Formula for success

Originally Published: January 28, 2004
By John Calipari | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's Note: Memphis head coach John Calipari chronicles part of the 2003-04 campaign for ESPN.com as part of The Season: Memphis Basketball, presented by Capital One (ESPN2, Wednesday, 6 p.m. ET).

The first six games in our league have given us a clear picture of what this team is and how we must play to be successful, and the areas we need to improve in to be ready for our stretch run. It is obvious that if we are not playing in a desperate mode defensively -- swarming, talking, being physical and helping one another -- we're not good enough to beat many of the teams we play. When we play that way, we are good enough to beat any of the teams we play. That's what has happened to us so far this year.

Watch The Season: Wisconsin Basketball, presented by Capital One, Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Our shooting is still up and down, but that is fine if we continue to defend and rebound. We have some guys now that are not putting the ball down, but we've still been able to win even though we've shot the ball poorly. We've shot the ball between 35 and 37 percent the last two games, and we're still able to win by double digits. We shot the ball 38 percent against Villanova and won by 16 points. We shot the ball 33 percent against Missouri and won. So, we can shoot poorly and win as long as we defend and rebound.

Our issue right now is that we are shooting too many threes. We've got to address that as we move forward. I'm not sure a team that is shooting 30 threes a game can win when you are playing a good opponent. And if you do win, it's only because you made a lot of them and that's fool's gold. So, we have to figure out how to post it more, who to post and who has the ability to score when we post it. We also need to drive the ball more and only take about 20-24 threes per game. Right now, we've taken 30 threes in each of the last three games.

In the league, we have a stretch where we're on the road at TCU and play Louisville at home. The schedule continues to be tough after that. We have home games against Saint Louis and UAB, and they are playing great. We also go to Marquette, to Louisville and to Cincinnati, so we have a very tough stretch of games on the road. In our last 11 games, you hope to do better than .500, but it is going to be a rough road for us.

In our first six league games, we found out that Antonio Burks is the player that drives this team. I want him to be self-confident, and almost have a swagger. But that cannot turn into "coolness." It needs to make him a more aggressive player -- that he's not afraid to take chances, not afraid to take it to the rim, not afraid to take his shot -- because he has a swagger. If that turns into playing cool, we have no shot at winning because the rest of our players will play that way. When Antonio is really aggressive and is on his game, our team follows suit. We feed off his positive vibes and swagger, so hopefully he can continue to do that. And the tough thing for Antonio is that he has to do it every day. Sean Banks and Ivan Lopez are freshmen and have done fine. Sophomores Jeremy Hunt and Rodney Carney have done fine, and our juniors, Anthony Rice and Duane Erwin, have done fine. What we basically have is a very young team.

I hope people got a true picture of the city of Memphis, the University and our basketball program from The Season. We're a suburban university. We're not on Beale Street, and we're not on a downtown strip. We're in a city suburb, and are a self-contained campus. I hope they saw our facilities, The Pyramid, and all this city and university has to offer. The greatest thing about The Season is that it highlighted our players, which is what I wanted to do.

ALSO SEE