Tony Vanetti: By the way: welcome home buddy. Good to talk to you.
Matt Jones: Itâ€™s good to be home, and great to finally see some quality basketball.
Vanetti: So the Bahamas went well. You have now scared the rest of the country with your roster of players that have just already gelled before the season even gets started. Youâ€™ve got to be happy about Cal and the boys.
Jones: Yeah, they were really, really, really good. I expected them to play well. I did not expect them to go 5-1. I thought theyâ€™d go 2-4, but more than that, I just couldnâ€™t believe how well they played. They seem to have no weaknesses, and theyâ€™ve got two guys sitting on the bench in Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles. The freshman are better than I thought, but the big thing that I learned, Tony, is that it does help to have some guys return, because all of those guys improved, and I think it made it a lot easier for the freshman to gel in rather than having to learn and pick up everything on their own. It was an A+ for me in terms of the trip and how well they played.
Vanetti: Well, back here in Louisville, I know that people watched the games and pretty much saw what you were witnessing in person down there in the Bahamas. And oh, by the way, â€œthe trip was a little too long?â€ Thatâ€™s a bit much. Really?
Jones: It was too long, and by the end of it, I was ready to come home. I know that sounds nuts, but hereâ€™s the thing about the Bahamas: they donâ€™t have little things that you get used to at home. I could not find a McDonaldâ€™s iced Diet Coke anywhere. They had nothing cold to drink. I just want you to imagine having to go 10 or 11 days without anything cold.
Vanetti: Yeah, right. They donâ€™t have cold drinks at one of the nicest resorts in all of the Bahamas?
Jones: I know it sounds crazy, Tony, but itâ€™s true. And I asked someone about it, and they told me they like to drink their beverages at an average temperature, but I donâ€™t like average. I want American cold.
Vanetti: All right. Well, before you left, the word was this was going to be a better competition than you expected. But then once you got into the competition, word was they werenâ€™t that good. What is your assessment about the competition played?
Jones: The competition was a little worse than I expected, but I think Kentucky was a lot better. I expected the French team to be really good. They werenâ€™t. They have some good players, but they had only been together for a few days, so they werenâ€™t. Now, the Dominican team I do think is good, and I think the Dominican team in the second game actually played pretty well. I think itâ€™s fair to say that both those teams were not as good as I thought. I did think Kentucky was a lot better than I expected, though. I went in thinking theyâ€™d beat the Puerto Rican team and lose to the other two teams, but after watching them play, I actually think the way they finished 5-1 is about what it should be.
Vanetti: Well, I think that what concerns Louisville fans is that they were hoping they would revert back to the regular-season Kentucky Wildcats rather than the tournament-team Wildcats, but what it looked like was that you continued the click-up of the tournament.
Jones: They are playing like a team, which they did in the tournament but did not in the regular season, and itâ€™s looking like thatâ€™s going to happen again. Theyâ€™re going to have road bumps, but they are really, really good, and itâ€™s important to know that maybe their best player is going to be found in Willie Cauley-Stein.
Vanetti: And thatâ€™s all good, and I will tell you this: my wife, a UofL graduate watched, about one-half of the first game and said â€œThatâ€™s enough.â€ She knows about basketball too and said â€œI canâ€™t take it. Calipari has a good team again.â€ She yelled something out and just left the room.
Jones: And sheâ€™s right. They do. Jay Bilas said, â€œYou can cut Kentucky in half and have two Top 20 teams,â€ and I agree with that. They donâ€™t have a star, really – I mean, they might not have anybody that is a preseason top-three All-American team, but theyâ€™re still going to be really good.
Vanetti: All right, Iâ€™m done complimenting Kentucky. Letâ€™s move on and talk about something good – like Louisville football.
