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John Calipari on move from Kentucky to Arkansas: "Let it be good for both"

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson06/19/24


Remember how John Calipari used to randomly go on national sports talk shows on slow summer days? He’s still doing it. Today, Calipari made appearances on The Dan Patrick Show and The Jim Rome Show. As you might expect, his decision to leave Kentucky for Arkansas came up on both.

This is far from the first time Calipari has talked about leaving Lexington. His script was mostly the same today. Calipari insisted that he loved his 15 seasons at Kentucky and didn’t anticipate leaving; however, he shed light on some specific factors in his decision with Patrick and Rome. First, the opportunity to hire his son Brad, now one of five on-court assistants on the Razorbacks’ coaching staff.

“I got to hire my son,” Calipari told Patrick. “Now, he’s not one of my top three guys, but he’s on the court.”

“I made a decision based on what was right for me and my family,” he said on Rome. “And being able to hire my son, my wife, you know, she wanted — that’s her baby. I gotta sleep with this kid’s mom. So yeah, I wanted to hire him.”

Calipari said a conversation with Kelvin Sampson also impacted his decision. While mulling Arkansas’ offer, Calipari called Sampson to ask about Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas’ athletics director who was previously the AD at Houston. Calipari said he was hesitant to leave his players at Kentucky, to which Sampson pointed out that players have more freedom than ever thanks to the transfer portal.

“I’m having a hard time because I’m going to end up leaving players. And Kelvin went crazy. ‘What? If you leave, they can leave. They can go where they want. They can go with you. They can go pro. What are you talking about? This isn’t 10 years ago.’

“Then he said the one that got me. ‘If you stay, they can leave. They can go somewhere else. They can go pro. This is different.’ And you know what? That got me to think in a different way and within 36 hours, I said, you know what? I want this new challenge.”

On the advice of his priest, Calipari took a two-hour walk. During the first hour, he imagined himself as the coach of Kentucky. During the second, he imagined himself as the coach of Arkansas.

“It spoke to me and what you said, I’m like kinda — I need this. Let me go and do this one more time. Let me help 30-40 more families. Let me go do some special things. And it got me charged up and I said, you know what? I’m going to do it.”

Calipari reiterated that his decision had nothing to do with the Kentucky fans, but said the opportunity to have a “tailwind” instead of a “headwind” at Arkansas was appealing.

“For me to do what I’m doing, I needed tailwind, no headwinds. We needed to be able to move in what we were doing. And as far as saying, ‘Well, they pushed you out.’ No, I don’t think that was the case.”

Calipari mentioned Mark Pope briefly in both conversations, saying that he hopes both programs can benefit from a new start.

“Let it be good for both. I mean, I had 15 great years there. Let Mark Pope have 15 great years. Let me finish how I want to finish.”

You can see Calipari’s appearances below. Or, you can check out the 3.5-minute clip of Mark Pope coaching Kentucky’s first practice that dropped earlier today.

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