John Calipari: What Could Have Been


We are now just a day away from the NBA Finals, perhaps basketball’s greatest and most prestigious event. Just a year since LeBron James up and left Miami to return home, the hometown hero is perhaps just a week or two away from the promised land.

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Last season, after the national championship heartbreak of a young Kentucky team at the hands of UConn Husky prodigy Shabazz Napier, one thing was for sure: John Calipari would no longer pilot the Wildcats. Rumors of an NBA switch arose even days before by UK’s very own Rex Chapman, who said that the struggling Lakers were a ‘sure shot’ at getting Cal’s coaching talents.

After the season, we learned of Calipari denying a 10-year, $80 million dollar deal that would put him at the helm of basketball’s best player, and as we have come to know in the last week, possible champion.

It was a serious deal. And according to Cal himself, it was the only ‘real thing’, but does Cal have any regrets, especially looking at their recent success?

From Yahoo Sports:

"Cal, of course, said no to Cleveland. LeBron said yes. The Cavs open the NBA Finals on Thursday at Golden State.So any regrets? Any pangs of wistfulness? After all, wishing you could do two things at once, run in dual tracts, doesn’t denigrate the path chosen. Every coach would like to win an NBA title.“No,” Calipari said. “No, nope. Because what happened, and the reason I did what I did, was based on having guys come back who wanted to be coached. I didn’t feel comfortable not being at Kentucky.”This was loyalty to a slew of players who decided to forgo the NBA for a season, join up with a batch of top recruits, and make a run at history … 40-0 and a national title, the latter more important than the former.It was a good story. It would have been a great one except 38-0 Kentucky wound up losing in the Final Four to Wisconsin. The season, by any reasonable standard, was still a wild success.Kentucky, however, wasn’t living under reasonable standards.“I was in New Jersey, getting a slice of pizza,” Calipari said of a recent lunch down on the Shore in Lavallette. “The owner comes from around the back and says, ‘I’ve got to give you a hug, Coach. I’m so sorry about your season.’“And I kind of grabbed his arm as he’s pulling away and I said, ‘You know, I kind of feel the same way … and you know we were 38-1?'”Calipari is just 56 but he’s had three college head-coaching jobs (Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky) and one in the NBA (New Jersey). He is seen as a guy who will jump at the next opportunity, who is always looking. Hence his name is always coming up, whether it’s legitimate or just speculation."

Luckily, this time, he was hesitant to make that jump.

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