John Calipari departs Kentucky after 15 years, saying the program 'needs to hear another voice' (2024)

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — There were too many people for John Calipari to thank by name, and too many moments to single out from one of the most fulfilling chapters of his career.

He used this moment to say goodbye.

Calipari stepped down as Kentucky’s men’s basketball coach after 15 years on Tuesday, saying that the “program probably needs to hear another voice” amid reports that he’s closing in on a deal with Arkansas to take over that Southeastern Conference program.

Calipari posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, in which he said that after talking with his wife, Ellen, he decided a change was needed. He added, “We’ve loved it here, but we think it’s time for us to step away and step away completely from the program.”

Calipari leaves a Wildcats program he guided to the 2012 NCAA championship among four Final Four appearances. He went 410-123 in 15 seasons. The past few seasons have been disappointing by Kentucky standards, with a 1-3 mark in its last three NCAA Tournament trips, including first-round losses to No. 14 seed Oakland last month and No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s two years ago.

The Wildcats’ most recent loss set off immediate calls to fire Calipari before athletic director Mitch Barnhart said days later that Calipari would return next season. Firing Calipari would’ve triggered a buyout of more than $33 million under the terms of a 10-year, so-called lifetime contract signed in 2019.


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Barnhart said in a statement that Kentucky would work diligently to hire “a proven, highly dedicated coach who embraces the importance of this program to our fans and the state of Kentucky.”

The AD added: “We’re appreciative of John Calipari leading our program for the last 15 years, adding to the legacy of championship success at Kentucky. We’re grateful to John for his many contributions to the university, and our state, both on and off the court.”

The list of possible candidates includes Baylor’s Scott Drew, who guided the Bears to a national title in the 2020-21 COVID-19 season. UConn’s Dan Hurley, who guided the Huskies to their second consecutive NCAA championship, also been mentioned along with Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan, a former Kentucky assistant whose Florida squads were the NCAA’s last back-to-back champs before UConn.

Donovan said before Chicago hosted the New York Knicks on Tuesday night that he has not been contacted by Kentucky, and he reiterated his commitment to the Bulls and their quest for a playoff berth.

“A lot of this stuff I think sometimes turns out to be speculation,” he said. “But I have not had any contact with anybody and my commitment’s here.”

Calipari didn’t specifically mention the Arkansas opening he has been linked to since multiple reports surfaced Sunday night about negotiations with the school. The Hall of Famer simply said, “There have been opportunities that have been presented to us, so we’re discussing them as a family.”

However, Calipari’s announcement certainly clears the way for him to go to the SEC rival he got very familiar with while coaching the Wildcats. The 65-year-old would replace Eric Musselman, who left after four seasons to become the coach at Southern California.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas has scheduled a special meeting Wednesday morning to consider “a salary in excess of line item maximum” for its Fayetteville campus.

Calipari established a legacy in Lexington upon arriving in 2009 with an impressive annual influx of stellar freshmen who came to be known as “one-and-dones” for playing one season before entering the NBA draft.

One of his top scorers from this year’s 23-10 squad, dynamic guard Rob Dillingham, announced on ESPN Tuesday that he would enter the NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility. He is projected as a top-five selection on several draft sites.

Kentucky thrived with Calipari’s approach in the first half of his tenure as the Wildcats regained their blueblood status and he developed the newcomers into draft picks. The first-round total is 35 alone among 47 overall selections, with No. 1 overall choices in John Wall (2010), Anthony Davis (2012) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015). Opening-day NBA rosters featured 26 Kentucky players, including two-way and inactive.

Pro teams’ interest in Kentucky players spawned preseason combines — sometimes televised — featuring scouts from all 32 NBA clubs. While the youth movement helped Kentucky win games and fill 20,500-seat Rupp Arena, some fans and media argued that Calipari became too focused on sending players to the next level instead of winning championships.

Meanwhile, the youngsters’ inexperience began to show in losses to more seasoned opponents, some stocked with veterans through the transfer portal. Calipari himself used the portal to fill roster voids — including 2022 consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe — and continued winning. But not enough to please a demanding fan base that expects nothing less than a deep tournament run toward a ninth national championship.

The advent of name, image and likeness (NIL) endorsem*nt opportunities for college athletes has added another challenge, which Calipari addressed with last month’s launch of the La Familia fundraising collective focused solely on basketball. It has raised just over $50,000 with a goal of $1 million.

Sitting on a couch in his Lexington home, Calipari thanked players and their families in his video for the privilege of coaching them. He also thanked staff, supporters and others for everything achieved and for “lifelong” friendships built during his tenure.

“Hopefully, it was an experience with your kids that you can look at and say, ‘Man, this is something that we’ll remember the rest of our lives together,’” Calipari said. “Those memories and what we were able to do together is what this is all about.

