In the immediate aftermath of Kentucky’s loss to UConn in the national title game, there were some questions asked with regard to the future of the program. Of course there was the issue of figuring out which players would enter the NBA Draft (Julius Randle and James Young) and who would return to Lexington for another season (everyone else with eligibility remaining). But there was also the matter of determining whether or not head coach John Calipari would entertain thoughts of moving on as well.
One “theory” floating around was that Calipari, who has led Kentucky to one national title and three Final Four appearances during his tenure, would coach a Cleveland Cavaliers team that would hopefully feature LeBron James. James eventually made the decision to return to Cleveland, but in a story written by Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal none of that mattered to Calipari.
Even if he’d known that James would be returning to Cleveland, Calipari says he still would have signed the seven-year contract extension he agreed to back in June because of his commitment to the players who decided to return to school.
“They came back because it was good for them and their careers and they knew they needed more developing and coaching. That was by me. That’s what they wanted,” Calipari told the paper in an interview Sunday morning in the Bahamas. “So that made it a tough deal to say, ‘I’m just going to leave these guys here.’ With who? It may be somebody I don’t know that wouldn’t do the things for them that they needed to do.
“Now, obviously coaching at Kentucky is special. It is unique and special. But this, for me, becomes about these kids. I have no desire, nor am I out looking for (jobs). I got the job. I got the job. What would move me to stay was these kids need me here. That’s what I’m doing. At the end of the day, that was what (kept him at UK). It wasn’t money.”
Will the NBA question linger every offseason for Calipari? Who knows, and that could depend upon the possibility of landing with a franchise that has an elite player on board. As noted, there was no way for anyone to know in the months that led up to Calipari signing his extension that LeBron would return to his home state. And coaching a loaded team considered by many to be the early favorite to win the national title isn’t a bad deal either.