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Writer: UK Extension Won’t Stop Calipari To Knicks Rumors

Marc Berman of The New York Post doesn’t think John Calipari’s new $36.5 million deal with Kentucky will stave off rumors that he might head to the New York Knicks.  At least not as long as “powerful agency CAA still thinks it runs the Knicks.”

As you probably know by now, Calipari buddy William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley works for CAA.  As long as Wesley is friends with Coach Cal and CAA continues to sink its tentacles into the Knicks, Calipari-to-the-Knicks rumors will circulate.

Berman seems to believe them, by the way:

“Will (Calipari) be coaching Kentucky when he’s 60, when the contract ends?  Don’t bet on it.  The time is just about now to make the switch to the NBA.  His time as head coach of the Nets in the late ’90s should be a distant memory by now.  It is almost time for him to get another shot.”

Berman points out that during this week’s SEC teleconference, Calipari said, “Obviously there’s buyouts and all that kind of stuff in there,” when asked about his new contract.

Ah, ha!

Only Calipari had this to say on ESPN Radio this week:

“What (AD Mitch Barnhart) ended up doing is moving some longevity bonuses up a little bit, some other bonuses around a little bit and then he put stuff toward the end of the contract.  We added some buyout stuff so he felt comfortable. … I’m not looking to leave.  this was about him wanting to reward me without going bonkers.  I was fine with that.  If we keep doing well at Kentucky, they’ll come back.”

Good to know that $36.5 million isn’t going “bonkers.”

Berman also claims — as others have — that UK’s coach would jump to the NBA if a coach/GM or coach/president job were offered to him.  We still believe, however, that if Calipari is as smart as we at think he is, he’ll remember how Rick Pitino walked away from the greatest gig in college basketball only to wash out in the NBA.  Now Pitino plays second-fiddle to Coach Cal who’s occupying his old seat in Lexington.  If Calipari is smart, he’ll stay right where he is.

(Thanks to John Clay of The Lexington Herald-Leader for bringing this one to our attention.)

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Calipari-NBA Rumors The Hot Topic In Kentucky (Again)

When Kentucky fired Billy Gillispee and then targeted John Calipari two years ago — a man who was not in UK’s Rolodex just two years earlier — everyone should have known what was coming.  Kentucky had had it up to here with losing, they hired a winner despite his reputation, and four things were sure to follow:

1.  Great recruiting
2.  Great records
3.  Jokes and/or allegations about NCAA violations
4.  NBA rumors

The Wildcats’ coach is now four for four in two years on the job.

In 2009-10…

John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton were all one-and-doners.  They led UK to the Elite Eight.  There was, however, a scare regarding possible grade-fixing (in high school) for Bledsoe.  And then last summer it was rumored Calipari would wind up coaching the Chicago Bulls (accompanied by buddy LeBron James and former protege Derrick Rose).

And in 2010-11…

Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones figure to be gone after their first season at UK.  They led Kentucky to a Final Four.  But the debate over whether this was Coach Cal’s first or third Final Four became the laugher of the week in the national press.  And now there are reports that the coach has an NBA itch he’d like to scratch.

I did a radio show in the Commonwealth today and the hot topic — just four days after the Cats’ season ended — is whether or not there’s really anything to reports that the Calipari has an interest in the NBA.

Here’s what The New York Daily News had to say on that topic this past Saturday:

John Calipari coming back to the NBA to coach?  Perhaps.  Calipari recently left the distinct impression that, although he is recruiting and conducting business, as usual, as Kentucky’s basketball coach, he “wants back in,” according to a source.

Calipari has never gotten over how he was fired by the Nets 20 games into the 1999 lockout season.  He was dismissed by one of the owners, Lewis Katz, only a couple of hours after a loss in Miami that dropped the Nets’ record to 3-17.

As the team was on the tarmac, preparing to board its charter flight, Katz told Calipari, “You’re not going to Toronto, John.”

Calipari’s stock has risen in recent seasons among more than a few GMS, and he’s got close ties to William (“Wes”) Wesley, the CAA powerbroker who has an in with several teams, including Miami, via CAA clients LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and the Knicks, with Anthony, another CAA’er.

If Calipari were to head back to the pros, Miami would be a better landing spot than New York.  But the Heat stood by Erik Spoelstra during the team’s early-season struggles and are now just 2.5 games out of first place in the Eastern Conference (ahead of my Boston Celtics who stupidly traded Kendrick Perkins and blew any chance… sorry… rant).

If the Heat make a nice run in the playoffs is it likely that they’ll fire their head coach and start from scratch with Calipari?  Probably not.

As for the Knicks, well, they’re the Knicks.  Carmello Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudamire are onboard, but that bunch still went just 7-11 in the month of March.  And it’s not easy to picture Calipari playing the #2 man at Madison Square Garden behind the all-offense/no-defense Anthony.

Also, surely Calipari is sharp enough to realize how NBA dreams did in his cross-state rival Rick Pitino.  It was once Ricky P who ruled the Bluegrass State.  And then he chose to follow his dream and run the Celtics.  After a bad break (Tim Duncan to the Spurs in the NBA lottery), Pitino was left to tuck tail back to the college ranks where he now plays second-fiddle to Calipari in his own state.

There’s a lesson in there for UK’s current coach if he’ll heed it.

But whether there’s any truth to the rumors of Cal’s NBA interest or not, UK fans should just sit back and get used to this kind of thing.  It’s the price of hiring Calipari. 

For every great signing day and deep tournament run, there will come NCAA and NBA whispers.  No need complaining about it.  It’s going to happen every year for as long as Calipari is coaching in Lexington.

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