It's hard to believe John Calipari would leave Kentucky right now for anything short of LeBron James.
Calipari has refuted recent reports he is looking to return to the NBA.
Jamie Squire / Getty Images
By Zac Jackson
I've seen the reports linking John Calipari to various NBA jobs, and I just don't believe them.
Not now, anyway.
That's not to insinuate I know a thing about the plans the Cleveland Cavaliers -- the team is denying the report it's interested in Calipari, by the way -- or the Los Angeles Lakers or any other team might soon have regarding their coaching vacancies, or the access those teams might have to the kind of bank account (more like vault) it would take to get Calipari at least somewhat interested in leaving Kentucky.
I just don't think it's happening right now.
You've seen Kentucky's roster for next year, right?
It's not just about the Harrison Twins coming back to school, or how Marcus Lee went from the end of the bench to keying one of the big runs against Michigan, or how Lee only got to play because Willie Cauley-Stein was out injured -- and he's coming back to Kentucky, too, on a front line so stacked it's no guarantee Cauley-Stein will even start.
It's about the new faces, and the next new faces, and how Calipari seems to have first dibs on McDonald's All-Americans to the point that he could open his own McDonald's franchise. He could probably almost have his pick of NBA franchises to coach, too.
He's got a pretty darn good thing going in Lexington. He's said as much, multiple times.
"I wouldn't and couldn't leave this group," Calipari wrote on Twitter two weeks ago.
Yes often means no and up is often down when coaching opportunities and negotiations go public, but there are too many good reasons for Calipari to stay right where is. And many of them are 7-feet tall.
Two years off a national championship, Calipari's 2014 Kentucky team went from a No. 8 seed to the NCAA tournament's championship game. It was a bit of good timing, good luck, and really good players coming together at the right time -- Calipari never downplayed the fact that he started pushing the right buttons, too -- and it served as a reminder to the rest of college basketball's bluebloods that the Kentucky program and Big Blue Nation that backs it are as strong as they've ever been.
Calipari leaving that BBN army to go lose a bunch of games in front of a wine-and-cheese, club-seat buying NBA crowd doesn't make sense.
Cleveland isn't that crowd, but it's no quick fix, either. Even if Calipari longs for a second chance at the NBA and a bit of personal redemption, he doesn't need the money or the fame. Looking at the pool of available jobs, well, he just might win 35 games next year in Lexington.
I said a year ago that the Cavaliers picked the wrong year to be in the market for a head coach, that chasing Calipari in the summer of 2014 could help the team chase LeBron James if he chooses to opt out this summer. As usual, I was mostly talking to myself.
I meant it, though. And here the Cavaliers are again, in need of a coach. But they'd need a miracle given the state of things to get Calipari and LeBron, who have a longstanding respect and relationship. Those ties help Calipari build the machine he's built in Lexington. In an interview with Cleveland.com, Calipari flat-out said that he'd love to be LeBron's coach in the NBA but also admitted it probably isn't happening.
"What's happened is our careers are criss-crossing without crossing," Calipari said. "I'm not in a position where I would leave Kentucky right now."
If Calipari knew LeBron was coming back to Cleveland, he'd have a decision to make. If the Cavaliers could realistically wait until the second week of July and offer LeBron the option of picking the coach, well, notice I said realistically.
LeBron coming back to Cleveland this summer would be an upset of large proportions -- almost as big as Calipari leaving Kentucky right now would be.
Calipari might love the attention, but he also loves his current job. As well he should.