University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari has frequented the NBA coaching rumor mill in recent years. The Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus deemed him a possible candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers' vacant position, but now reports say the former NCAA champion seriously considered a megadeal to join the Cleveland Cavaliers.
UPDATE: Monday, June 9, at 3:00 p.m. ET by Ben Leibowitz
According to a report from ESPN.com, sources told reporter Marc Stein that the offer from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to John Calipari "was actually a 10-year offer worth nearly $80 million." The contract still held the promise that he'd occupy roles as head coach and president of basketball operations.
If the report of this inflated offer is true, Coach Cal's loyalty to Kentucky is more pronounced than initially thought.
---End of update---
The 55-year-old was engaged in deep negotiations with Cleveland on a seven-year deal that would have minted him coach and president of basketball operations, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Brett Dawson. The contract was reportedly worth more than $60 million.
The dual role of patrolling the Cavaliers sideline and working in the front office would have put Coach Cal in the same position of power as Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers), Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs), Stan Van Gundy (Detroit Pistons) and Flip Saunders (Minnesota Timberwolves).
Ultimately, however, Calipari opted for a seven-year, $52 million extension to remain with Kentucky.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was "persistent in his pursuit," according to Wojnarowski and Dawson. The Cavaliers already have general manager David Griffin in place, but the deal with the collegiate coaching juggernaut would have given Calipari full control of managerial decisions, per the report.
Cleveland is still in search of a new headman to replace Mike Brown, who Cleveland fired just one season into a five-year, $20 million deal he signed during the 2013 offseason.
One major question is whether Calipari would have been worth that gargantuan contract.
His 555-174 career record in the college ranks with an NCAA title to his name (2012) is extremely impressive, but a previous stint in the NBA left a lot to be desired.
Calipari previously coached the New Jersey Nets from 1996-97 through 1998-99 (when the team fired him after a 3-17 start). He posted a regular-season record of 72-112 during that span, making the playoffs once. The 1997-98 Nets fell in a first-round sweep to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.
Ironically, Coach Cal held the title of team president during that stint as well.
Nearly 20 years later, it's difficult to argue that Calipari hasn't improved his repertoire as a head coach. He managed to lead a Wildcats team laden with inexperienced freshman to the 2014 NCAA title game. He deserves another shot at coaching in the pros if he wants to make that leap again.
SB Nation's Kevin Zimmerman agrees, citing that Kentucky's coach has little else to prove as a college coach. He wrote the following of a possible NBA return:
Calipari has already accomplished quite a bit in college. He's won a title and proven to be the best recruiter in the nation. His jump from Memphis to Kentucky gave him some of the best administrative backing in college basketball, and the end to his success seems far from being over. And so with a brief and less-than-perfect NBA stint coaching the New Jersey Nets from 1996-99, it would make sense for Calipari to give the professional ranks another try.
At this juncture, though, Calipari is content staying exactly where he is, as he stated after signing the extension with Kentucky, per the school's press release.
"I've said over and over that I have the best job in the country," Calipari said. "With the continued support from our administration and the greatest, craziest fans in college basketball, we have accomplished a lot in our five quick years, but we still have lofty goals for the future."
As a result, the Cavaliers' hunt for a new coach continues. Candidates for the position are said to include Clippers assistants Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue, as well as free-agent coaches Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro, per Wojnarowski and Dawson.
Gilbert and Co. still have plenty of questions to answer during the 2014 offseason. In addition to replacing Brown, the Cavs have to decide what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (their third such selection over the past four years).
They also must figure out All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving's future. Cleveland will reportedly offer its floor general the full five-year max contract this summer, according to The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto, but his interest remains unclear.
The Cavaliers are still trying to climb out of the LeBron James-sized chasm from four years ago. Finding the right head coach is obviously a huge priority, but Calipari won't be that guy despite serious talks that nearly wooed him away from Lexington.