A day after firing head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigning general manager Billy King, the Brooklyn Nets have apparently zeroed in on the man they want to hold both positions: Kentucky head coach John Calipari.
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Prokhorov, Calipari Address Report of Nets Making Push
Monday, Jan. 11
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported on Sunday that Nets CEO Brett Yormark is pushing hard behind the scenes for Calipari to take over Brooklyn's bench in an overarching role. Calipari would be given control over the roster and a massive salary that would make him the highest-paid coach in basketball.
On Monday, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov stated, “Coach Cal is a great coach, but we won’t be discussing, today, any names…we’ll put a lot of names on the list." Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted Prokhorov stated "he prefers" to have a [general manager] and a coach, not one person doing both jobs." Mannix believes this was an "indirect way of answering a Calipari question."
Calipari also took to Twitter to refute any indication he's considering leaving Kentucky:
John Calipari @UKCoachCalipari
You may have heard me say this before: I absolutely have the best coaching job in sports and I plan on being at Kentucky for a long time.1/11/2016, 3:10:57 PM
John Calipari @UKCoachCalipari
I am not negotiating with ANYBODY. My total focus is on this team and winning the next game.1/11/2016, 3:11:39 PM
Still, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News believes Calipari is the front-runner to become the Nets' next head coach:
As it stands, Calipari has set a reported asking price of $120 million over the next 10 years to even consider leaving Kentucky. That price is a combination of the 10-year base the Cleveland Cavaliers offered in 2014 and Phil Jackson's $12 million annual salary to run the New York Knicks.
Calipari currently makes between $8 and $9 million per season at Kentucky and enjoys almost total job security—a rarity in today's basketball landscape.
The 56-year-old previously coached the Nets for parts of three seasons in the 1990s. He went 72-112 overall and was fired following a 3-17 start to the 1998-99 campaign. That experience would eventually lead him back to the college game at Memphis, where he rebuilt his reputation as a grand architect who took full advantage of the one-and-done culture.
Calipari's continued that trend in his six-plus seasons at Kentucky, making four Final Fours and winning a national championship despite near-constant roster turnover. His program has produced 13 lottery picks in the last six drafts, including Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Wojnarowski's article points to Cousins and Wall as players who could be interested in reuniting with Calipari in free agency if he leaves for Brooklyn.
Still, reporter T.J. Beisner doesn't think Calipari's collegiate success warrants such a heavy price:
TJ Beisner @Beisner_cn2
The NBA is about players, not coaches. Unless Calipari can get 20 and 10 every night, he's not worth $120 million.1/11/2016, 12:59:07 PM
As it stands, there's no way we'll have a definitive answer about this situation until the summer. Calipari isn't leaving Kentucky in the middle of the season, and the Nets still need to run an exhaustive search and decide whether handing Calipari the keys and backing away is in their best interest.
Either way, these rumors aren't stopping.
Calipari has accomplished everything possible as a collegiate coach, and his NBA days were a failure. But with teams willing to give him full organizational power, it's likely one of these pro offers will be too good to pass up someday.
Given the Nets' nonexistent young talent, dearth of draft picks and spiraling on-court product, it may wind up taking more than $120 million to make the headache worth it.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.
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