Sportswriter Shares Rumor That John Calipari May Want to ‘Explore’ Leaving Kentucky for the Lakers
Let me take you back to the 2009-2010 University of Kentucky basketball season. The 'Cats had just landed John Calipari as their head coach, and all the analysts were pretty much saying, "It's over; UK will be a regular participant in the Final Four and bring home multiple trophies." Despite the quotes, that IS a paraphrase.
But that was the thinking. And for a while, it was a somewhat accurate prediction. In Calipari's first six seasons, Kentucky went to the Elite Eight (in 2010, one year after missing the tournament), made four Final Four appearances, and won a national championship. The Wildcats' NCAA Tournament record across those six seasons was 22-4. And the close of each season in the first half of his tenure always came with speculation that Calipari was leaving for the NBA. And he would always jump on social media and categorically deny it. And it was the truth. Here he still is.
Things have changed, however.
Since that magical 2015 season that ended in the national semifinals and with a 38-1 record, it's been a different story. There have been no Final Four appearances in the last seven years (but SIX tournaments--COVID canceled the 2020 Big Dance). And UK's record in those appearances is 9-5.
I follow social media closely when it comes to college hoops, and I can honestly tell you that the phrase, "The fans are getting restless" is an understatement.
Okay, so the hashtag is #FireCalipari, but that's not happening...if for no other reason than he's got a lifetime contract at UK. But him being terminated is not why we're here.
Losing to a 15-seed in the first round as a 2-seed will do that to a blue-blood program--especially one that hasn't played on the final weekend since 2015 AND was projected to make this year's Final Four by a great many college hoops forecasters.
What was once a cry of "Please don't leave Lexington, Coach Cal," has become one of "Don't let the door hitcha..." by members of Big Blue Nation.
And now the rumor mill is grinding once again. Forbes writer Sean Deveney, who's been covering the NBA for a couple of decades has lit up the world of college basketball after his interview with Steve Bulpett, a Boston Herald writer who covers the Celtics. In the interview, Deveney and Bulpett spitball about possible replacements for Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, who both of them believe is on his way out. Check out what Deveney says at the 10:01 mark of this exchange:
My guess is that a pro like Deveney wouldn't throw that out there if he really didn't believe there was a shot that Calipari would want to leave UK. Sure, it would be better if he revealed where he heard that rumor, but he's a pro, and I have no evidence that he's off target, here.
Keep in mind, in a situation where John Calipari leaves of his own volition, the Lakers would owe the University of Kentucky a BUNDLE of cash.
Would they fork over that kind of money? Would they need to ask LeBron James and Anthony Davis for a little help?
This is all very interesting when you consider the timing. If I had to bet on whether or not he leaves, I'd put money on him staying. But, I gotta be honest...I'm not as confident in that bet as I would've been 7 or 10 years ago. And then there's THIS point, which isn't outrageous:
For me, that last part hits home for me...the roster. I agree 100% with Sean Whitaker. It's why I hope it DOESN'T happen.
Is Calipari at the point--as Deveney and Bulpett discuss--where he's grown exhausted with the recruiting game? The topic of Calipari possibly exploring another zip code was also the big subject on the podcast Locked on Kentucky:
So now we wait for the response from John Calipari--the one he's given many times before when rumors are flying.
I wonder how long we'll be waiting.