By COLIN FLY, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Terrence Jones readily calls Kentucky coach John Calipari a father figure. It's that tough-love approach that defines their relationship.
"He's been tough on me since I first got here. It's just because he expects a lot from me. I know he loves me. I know how good he thinks I am, how much he believes in me," Jones said. "When he doesn't see how he thinks I can perform, he tells me. He's a male father figure to me.
"So it's tough love sometimes. Sometimes it's good love. I take it all in the same way. I don't care how he says it; I just listen to what he's saying."
Most fans assumed the talented forward was off to the NBA after Calipari's withering, 30-second tirade filled with cringe-inducing expletives was caught by cameras in a game last season.
Calipari apologized publicly, Jones stayed and the bond between the two is tight, even if teammates think Calipari is especially hard on the sophomore.
"He's tough on everybody, but he's pretty tough on Terrence," teammate Doron Lamb said. "He wants Terrence to be the best he can be. He expects a lot of Terrence."
The episode toughened Jones, who has dealt with more criticism this year from fans for periods of poor play and a finger injury that cost him two games. Jones said he could have left last year after Kentucky lost to Connecticut in the Final Four.
"I didn't want to leave losing," he said. "I wanted to win a national championship."
He's got that chance now.
Kentucky (37-2) faces Kansas (32-6) on Monday night in the national championship in the Superdome, but Jones will need to play a bigger role that he did in the semifinals.
In Kentucky's 69-61 win over Louisville, Jones was hardly noticeable in the first half and finished with six points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes. Calipari sought out Jones repeatedly to howl at his play — including once when Jones attempted a weak layup.
Calipari mimicked Jones' effort and yelled: "Dunk it on him! Dunk it on him!"
"I've been playing for him for two years and I know when I'm explaining what I thought, if he tells me he's right, he's right," Jones said.
Is Calipari ever wrong?
"After he watches tape sometimes," Jones said. "But not at the moment, no."
Calipari pretended that he didn't know about the January 2011 incident when he was asked about it Sunday. During a loss at Alabama, Calipari called Jones "selfish" amid a string of expletives as Jones turns and walks away.
"He knows how I feel about him. He's like a son to me," Calipari said. "This kid, what he's doing, what he's done, how far he's come, I'm just proud of him. I mean, he's more focused, he's got a better skill set."
Jones shrugged off the encounter that defined their first year together: "If you saw it, I just walked down the court and kept playing. I didn't think it was anything wrong with it."
Jones wanted that scrutiny when he returned to Lexington for his second season after averaging 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as a freshman.
"If I was ready for the draft, I would've gone," Jones said. "I was OK with where I was in the draft. It wasn't low."
Calipari challenged him early on to be one of the best players in the country and lead Calipari's newest recruiting class that included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.
"When he came in and told me, 'I'm coming back,' ... I said, 'OK, but you're going to have to work your butt off because this is not going to be easy," Calipari said. "He says, 'It's what I need.'"
And Calipari has been especially hard on him at times.
When Jones played his worst game of the season on Dec. 10 against Indiana with four points and six turnovers in a one-point loss, Calipari said, "he absolutely gave us zero."
Jones dislocated his left pinky finger on his shooting hand in the next game, then missed two more with the injury. He hasn't had many poor performances since and can't afford to have one against the Jayhawks with so much at stake.
Jones said he'll be ready for Calipari.
"I want to win it for him," Jones said. "He deserves it."
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