John Calipari

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Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Calipari advocates for August practice period

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John Calipari has another big idea.

The Kentucky coach, known nearly as well for his outside-the-box thinking as his recruiting prowess and 2012 national championship, is advocating for a summer period of college basketball akin to what college football does in spring.

“How about spring football?” Calipari said. “You like spring football? Something different, right? Spring football. Why don’t we have August basketball for the NCAA? There’s nothing going on in August.”

Calipari isn’t just looking for extra days of practice, he wants, in Calipari fashion, a spectacle that will put a spotlight on the sport – and his program as one of the sport’s most visible outfits.

“Let’s spend ten days of practice — how about we play against foreign teams on our campuses,” he said. “Do you really want your team to go overseas and play right now? How about we do stuff right here?

“So August, for ten days, becomes NCAA basketball. Instead of having to worry about football ending, we’re going to go before it and start in August. It’s too good of an idea, believe me. Plus it’s mine which means it’ll never happen. It’ll never happen.”

Calipari might be on to something as the August sports schedule is often quite dire, especially in the early and middle part of the month. If programs could secure some high-profile foreign teams – or even high-level scrimmages between programs – it could help drum up some interest before football season gets fully underway. The timing would be interesting, though, as that’s often one of the few periods on the calendar that often allow basketball players to leave campus for a couple weeks.

College hoops needs to expand its profile out of just the post-Super Bowl period of the winter, and Calipari offers an interesting option that’s far less dramatic than some proposals, like turning the game into a one-semester sport and playing the NCAA tournament in May.

If spring football is the model to base Calipari’s idea off of, it’s intriguing as that’s become it’s own little interesting part of the calendar for football that helps keep interest up throughout the year, even when the season is months away. If hoops could do something similar, it’s certainly something worth exploring, whether it ultimately takes the form Calipari is advocating or something else.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

Rick Pitino responds to Calipari’s comments on NCAA investigations

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Last week Kentucky head coach John Calipari raised some eyebrows with his comments on a podcast hosted by Mike Lupica. During his appearance on the show Calipari alluded to the NCAA investigations at Louisville and North Carolina, stating that “if it happens on your campus, and it happens with your assistants and those people, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.”

Now Calipari didn’t refer to either Louisville’s Rick Pitino or North Carolina’s Roy Williams directly, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out the cases he was referring to in his comments. He also remarked on the NCAA’s enforcement of its rules, and the idea that some believe the governing body practices selective enforcement with the more powerful programs getting away with more.

Monday afternoon Pitino issued his reply to Calipari’s comments during his media availability at Louisville.

“Whether it’s Duke last month or us this month, these type of comments – we’re here to build up the image of college basketball, not tear people down,” Pitino said, making a reference to Calipari’s recruiting manifesto that many believed was a shot at Duke and its recruiting tactics.

“I don’t live in a glass house, and I don’t throw stones.”

Throughout the still ongoing NCAA investigation into the Katina Powell scandal that led to Louisville self-imposing a postseason ban, Pitino has stated that he personally knew nothing about the events that took place. Some may believe that while others remain skeptical

Per the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pitino also stated that he would look to see what Calipari meant by his comments should the two see each other at some point this summer. And with the two programs recruiting many of the nation’s top prospects, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which they don’t cross paths when recruiting reopens next month.

Kentucky’s Briscoe looks to improve shooting, draft stock

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe was told he needs to work on his game to be a first-round NBA draft pick, and that’s fine with him.

Sure, his dream is playing in the NBA. But there are worst things than helping the Wildcats chase a national championship with another loaded roster.

“I never had a problem coming back to Kentucky,” Briscoe said Wednesday.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore returns as the Wildcats’ leading scorer after averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. He’s coming off a spring of working out for NBA teams under the new rule that allowed underclassmen to submit their names and participate in the combine and separate tryouts but return to school as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Unlike former Wildcat teammates Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Skal Labissiere – whose names are expected to be called on June 23 in Brooklyn, New York – Briscoe’s pro prospects weren’t as promising. He wasn’t invited to last month’s combine and wasn’t projected as a selection, still he waited until the May 25 deadline to announce his return for a second season.

“In a way it was kind of hard because I was doing so well in the workouts,” Briscoe said of his decision after talking with coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne. “But I think the conversation me and K.P. had brought everything to light and it was best for me to come back to school.”

NBA scouts offered Briscoe feedback to ponder as well.

“Shooting is important,” he said with a laugh.

Briscoe struggled with consistency last season, particularly from long range. He averaged 44 percent from the field but made just 5 of 37 attempts (14 percent) from behind the arc and shot just 46 percent from the foul line.

Briscoe said NBA personnel told him they like his shot but suggest he work on consistency. That’s been his priority since the combine, a facet Calipari mentioned last month.

“With Isaiah, the whole thing comes back to just shooting the ball,” he said. “They know the other skills he has translates, including physically, defensively and rebounding. … So, he’s just got to be a more consistent shooter.”

Though highly touted De’Aaron Fox joins Kentucky’s backcourt next season, Briscoe is preparing for the point guard role after playing as a wing last season. There he expects the “real Isaiah” will emerge, one he hopes will get him on some NBA teams’ radars next spring.

“I don’t think the NBA is going anywhere,” he said, “and coming back to Kentucky for another year to develop as a person on and off the court will only help me.”

Calipari’s suggestion made in jest should spark serious idea

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With the SEC managing to earn just three bids to this past season’s NCAA tournament, the strength of the conference’s basketball product was one of the items discussed at SEC spring meetings in Florida earlier this week. Some alterations were made, such as mandating that teams put together non-conference schedules with an average opponent RPI no lower than 175 (that will be raised to 150 in the future), but that wasn’t what grabbed the attention of the masses.

What did was Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s suggestion that the SEC move its conference tournament from March to November. As one would expect, the reactions within the meeting room were swift and in opposition to Calipari’s suggestion. But here’s the thing: the “suggestion” was more about the impact (or lack thereof) of SEC tournament results on NCAA tournament selections and seeding than it was actually moving the event.

Back in March Calipari expressed his surprise over the fact that Kentucky, winners of the SEC tournament, was given a four-seed while Texas A&M (the team they beat in the title game) received a three. A team’s overall résumé is of higher priority than late-season results when it comes to the selection process, but one can see why a coach would essentially question just how much of an impact winning a conference tournament can have on their placement within the NCAA tournament bracket.

There’s no way that the SEC would move its conference tournament to November, and Calipari knows that. But here’s a move that the league should consider: setting up the schedule so that the SEC tournament concludes on Saturday (the day before Selection Sunday) as opposed to Selection Sunday itself.

Currently the SEC is one of five conferences that plays its tournament final on Selection Sunday, with the American, Atlantic 10, Big Ten and Sun Belt being the others. The main reason for this is to ensure that your conference gets to play the game that determines its automatic bid recipient on national television, giving the conference a platform that won’t have much in the way of competition for viewers.

But there’s also the argument that playing this close to the announcement of the NCAA tournament field can hurt a conference when it comes to seeding and team selection. The selection committee does have its contingency brackets to account for a variety of scenarios, but would the processes of team and bracket evaluation be helped by there being no games played on Selection Sunday?

It’s something worth considering, but it’s highly unlikely to happen due to television networks’ desires for inventory and conferences looking for as much national exposure as they can get (this is especially true for smaller conferences).

Still without an associate commissioner for men’s basketball, there will be a lot for that person to address whenever SEC commissioner Greg Sankey fills that vacancy. Obviously moving the tournament to November won’t be one of those issues, but why not consider moving the tournament up a day? Who knows, it could help the SEC when it comes to the late evaluation of its teams.