The Nets fired head coach Lionel Hollins and GM Billy King over the weekend, the latest casualties of a franchise that appears to have absolutely no idea how to build a winning NBA team.
And as is always the case when jobs open up in the NBA, John Calipari’s name has been lumped in the Brooklyn Nets coaching search. His name was already being bandied about as the Sacramento Kings, home of the mercurial former Kentucky star and ex-player of Cal’s, DeMarcus Cousins, are looking to head in a new direction as well.
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo’s NBA Insider and the man they’ve built the website The Vertical around, filed his column on Calipari and the NBA early on Monday morning, and the reasons to hire him — as well as the concerns about his return to the NBA — are the same that we hear every time his name is mentioned for NBA jobs: He has such a good relationship with his former Kentucky stars that he’ll be able to amass all of them on the same NBA roster … so long as they can get past — or he can change — the grating style in which he coaches. No NBA veteran is going to sign up to be screamed at and belittled by anyone, let alone a “college coach”. That may even matter more than his coaching acumen, which his critics doubt as well.
What’s more interesting is that Woj put a number on what it would take to hire Cal away from Kentucky: 10 years, $120 million. From that column:
When Calipari spoke with minority ownership in Sacramento last spring, he told them that it would take an offer of $11 million-plus a year to get his attention, league sources said. Calipari turned down a 10-year, $80 million-plus offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, because he wouldn’t leave Kentucky with only an incremental raise on what is now an $8 million to $9 million annual package on campus.
Cleveland’s offer has become a baseline for Calipari’s contractual demands: He wants the 10 years and now the $12 million a year that Phil Jackson makes to run the Knicks.
Currently, Calipari has a contract that will pay him $54 million through 2022, which was extended back in May when there was speculation he may be interested in heading to New Orleans to coach Anthony Davis. It’s become almost common-place during the spring: his name gets brought up for NBA jobs, Kentucky gives him more money and more years.
Cal knows how to leverage a deal. He took to twitter Monday morning to deny the report.
“You may have heard me say this before: I absolutely have the best coaching job in sports and I plan on being at Kentucky for a long time,” Calipari wrote. “I am not negotiating with ANYBODY. My total focus is on this team and winning the next game.”
He also reiterated that he believes he already has the best job in basketball, a statement he makes everytime his name gets associated with an NBA gig.
“Anytime you can have a championship culture, anytime you can be in the hunt for championships or in this case in college in recruiting, you have one of the best jobs,” Cal said on the SEC teleconference. “You don’t have to put fans in the seats, you don’t have to raise money. Just coach basketball. It’s a great job, and one that I appreciate having and am humbled to be here.”
But it remains to be seen if there is a mutual interest here.