“Again, it’s been a dream, what we’ve been able to do for 15 years. Time for another voice. And you know I’m always going to be a fan. Thank you.”


AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.


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John Calipari departs Kentucky after 15 years, saying the program 'needs to hear another voice' (2024)


John Calipari departs Kentucky after 15 years, saying the program 'needs to hear another voice'? ›

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — John Calipari is stepping down as Kentucky's men's basketball coach after 15 years, saying Tuesday on social media that the "program probably needs to hear another voice" amid reports that he's closing in on a deal with Arkansas to take over that Southeastern Conference

Southeastern Conference
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is an American college athletic conference whose member institutions are located primarily in the South Central and Southeastern United States. › wiki › Southeastern_Conference

What is the lifetime contract for the Kentucky coach? ›

In 2019, Calipari signed a so-called "lifetime" contract with Kentucky, agreeing to a 10-year, $86 million deal. The deal came with a buyout clause attached to it, and it carries a pretty penny.

How long has John Calipari been head coach at Kentucky? ›

He was the head coach at the University of Kentucky from 2009 until the end of the 2024 season, which he led to one NCAA Tournament Championship in 2012. He has been named Naismith College Coach of the Year three times (1996, 2008, and 2015), and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

How many final fours has John Calipari won? ›

Calipari is one of two coaches in NCAA history to take three different programs to the Final Four and one of just three coaches all-time to make four Final Fours in a five-year span. His teams have won an NCAA record 38 games three times – twice at UK (2012 and 2015) and once at Memphis (2008).

Who is Kentucky's basketball coach? ›

– When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home. Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky's 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky's storied men's basketball program, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced Friday.

Why is John Calipari paid so much? ›

The incentives in Calipari's UA contract are plentiful. His annual salary can increase up to $1.25 million based on a series of on-court achievements, highlighted by a raise of $500,000 if the Razorbacks win the NCAA national championship.

What is a lifetime contract? ›

In this case, the contract typically outlines the specifics of the benefits and the conditions under which they may be revoked. In conclusion, a lifetime contract is an agreement between two parties that guarantees the terms and conditions of a service or product for the duration of one`s life.

Is Rick Pitino still married? ›

Personal life. Pitino married the former Joanne Minardi in 1976. They have five living children, one of whom, Richard, is currently the head coach of the New Mexico Lobos. Another son, Daniel, died from congenital heart failure in 1987 at the age of six months.

Who is the winningest coach in Kentucky history? ›

Rupp had the longest tenure at Kentucky, coaching for 42 seasons, and is the all-time leader in games coached (1,066) and wins at the school (874).

Who is Richard Pitino married to? ›

Who is John Calipari's wife? ›

Who is John Calipari married to? ›

Who is the winningest coach at Kentucky basketball? ›

Adolph Rupp, 876 wins

He is the only UK coach to win multiple national championships. Rupp's success in Lexington is unparalleled. His 27 regular-season SEC championships and 13 SEC Tournament titles will likely never be broken.

Is John Calipari in the Hall of Fame? ›

FAYETTEVILLE – Naismith Hall of Fame coach John Calipari, who has led six teams to the Final Four, was named the 14th Razorback head men's basketball coach, University of Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek announced Wednesday.

How many national championships has John Calipari won at Kentucky? ›

A “players-first” coach with a penchant for helping people reach their dreams, John Calipari, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, has guided six teams to the Final Four, led one to a national championship and helped 58 players earn selection in the NBA Draft during his 32-year college coaching career.

How many championships has Calipari won with Kentucky? ›

There was that national championship game Self won with the Jayhawks back in 2008, when Calipari led the way at Memphis. There have been the many matchups since, when Calipari has been the coach at Kentucky — where Calipari won a national championship in 2012 at the expense of KU.

How much is a Calipari contract worth? ›

The contract with Arkansas starts with Calipari set for basic annual compensation of $7 million, plus $500,000 retention payments that he would receive annually, beginning June 30, 2025. He also is scheduled to receive a $1 million signing bonus May 1.

How much does the Kentucky Wildcats coach get paid? ›

Per details of his contract, Calipari owes nothing if he leaves Kentucky for another position, which reportedly occurred on Sunday. He reportedly is finalizing a five-year deal worth $7.5 to $8 million per year, according to reports of Pete Thamel and Jeff Goodman.

Does coach K have a lifetime contract with Duke? ›

“It's been great,” Mike Krzyzewski said of retirement. “I have a lifetime contract with Duke. Not to coach but to be the ambassador. … I've retired from coaching and recruiting.

How much does the head football coach of the University of Kentucky make? ›

Stoops signed a massive contract extension in November 2022 with the Wildcats that will keep him as the head coach through the 2030 season. He went from making $6.35 million in 2022 to hitting the $9 million mark in 2023 with his updated deal — a 33 percent raise.


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