Calipari, Kentucky working on new contract
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky coach John Calipari could be in line for a raise.
Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Tuesday night the university and Calipari have started talks on a new deal that would keep the coach with the Wildcats for the rest of his career.
“We have begun initial discussions on restructuring his contract so that he’s the coach at Kentucky until he retires,” Barnhart said in a statement.
Barnhart’s comments came just hours after reports surfaced linking Calipari and the coaching vacancy with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, who fired Vinny Del Negro on Tuesday.
Calipari, already the highest paid coach in men’s college basketball, just completed the first year of an eight-year deal that averages nearly $4 million a season. Kentucky went 35-3 last season behind the play of freshmen stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
“I’m extremely proud of what Coach Calipari has done in just one year as the leader of our men’s basketball program,” Barnhart said. “Cal has brought Kentucky men’s basketball back to its rightful place of national prominence and I’m excited about our future.”
Calipari tried to brush off the NBA speculation on his Facebook page.
“Every year you will hear my named mentioned for NBA jobs because I coached in the league before,” Calipari posted. “I’m very happy at Kentucky.”
Calipari went 72-112 in two-plus seasons with the New Jersey Nets in the late 1990s. He spent the 1999-2000 season as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers before returning to the collegiate level to coach at Memphis.
The 51-year-old Calipari spent nine seasons with the Tigers before coming to Kentucky last spring. He revitalized the program with arguably one of the greatest recruiting classes in history in Wall, Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.
All four, however, are headed to the NBA. So is junior forward Patrick Patterson. Calipari has already put the finishing touches on another stellar class that includes point guard Brandon Knight, rated the top-rated high school senior in the country by Rivals.com.
Calipari has become something of a phenomenon during his one season in the Bluegrass, embracing the school’s tradition and legacy while connecting with one of the most demanding fan bases in the country. He has reveled in the spotlight but acknowledged on Monday that it can be draining.
“I love coaching here, but this is a hard job,” he said. “I haven’t had a day off in a long time. I am looking forward to it at some point, because we still have to finish this recruiting class, to just getting away.”
His destination, however, does not appear to be the NBA.