Jones: How about Louisville football? The story came out a couple days ago that there was potentially tension between Petrino and his defensive coordinator and that Petrino was still being a jerk to his players. Now the story came out from Pete Thamel, who I tend to trust not at all, but what have you heard, Tony? Are there any rumblings about him being the â€œold Bobby?â€
Vanetti: Until this article came out, I heard nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, the defensive coordinator came out last night and said that this was one of the best camps theyâ€™ve ever had…
Jones: Of course he said that. Was he going to come out and say â€œYes, we are fightingâ€?
Vanetti: Look, I know Kentucky has a problem with actually seeing a good football staff come together and how they relate with each other, so this is new for you, but the coaching staff bickering is a good thing.
Jones: OK, so then why deny it? I agree with you. Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan hated each other, but they were great coaches and it didnâ€™t matter, so why deny it? Why does Rick Bozich need to come out and immediately put on his Louisville PR Director hat and write an article saying â€œThey are fine, nothing is wrong, all is goodâ€? Hereâ€™s what I canâ€™t understand, Tony: why canâ€™t you UofL people just admit that Bobby is who he is, but is still a good coach?
Vanetti: They are trying to turn his image around, but what most people donâ€™t get is that most people donâ€™t really care all that much. If heâ€™s a jerk, heâ€™s a jerk. Guess what? On our scale, the bigger the jerk, the better the football coach. Football coaches have to be demanding and militaristic. Thatâ€™s what they have to do.
Jones: There is probably some orchestrated PR campaign from UofL to change the notion that he is a jerk, and I just donâ€™t get it. First of all, I donâ€™t believe it. The only facts that they have for why he isnâ€™t a jerk is that he caddied for his daughter. So what? Tiger Woods had a caddy for years, Steve Williams, who seemed like the biggest jerk on earth. What does caddying do for you?
Vanetti: What concerns me about this Thamel piece is that there is no true football story this year and that theyâ€™re looking for something. You know this Pete Thamel has done this to Kentucky basketball just out of the blue.
Jones: Itâ€™s interesting to see all those people from the Louisville media who, when Thamel said stuff about Kentucky, claimed he was raising important points, but now they are discrediting him. I will discredit him for both stories because I think Pete Thamel is a putz, but as far as the actual football team, I have not seen anything. Are they looking good? Do you feel confident going into the year?
Vanetti: I am. We watched the scrimmage the other day, and the defense could be better than what we thought. You know we are placing a ton on defense, especially in the secondary and the defensive lines, but it looks like they are better. In the scrimmage, the defense was dominating the offense and Bobby did not like that. He was screaming on the field and putting plays in. They ended up moving the ball a tad bit, but not what everyone expected that was in the crowd. They are going to be good, but who knows? Again, it is all speculation of how the players are going to gel with Bobby. We all know that thereâ€™s a buy-in game: when will the players buy in and trust Bobby?
Jones: Thatâ€™s why the first game is soÂ important for you all. Kentucky has two games to get their engines revved up, but you guys play a big team in the first game, and if you win, that could really set you up nicely. But if you lose? I donâ€™t know. Hereâ€™s the biggest difference Louisville will face this year in the ACC. Theyâ€™re going to play three hard games: Clemson, Florida State and Notre Dame. But the other nine games, they will be favored in. But here is the biggest difference: they will get a miniature of what Kentucky did, which even when you win against average to above-average teams, it takes a toll on you. You canâ€™t just coast when you play, say, North Carolina, and thatâ€™s going to be the difference with Louisville and the toll it takes on you over the course of this year.
Vanetti: No question. And thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m predicting an 8-4 season. If they get to 8-4, I will be so happy with that. Youâ€™re replacing a coach, our quarterback and theyâ€™re not your own personnel, and youâ€™re changing an entire scheme, and weâ€™re in a new league and itâ€™s the toughest schedule Louisville has ever played – I donâ€™t care how far you go back. Theyâ€™re going to take their lumps this year with it being a transition year. If we end up in a pretty good bowl at the end of the year, I think people will be happy
Jones: And Bobby has a halo now because heâ€™s a changed human being.
By the end of the year, youâ€™ll be a Bobby fan. And I canâ€™t wait to get you a signed ball.