Saturday, May 25, 2024

John Calipari Leaves Kentucky For “Chicken Feed” At Arkansas

John Calipari is a well-known basketball coach who has had a mixed and sometimes controversial relationship with school administrations and fans throughout his career. He has been the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats since 2009 and led them to an NCAA Championship in 2012. Calipari has won the Naismith College Coach of the Year award three times, in 1996, 2008, and 2015, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

Before coaching Kentucky, Calipari was the head coach at the University of Massachusetts from 1988 to 1996, the NBA’s New Jersey Nets from 1996 to 1999, and the University of Memphis from 2000 to 2009. He also coached the Dominican Republic national team in 2011 and 2012.

Calipari has led Kentucky to four Final Fours, in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015. He also took UMass and Memphis to the Final Four in 1996 and 2008, respectively. However, those appearances were later vacated, although Calipari was cleared of wrongdoing in both cases. As a college coach, he has had 29 20-win seasons, 11 30-win seasons, and 5 35-win seasons.

As of February 17, 2024, John Calipari has achieved 808 official wins, which places him in the 12th position on the NCAA Division I all-time winningest coaches list.

Calipari is renowned for his recruiting skills, often attributed to his charismatic personality that blends a used car salesman with a snake oil peddler. However, he has also gained a reputation for departing from his coaching positions at UMass and Memphis in controversial and well-timed ways. After his team’s unceremonious exit from this year’s NCAA tournament, Calipari is once again seen as leaving before the door hits him on his way out.

Calipari’s next destination appears to be the University of Arkansas. ESPN has reported that he will sign a five-year deal as early as today. The deal is unusual because a coach of Calipari’s stature rarely moves to a school within the same conference, in this case, the Southeastern Conference (SEC). ESPN has also speculated that a major reason for the move is Calipari’s relationship with John H. Tyson, a billionaire Arkansas benefactor who is the chairman of Tyson Foods.

According to Forbes, Tyson’s net worth is $2.8 billion. He hails from Springdale, Arkansas, and his grandfather, John W. Tyson, is a member of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame as the founder of Tyson Foods.

It has been reported that the money earned from selling chicken is being used to invest in Arkansas’ athletics program. This could contribute to why Arkansas has offered a contract to Calipari. The contract includes incentives allowing him to earn more than the $8.5 million he made at Kentucky, although his base salary will be lower. ESPN reported the information regarding his salary.

The dominoes that triggered this turn of events started with SMU firing head coach Rob Lanier after only two seasons. SMU then hired USC coach Andy Enfield, which led to the Trojans landing Musselman, who reached the Elite Eight twice in his five seasons at Arkansas. Coincidently, according to Fox Sports, Calipari and Tyson played golf together while Eric Musselman was leaving Arkansas for USC, and the dots from that meeting seem easy to connect.

According to Fox Sports, Calipari’s feelings were hurt after a second first-round loss to a double-digit seed in three years pushed Kentucky’s Final Four drought to nine years, causing Kentucky’s fan base to turn on Calipari.

Suggested replacements for Calipari have ranged from Baylor’s Scott Drew to Alabama’s Nate Oats. However, that would mean another SEC coaching move which is doubtful. Dan Hurley of UConn has had his name come up, but his situation there seems too perfect even to consider.

If Kentucky wants to bring in a big name, perhaps they should consider Dawn Staley, the head coach of South Carolina’s women’s team that won the National Championship last night over Iowa. Based on her recent comments, she doesn’t seem averse to coaching men, although they won’t be men pretending to be women playing against biological women.