John Calipari Appears Set to Retire as Kentucky Basketball's Head Coach
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The University of Kentucky announced on Monday that John Calipari has signed a contract extension that pushes his current deal to eight years.
If he makes it to the end of this contract, Calipari will be right at the cusp of 60 years of age.
Now, this is where things start to get interesting.
Calipari has publicly stated numerous times that he does not plan on coaching very far into his sixties. He has already spent 29 years in the college and professional ranks as either an assistant or head coach. Coaching is a very exhausting profession, and with the long road Calipari has taken to get to Kentucky, it is only understandable that he would want to call it quits in the next ten years or so.
The question that is currently on everyone's mind is this: will he retire at Kentucky?
Well, the odds say yes.
Keep in mind that the extension means practically nothing in regards to the possibility of Calipari bolting for the NBA. It is essentially a vote of confidence, not to mention a nice pay raise, from the University of Kentucky. It also pretty much guarantees that he will not end up coaching at any other college in the nation, but because Kentucky is one of those two or three premier college basketball jobs in the country, that was never really a concern.
If Calipari chooses to move on to the NBA, he can do so at any time. His contract at Kentucky is not binding in that regard.
Yet, the odds of Calipari choosing to go to the NBA are relatively low. The main reason is because his coaching window is quickly closing.
The longer he stays at Kentucky, the less of a chance there is that he moves on to the NBA. I think the magic number here is 55. If Calipari stays at Kentucky until he is 55-years-old, the odds of him leaving for a professional gig are very slim.
It is a well-known fact that you cannot build up a professional team in one or two years. It usually takes three to four years to build up a professional franchise to a long-term competitive level, and then who knows how long before the team develops into a championship contender.
If Calipari really intends to retire in his early sixties, he is not going to accomplish a whole lot in the professional ranks in that amount of time.
The likelihood of him leaving might increase if he had never had a head coaching position in the NBA and wanted to give it a try before he retired, but he already had that opportunity with the New Jersey Nets, and from everything I have read, he didn't really enjoy it.
It is no mystery that Calipari's true forte lies in recruiting and developing players. The NBA doesn't afford those sort of opportunities.
Furthermore, he still hasn't yet hit the pinnacle of college coaching: winning the national championship. It's difficult to see him leaving Kentucky before that goal is accomplished.
Now, Kentucky is in a great position to do just that next season with a roster that features five projected first-round picks in the 2012 NBA Draft. If Kentucky were to win a championship this upcoming season, I think that is the best chance of Calipari leaving for the NBA. He will have achieved that illusive championship, he will still have eight or nine good years of coaching ahead, and Kentucky will be relatively depleted after the draft.
Still, I expect to see Calipari remain in the Bluegrass for the remainder of his coaching career.
In a phone interview with Eric Lindsey of Cat Scratches, he explained that "if I finish the contract and continue to coach, it's because I'm really having fun and I'm really having great enjoyment out of what I'm doing; the rewards I get out of draft night, of seeing guys like Darius Miller do what he did at the conference tournament, to seeing guys like Josh (Harrellson) and DeAndre (Liggins) improve."
He concluded by saying: "as long as I'm still getting great enjoyment from those types of things, I could see myself finishing this contract."
The bottom line is that he is having fun coaching, and at this point in his career, that is all it's really about for him. The NBA can't offer the same sort of rewards and success that he can find at Kentucky.
In the end, Calipari may not finish out the length of his contract, but he will almost certainly retire as Kentucky's head coach.
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