Kentucky suffered an upset loss in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight to SEC rival Auburn, marking a fourth straight season that the Wildcats have fallen short of the Final Four, let alone a national championship. But university officials seem satisfied with Coach John Calipari’s job performance.
How satisfied? Well, Calipari confirmed Monday that he has agreed to what is being described as a lifetime contract with the school.
Speaking on his University of Kentucky radio show, the 60-year-old said of the pact reportedly offered to him by school officials: “They presented it to me, and I appreciated it. ... They want me to be here till I’m done coaching.”
According to the Athletic’s Seth Davis, the contract “would include a 10-year term as coach plus a promise to serve as a paid ambassador for the school after his retirement.” Calipari’s current contract, which runs through 2024, reportedly paid him $9.2 million this year, with several million more available in bonuses.
Davis reported that Kentucky was motivated to lock up Calipari after learning of “serious” interest from UCLA, including a six-year contract offer worth approximately $48 million. UCLA has been looking for a new coach since firing Steve Alford in December; Murry Bartow finished the season as the Bruins’ interim coach.
Claiming that his agreement with Kentucky had “nothing to do with all the other stuff,” Calipari said, “Every year that I’m here, something at the end of the year happens. . . . People call at the end of every year, you get calls, but the reality of it is, this has been in the works for a while.”
“This is a situation and a culture that’s taken time to build,” he added, “and where else would I want to coach?”
Since arriving in Lexington in 2009, Calipari has gone 305-71, leading the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in nine of 10 seasons, with four Final Four appearances and a national title in 2012, plus two other Elite Eight appearances. Kentucky also has won the SEC tournament six times under his watch.
Overall, Calipari has an official NCAA record of 708-209 in a career that included successful stints at Massachusetts and Memphis. However, a Final Four run with each of those schools was vacated after allegations of player improprieties, and Calipari lost 42 wins from his record.
In the two seasons before Calipari was hired away from Memphis, Kentucky went 40-27 under Billy Gillispie, with one NCAA tournament appearance and no postseason wins. The Wildcats hadn’t been to the Final Four since winning the national title in 1998, Tubby Smith’s first season as coach after taking over for Rick Pitino.
Per reports, UCLA has been interested in TCU Coach Jamie Dixon and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. According to Davis, UCLA “also wants to pursue” Virginia’s Tony Bennett, whose Cavaliers are set to compete in the Final Four, but “he has declined to have any conversations until his team is through playing."
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