John Calipari completed one of the best coaching stretches of his career to lead a freshman-laden Kentucky squad to the 2014 national title game before losing to Connecticut. Now that the season has come to an end, the focus is shifting to what his future might hold.
Former Kentucky star Rex Chapman caused a media firestorm less than two hours before the championship game when he remarked Calipari was heading to coach the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers regardless of the result on Monday night:
The denials from every party came fast and furious.
Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times spoke with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who flat out said the rumor had no basis in fact:
Lakers are refuting Calipari to Lakers story put out by Rex Chapman before NCAA tip: GM Mitch Kupchak says "rumor is untrue"— Chris Dufresne (@DufresneLATimes) April 8, 2014
Team spokesman John Black confirmed Mike D'Antoni remains the team's head coach and no talks have taken place about Calipari or anybody else, as passed along by Sam Amick of USA Today:
Black: "Mike (D'Antoni) is our coach & there have been no conversations that have discussed any specific names about anyone to replace him."— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) April 8, 2014
After the title game ended—a 60-54 loss for the Wildcats—Calipari also joined the chorus of voices striking down the idea there's a connection between the sides to Jeannine Edwards of ESPN:
"No. I'm right [here] at Kentucky. I got the best job. I've got a good group of kids. Love what I'm doing. Speculation? That's there every year I coach."
Tuesday morning, Chapman popped back up on The Dan Patrick Show to clarify the situation. He stated he's not a journalist attempting to break news, but rather just heard the information about Calipari and the Lakers from two sources and decided to pass it along (via Mike Singer of CBS Sports):
I treat Twitter like I'm talking to my friends. I'm not a journalist. Never pretend to be. I interact with people. I'm not gonna, not gonna refrain from giving information that I hear just because it might upset some people.
I said the word is that it was a done deal. That's exactly what I said.
As Awful Announcing points out, Chapman also said he thinks Calipari ends up staying at Kentucky:
Here's the full interview with Patrick:
In summary, Chapman heard from multiple sources that Calipari was heading to the Lakers was a done deal. Everybody involved said that's not true. Now Chapman says he believes Calipari is staying less than 24 hours after his original message.
It's an interesting scenario to consider at the very least.
Where will Calipari be coaching next fall?
Calipari has enjoyed plenty of success at all three of his college coaching stops. His teams have won 76 percent of their games over 22 years spread out between Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky. He won the national championship with the Wildcats two years.
His much shorter stint at the next level wasn't nearly as successful. The then-New Jersey Nets won less than 40 percent of their games with him at the helm for less than three full seasons. After a quick stay with the Philadelphia 76ers as an assistant, he returned to the college game.
So why the large disparity in results? Howard Bryant of ESPN believes Calipari's greatest strength is recruiting, which is obviously far less of a factor at the NBA level:
John Calipari was about as useful as the guy in the fifth row during the last five minutes of that game. As a coach, he's a recruiter.— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) April 8, 2014
Calipari is on a roll at Kentucky, raising questions about why he would want to leave, whether it be for the Lakers or another team. Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated doesn't think he will:
My best guess: Kentucky will be John Calipari's last coaching job.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) April 8, 2014
John Kincade of CBS Sports Radio hints there could be problems on the horizon for Kentucky if Calipari does bolt:
"IF" Calipari were to sneak out the back door, we know who is knocking at the front door. Google UMASS and Memphis— John Kincade (@JohnKincade) April 8, 2014
On a lighter note, Dave Dameshek of NFL.com jokes that hiring the current Wildcats coach is one of the few things the Lakers could do to make them less likable:
I didn't think the Lakers could be any less likable…but then I heard a rumor John Calipari might become their coach.— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) April 8, 2014
All things considered, it doesn't sound like Calipari will be on the move in the immediate future. Chapman deserves a tip of the hat if Coach Cal does end up with the Lakers, but it sure doesn't seem like a done deal at this stage.
Moving back to the NBA wouldn't make much sense for Calipari at this point anyway. The resources are in place for him to have continued success at Kentucky, and the Lakers aren't in a position right now to make the longtime coach think he could walk right into the title mix.
However, when it comes to the coaching carousel, you can rarely count anything out.