The Los Angeles Lakers may have an ace up their sleeve if the team opts to move on from head coach Frank Vogel this offseason. Heavy.com NBA editor Sean Deveney noted there is a growing buzz that Kentucky coach John Calipari is willing to explore leaving Kentucky.
Despite how the Lakers underwhelming season turned out, coaching a historic franchise with LeBron James and Anthony Davis should still be appealing to top coaches. Calipari coached Davis during his lone Kentucky season as the Wildcats went on a championship run in 2011-12. Davis went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft by New Orleans.
“When you are talking about the Lakers, you are talking about a coaching vacancy, I think it is required you have to mention John Calipari as a possibility,” Deveney detailed on April 2. “Now, I have heard that Calipari would be willing to consider leaving Kentucky, he is a god there for sure and it is a comfortable situation but the college game is getting tougher and tougher and the pro game does have the big money you can kick back and collect and you don’t have to worry about recruiting. Calipari with the Lakers— why not? He would probably have to have some GM say, some personnel say, but if there is a guy who has the reputation to come in and rescue that situation, might be him.”
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Calipari Signed a ‘Lifetime’ $86 Million Contract at Kentucky
Calipari’s contract with Kentucky has been described as a “lifetime” deal but college basketball insider Adam Zagoria reported that the coach essentially signed for 10 years, $86 million in 2019. Coaches in both the NBA and college have typically gone from job to job despite their current contract status.
“With a base salary of $400,000 per season from the university, Calipari will make $8 million in total compensation over the next two seasons with increases starting in 2021-22 ($8.5 million per year for four seasons) and 2025-26 ($9 million per year for four seasons),” Zagoria tweeted on June 13, 2019.
Coach Cal Has Been Looking for the ‘Right Situation’ in the NBA, Says Insider
Heavy.com’s NBA insider Steve Bulpett noted that Calipari has been looking for the “right situation” to return to the NBA for a “long time.” Calipari struggled during his only NBA head coaching stint with the Nets from 1996 to 1999.
“Cal has, the word I’ve gotten is that he has wanted to be back in the NBA for a long time but he has been looking for the right situation,” Bulpett added. “It’s weird, it is hard for a college coach that has been that big a part of their program, to do the kind of change that is necessary to be an NBA coach. You’re not the program in the NBA. It would be difficult for any college coach who has established what Calipari has established.”
Calipari in 2021: ‘I Have the Best Job in the Country’
This is not the first time Calipari has been linked to the Lakers. College basketball analyst Rex Chapman reported on April 7, 2014 that Calipari to the Lakers was a “done deal.” Calipari would have coached Kobe Bryant but ultimately nothing came of the rumors as the legendary coach remained at Kentucky.
Time will tell if the allure of the Lakers or another team will be enough to bring Calipari back to the NBA. Last offseason, Calipari took to Twitter to sound off on the coaching rumors.
“It’s that time of the year! Why do rumors always start when we’re in the middle of recruiting?” Calipari tweeted on June 16, 2021. “I have the best job in the country w/ the best opportunity to impact young people & add value to their careers – and that hasn’t changed. This season can’t come fast enough! Let’s go!”
Calipari on Coaching LeBron: ‘If I Had a Chance to, I Would Absolutely’
Calipari’s Wildcats have failed to live up to the program’s lofty expectations in recent years. Kentucky was upset by St. Peters in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament and missed March Madness completely in 2021.
Calipari’s relationship with James has been well-documented and having familiarity with the Lakers’ two stars could work in the franchise’s favor. During a 2014 interview with Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer, Calipari admitted that he would “absolutely” love to coach James at some point.
“Are you kidding me?” Calipari responded during a May 14, 2014 feature when asked about possibly coaching James. “Have a chance to coach the best player in the world? Yes, I would love to coach him. But what’s happened is our careers are criss-crossing without crossing.
“I’m not in a position where I would leave Kentucky right now. I’m not sure whether this is his last contract, or his next-to-last contract. But I would tell you if I had a chance to, I would absolutely.”