While John Calipari continues to publicly state his commitment to the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball program, rumors of his eventual return to the NBA have been going on for years.
Thanks to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach and Vincent Goodwill, there’s now context to the continued rumors.
After being fired by the New Jersey Nets back in 1999, he returned to NCAA and became the head coach for the University in Memphis in 2000 (for nine seasons). That era was highlighted by a NCAA title game appearance in 2008 that introduced a young Derrick Rose to the basketball world.
During his stints with Memphis and Kentucky, he led both programs to prominence, taking home an NCAA title in 2012 and making it to the Final Four five times.
So, why now?
Based on the report by Rohrbach and Goodwill, NBA executives believe Coach Cal’s potential return to the NBA is due to “the changing dynamics at Kentucky, along with the massive expectations from the fan base and alumni.”
“Calipari is a bit of a surprise here, but multiple sources tell Yahoo Sports Calipari would be open to jumping back into the NBA,” “He had a taste in the late 90s, taking over the then-New Jersey Nets following a stint at UMass that didn’t go particularly well. But the changing dynamics at Kentucky, along with the massive expectations from the fan base and alumni, could have him looking for a second bite.”
“He may have maxed out at Kentucky,” a high-ranking executive told Yahoo Sports.
Calipari just endured his worst season with the Kentucky Wildcats, finishing the 2020-21 season with a 9-16 record and an eighth-place finish in the SEC.
With the options for high school players to bypass college on their NBA path, Calipari’s popularized one-and-done blueprint might be turning obsolete.
There are currently six vacancies for NBA jobs: the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers.
If Calipari is considering a move to the NBA, teams will surely have an interest in him. A track record of longstanding relationships with former Kentucky players like Anthony Davis, John Wall and Karl-Anthony Towns also gives him a stable of superstar talent and high-profile players to vouch for his abilities.