John Calipari almost left Kentucky to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers


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Last week, John Calipari quieted (for now) any talk of him leaving for the NBA by signing a new seven-year, $52.5 million contract with Kentucky. He’ll be one of the richest coaches in all of college sports, making a base salary of $6.5 million next season and $8 million over each of the final three seasons.

What wasn’t known then is just how far along Calipari was in discussions with possible NBA suitors. But Adrian Wojnarowski and Brett Dawson of Yahoo Sports are now reporting that Calipari “had gone deep in discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a seven-year, $60 million contract to become president and coach.”

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had been persistent in his pursuit and kept returning to Calipari in an effort to deliver full control of basketball operations, sources said.

Gilbert and Calipari had discussed a package in the range of $8 million-plus a year, sources said, and it wasn’t until midweek that Calipari finally rejected Cleveland and fully committed to his seven-year, $52 million extension at Kentucky.

If Calipari had gone to Cleveland, the plan would’ve been for new general manager David Griffin to work with Calipari in the front office, but he would’ve ceded final decisions on personnel matters to Calipari, sources said.

Beyond the considerable length of the proposed contract – with an annual salary that would’ve moved Calipari among the highest paid executives/coaches in the NBA – Calipari had some intrigue with the infrastructure of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and the possibility of the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.

The two Yahoo scribes go on to report that Calipari, who had a middling tenure as New Jersey Nets coach from 1996 to 1999, likely would have bolted to Cleveland had the Harrison twins decided to jump to the NBA after their freshman seasons, joining Julius Randle and James Young. But Andrew and Aaron Harrison decided to stay, and Kentucky will get back nearly 60 percent of its scoring from a team that advanced to the NCAA title game last season. The Wildcats almost certainly will be ranked No. 1 when the first polls come out later this year.

Per Yahoo, the Cavaliers have met with “Clippers assistants Alvin Gentry and Ty Lue, ex-Memphis coach Lionel Hollins and ex-Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. Cleveland has pursued Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Florida’s Billy Donovan in the process, too.”

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