All week, we’ve been unpacking Mark Stoops’ rant following Saturday’s spring practice. Stoops did not hold back when criticizing his team’s attitude, lack of leadership, and work ethic on Saturday, going as far as to call them “entitled.” Following another spring practice, Stoops called into KSR this morning and said he’s pleased with how his players responded to the message this week.
“Better. Better. Couple of better days and we need to, you know, so that’s just it. You know, I call it like I see it with the players and I didn’t like what I was seeing for a few days and I was stewing and getting a little ticked off and so I let them have it a little. They responded well and we’re getting better.”
Stoops said part of his frustration stemmed from the fact that Kentucky only has 15 practices in the spring and 12 in fall camp, so he wants his players to understand they have to maximize every second on the field.
“If I’m making comments like that, that doesn’t mean it’s like, all the time or every day. It’s just, there’s no time to waste. You only have 15 practices in the spring. We only have 12 opportunities, 12 guaranteed opportunities in the fall. How can you not be ready each and every day?”
“In the spring, we have spaced out practices. We very rarely go back-to-back and I think for me, I just feel it sometimes out there — and it’s not everybody. I have 100 guys out there, but I just feel certain times, certain players, maybe certain sides of the ball, certain groups, are maybe just going through the motions and it pisses me off because we have 15 guaranteed opportunities. We have to get better every day. We want to take this thing to another level.”
Stoops: “I really cannot let us not play with an edge”
Kentucky finished 7-6 last year, well below the high expectations for the program in Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez’s final season. Stoops has admitted more than once that last season, the Cats didn’t live up to their reputation as a blue-collar squad. Getting back to those core principles was a big part of Saturday’s rant. Today, he said it starts at the top with him.
“I really cannot let us not play with an edge. I mean, that’s who we are. If we’ve done anything well, we played tough, we played hard, we play with an attitude. And we didn’t always do that last year and that’s on me. That’s on me. We’ve talked about being a player-led team and, we feed into that and we want to be that but if they can’t do it, then it’s up to me and it’s up to our staff to get them motivated and get on their ass and get them ready to play every day and get them ready to practice every day. And right now that’s what we have to do.”
Letting the search for new leaders happen naturally
As someone who played for Kentucky and worked for Stoops, Freddie Maggard shared his perspective on player-led teams vs. coach-led teams earlier this week. In his rant on Saturday, Stoops called out Kentucky’s lack of leadership. Today, he said the search continues for new leaders and he and his staff are going to be careful to let it happen naturally.
“You just mentioned some great guys, Jacquez [Jones] and Will [Levis] and DeAndre [Square] and Jordan [Wright], guys have been with me for a while and are really good leaders but when they leave, it’s time for somebody else. That’s why we work hard at player development and leadership.
“The new guys need to step up but sometimes, we as coaches, whether I talk about it on a show like this, whether I talk about it in interviews, we unintentionally empower people when they’re not ready. You know what I mean? And so I’m not going to empower anybody to do it; they have to earn that leadership right.
“I think yes, we will get there. And I think as a group I have a really good staff. We work hard in that department and the players are responding but I want to just be more cautious of empowering people just by talking about it because nobody can earn that right by us just talking about it. They’ve gotta go earn it every day and they got to be consistent. And that’s where we need to do that to take it to another level.”