As everyone continues to try and figure out exactly why Gardner-Webb was able to "whip" Kentucky in such a convincing fashion on Wednesday, I kept thinking of one thing I heard new UK coach Billy Gillispie say over and over during the preseason.
"We usually are not very good early, but we are usually very, very competitive. We usually peak at the right time. Because of our competitive nature, before we peaked we were able to play fairly well and win some games due to the nature of our team. That is what we are developing right now is the competitive nature of our parts," Gillispie said in one preseason interview.
He was right about his team not being "very good" early because the Cats were awful against Gardner-Webb. However, two games into his Kentucky tenure; it seems a little early to immediately second guess everything about the coach.
That reminded me of something else Gillispie said about figuring out his first UK team.
"There is a lot of trial and error. There are a lot of mistakes that will be made by players and coaches. It just takes time," Gillispie said.
True, and it seems that Gillispie may have made one of those mistakes by overworking his team on Tuesday and Wednesday with pregame practices each day as well as a two-hour film session after the game on Tuesday.
But again, Gillispie knows what has worked for him in the past. Maybe he's willing to sacrifice tired legs early to build strong bodies and minds for later.
"Conditioning is very, very important to us, probably more so to me than most. I think that if your mind and body are supremely conditioned, then you have a greater chance for success. It doesn't come overnight. It is hard, taxing and difficult," Gillispie also said in the preseason.
That's when he also talked about needing an "adjustment period" to different roles for his players.
"Everyone is going to be in a different role this year," Gillispie said in September. "I think everyone is in kind of a new position and it takes a while for us to figure out the best place to use them and for them to understand what we want them to do when we put them in those spots."
So does this mean Gillispie knew a loss like the one to Gardner-Webb might happen? No, I don't think that is the case.
But I do think he understood there would be some rough spots and that his goal is to make his players play their best in February and March. If that means going through what might seem like unreasonable game-day workouts in November, Gillispie will do it. If it means trying different lineups and not being afraid to challenge a player's comfort zone, Gillispie will do it. If it means sticking to his long-range plan even if it might not look that sound in the short term, Gillispie will do it.
No, I have never thought this would be a top 20 team. Yes, I do think UK should be much better than what it played against Gardner-Webb.
However, it's too early to think Gillispie is overwhelmed at Kentucky or doesn't know what he is doing. Give him time. Stay patient. Let him coach the way he always has and let's see what happens in March.
Painful, embarrassing losses are no fun. But one loss is no reason to panic and forget all the reasons why Gillispie looked like such a good fit when he was hired.
Gillispie still learning his team
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