What the New Calipari Deal Means

by:Matt Jones05/12/15


John Calipari is signing a new deal with Kentucky that will add on another year to his contract and increase his salary to $8 million. His total take now will be 7 years, $54 million as he continues his time in Lexington through the 2021-2022 season. The new deal also features a $1.6 million longevity bonus that kicks into effect on July 1. It is part of a package for Calipari that began increasing last year (when his average salary went from 5 million to 7 million) and is intended to keep him at Lexington until he retires.

So what does the new extension mean? Well first of all, this was not a direct response to rumors of a NBA team having interest in Calipari. Well not exactly. This deal has been in place for a couple of weeks and was part of a deal that Kentucky was instituting for Calipari beginning at the end of the season. The goal of this deal is of course to keep Cal in Lexington and the $1.6 million bonus acts as a big of an incentive to keep him here. Since Calipari has no “buyout” in his contract, if he ever leaves, there is no penalty for him hitting the road. However by making the $1.6 million paid after the NBA Finals and after the Draft, the theory is that any NBA team that wants Calipari will have made its choice before that date. If Cal leaves, he is leaving that money on the table to take the job…hence it is the closest thing possible to a buyout under the terms of the contract as structured.

So while this deal may not be a response to the Pelicans’ job coming open, it could of course be the case that its release tonight may be. There are four teams with Calipari ties that could be looking for a coach at the end of the year. The Pelicans, Cavs, Bulls and Wizards, all have coaching situations that are at least flexible, if not in the danger zone depending on what the next few days hold. Each have players that Calipari has connections to as their best player and each are in a position to win in the years to come. I don’t think Calipari would be interested in the Pelicans and I am not sure if the Bulls/Wizards would be interested in Calipari. But the goal of this deal is to at least dampen the talk that is sure to come in the days ahead. As Cleveland continues to march on, that will be the job to watch, especially after their courtship of Cal last year. The hope is that the extension and the attractiveness of the UK job as a whole will keep him here.

As far as whether this contract extension means that Calipari is definitely staying…well I don’t think you can for certain say that. If the dream offer is out there, Calipari will consider it, even if it comes this summer. Calipari would want full player control on a team that can win…there aren’t many of those out there and such a team would have to pay more than he makes now…which is a lot. It is becoming harder and harder to see such a marriage being created. But I also think today’s news makes clear that reports that Calipari wants to leave Kentucky for the NBA are incorrect. He is content at UK and if he ends up retiring here, I think he will be happy. You can never completely exclude the perfect offer but I think tonight what I thought earlier this afternoon…if Calipari makes it through this summer as the UK coach, he will retire here. I still don’t think that is 100% assured, but today’s events continue to make it more likely and should at least dampen the NBA chatter.

And just keep pulling for Cleveland…we need the Cavs to realize, once you go Blatt, you never go back.

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