Citizen Staff Writer
NO. 17 UA (9-2) AT NO. 2 MEMPHIS (10-0), 8 P.M. SATURDAY; TV: ESPN2; RADIO: 1290 AM
Memphis basketball coach John Calipari did something commendable but rare four months ago. He established an 11 p.m. team curfew after a couple of his players got in trouble with the law.
He held strong to it and then eased off, only to return to the rule recently when he felt the players weren’t giving the effort he wanted.
“Our job as coaches is to help kids mature and make good choices,” Calipari said in a telephone interview Thursday. “If they are doing the wrong thing, you have to make them change – or get rid of them. If they do change, you don’t throw them under the bus.”
No. 17 Arizona, which plays at No. 2 Memphis at 8 p.m. Saturday, doesn’t have a curfew.
“But we tell our guys we don’t want you out of your rooms past 11 (p.m.),” UA interim coach Kevin O’Neill said of his policy on the road. “When we’re at home there’s no certain or specific time. But if I thought they were handling things poorly, I would (set one). But I haven’t had to do that.”
Arizona coach Lute Olson, on a leave of absence for personal matters, was the same way. But he did suspend then-sophomore Marcus Williams for a game after being out late on a trip to Los Angeles.
Why, particularly when you read about student-athletes getting in trouble, do so few coaches have curfews?
“Because you’d have to enforce it,” Calipari said.
He did in September, when he was “furious” with newcomers Shawn Taggart and Jeff Robinson after they were arrested late into the night outside a nightclub. He established a no-club policy and the 11 p.m. curfew.
“I just said: ‘Be the first one that is out after curfew; please be the first one,” Calipari said, his voice getting louder for emphasis. “They were smart enough to know how angry I was.”
Calipari made them realize there was too much at stake this season – a possible national title – for the players to mess things up. Just recently he spoke to the team, using as an example the NFL’s New England Patriots, a team that is 15-0 and has a chance to win the Super Bowl while going undefeated.
“What would the New England Patriots do if one of their players were out in the next two weeks and something happened?” he asked, all the while knowing the answer. “The guy would be out. That guy wouldn’t do that to his teammates. He had to go out? Really? Whey not wait a few months?
“But these guys (college kids) at this age don’t think about what they did to their teammates. They think (they) did it to (themselves), but they didn’t.”
That’s where it all begins, UA forward Chase Budinger said. It’s about what’s good for the team. Players must know that being up or out late isn’t good.
“You have to be ready for the game,” he said.
And when it’s not in season? Budinger said college is where you become a young adult, and it’s about making the right decisions.
“Should I sleep tonight and work out hard the next day, or should I go out and party and do nothing the next day?” Budinger said, asking the question perhaps many a student-athlete asks himself. “Those are decisions we as players have to make sometimes. Everyone on the team makes that sacrifice because we want to get better.”
UNLV coach Lon Krueger said in a recent interview that he speaks to his team every now and again about making the right decisions.
How could he not? He’s coaching in a city whose motto is: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
“Typically, we expect them to make decisions on things that will give us the best chance to have a good team,” Krueger said. “We treat them all individually for the most part (and hope) that they make the right decisions to have a good year and a good team.
“And they know that if they make a bad decision, people are going to find out about it.”
Calipari himself wanted to find out. When he laid down the curfew, he asked local nightclubs to alert him about any players breaking it.
Players have to conduct themselves professionally, he said, because they will never know when an unflattering photo from a nightclub will end up on the Internet.
“When you and I were younger, there were no (Internet) chat rooms, no phones with cameras, and there were no Internet sites,” Calipari said. “Talk radio wasn’t what it is now. But I’ve told the kids it is what it is. They have to understand that. All we want them to do is make good decisions.”
On and off the basketball court – curfew or not.
O’Neill said he’s not sure whether senior forward Bret Brielmaier will be able to play Saturday. Brielmaier suffered a shoulder injury against San Diego State last Saturday.
O’Neill said Brielmaier was able to shoot a little at practice Thursday, but more will be determined Friday.