In March of 2012, then-UConn coach Jim Calhoun told SNYtv.com's Adam Zagoria that he could imagine Kentucky's John Calipari returning to the NBA. Calipari immediately tweeted that "I have the greatest job in basketball at any level." As if to prove the point, his team won him his first national championship mere weeks later.
Every year, Calipari's name will be linked with NBA coaching openings. The very NBA and pop culture connections that bolster his credibility with a succession of McDonald's All-American recruits also make him an attractive candidate at the next level.
Small-market organizations need not apply, however. Calipari has succeeded on the grandest stage in college, winning more than 30 games per season—plus the aforementioned championship—at Kentucky. His salary, which USA Today reported at $5.4 million, is one of the largest in the country. An NBA team would have to offer a big stage and even bigger paycheck to turn Coach Cal's head.
Those qualifications are the primary reason that only organizations like the Bulls, Knicks and Nets have been prominently rumored as suitors for Calipari.
Calipari can take a lesson from the NBA difficulties of former Kentucky coach and current in-state rival Rick Pitino, whose struggles in Boston sent him stomping back to the college game. Conversely, there could be motivation there, a desire to succeed where Pitino failed, and where Cal himself did the same in the 1990s.
Calhoun's comments could be seen as gamesmanship, trying to throw a wrench in Calipari's unstoppable recruiting machine. Ultimately, though, Calhoun did offer Zagoria one truth that no one who knows Calipari will dispute: “I think John very simply marches…to his own drummer.”
The anxiety and waiting are now just part of doing business for Big Blue Nation. Every time the Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Nets and Bulls make a coaching change, the rumors will begin again.