball of wax as far as I am concerned."
Question: How hard is it to motivate and discipline elite players?
Newton: "It's hard but it is easier than motivating and disciplining bad players in my opinion. I?have tried it both ways, and believe me good players make you a good coach."