Mitch Barnhart confirms John Calipari will return for a 16th season at Kentucky

After an upset loss to Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, John Calipari's job at Kentucky came into question, but rather than pay a $33 million buyout, AD Mitch Barnhart has decided to run it back with Coach Cal.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari headed home to Pittsburgh with a loaded Kentucky roster, in search of some long overdue tournament success, but instead, his Wildcats were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by No. 14 seed Oakland. With just one tournament win over the past five seasons and no trips to the Sweet 16 since 2019, much of Big Blue Nation called for Coach Cal’s job, but with a $33 million buyout to consider, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced on Tuesday night that Calipari would return for a 16th year at Kentucky. 

Back in 2019, coming off a run to the Elite Eight with Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and PJ Washington, Calipari signed a 10-year extension which has often been referred to as a “lifetime contract.” He had been to the tournament nine of his first 10 years in Lexington with four trips to the Final Four and one national championship on his resume, but just five years in, Kentucky had to seriously contemplate paying his massive buyout to move in a new direction. 

Since the loss to Oakland, Calipari, who dominated the one-and-done era of the sport, admitted that the time of winning in March with freshman has passed. It was clear that the 65-year-old head coach was confronting the reality of the changes that the NIL and transfer portal era have brought to the sport, and contemplating changes to his own program. 

Now that Calipari is secure in his job, at least for another year, Calipari will need to attack the transfer portal like never before, to build an age-appropriate contender for the 2024-25 season. Kentucky has the No. 2 freshman recruiting class incoming, and with DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw, and Justin Edwards, all one-and-done hopefuls, underperforming this year, much of the roster will be filled by freshman and sophomores again. Kentucky could be preparing for an offseason overhaul, but the first order of business will be to see if his Kentucky roots are strong enough to keep Reed Sheppard at school for another year. 

Many Kentucky fans won’t be happy to hear this news, but just because there wasn’t a change at the top, doesn’t mean this offseason will be business as usual. Coach Cal’s seat is as hot as ever, and every move will be under a microscope, because if 2025 doesn’t come with a few NCAA Tournament wins, Year 17 may not be on the table.

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