Lakers deny Calipari as next coach is a ‘done deal’
As the Lakers’ disastrous season comes to a close, it was only a matter of time before head coach rumors started to swirl.
This one turned quite a few heads just hours before Monday’s national championship: Former Kentucky Wildcat and 12-year NBA vet Rex Chapman tweeted that, win or lose Monday, John Calipari will replace Mike D’Antoni as the next head coach of the Lakers.
— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) April 7, 2014
I don't live in some dream world & have alwys called it straight. Alwys will. Let's not 4get, 6-wks ago many in BBN would've walked Cal 2 LA
— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) April 8, 2014
The Lakers quickly shot down the rumors following Kentucky’s 60-54 loss to UConn.
"I spoke to [General Manager] Mitch Kupchak and he said the rumor is untrue," Lakers spokesman John Black told the Los Angeles Times. "Mike D’Antoni is our coach. There have been no conversations about any specific names for any replacement."
Calipari also denied he’s leaving Kentucky after the game, telling ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards he’s "absolutely" returning next season, before backtracking a bit by saying he’s having hip replacement surgery soon.
”The Lakers have a basketball coach,” Calipari said, referring to coach Mike D’Antoni, whose team is fighting to stay out of last place in the Western Conference.
”Kentucky has a basketball coach,” Calipari added. ”I have the best job in the country.”
Chapman’s tweet came just before the Wildcats faced the Huskies in pursuit of their ninth national title, and some Kentucky fans blamed him Tuesday on radio talk shows for creating a distraction. Chapman backtracked on his comment Tuesday, saying in a radio interview that he believed Calipari would stay at Kentucky.
The Wildcats have made the tournament in four of Calipari’s five seasons as head coach, but he didn’t experience quite the same success in his lone stint in the NBA. Calipari went 72-112 in just over two seasons as head coach of the New Jersey Nets and was fired after making the playoffs only once and starting the 1998-99 season 3-17.
Although it looks to be nothing more than a rumor — and we all know there are plenty when it comes to Coach Cal — it would be interesting to hear Kobe Bryant’s opinion of the coach whose former team drafted Kerry Kittles over Bryant in 1996.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.