You can't make young men millionaires as an NBA coach. You can only worry about them giving you headaches and getting you fired.
Yeah, I don't know. Neither do you, and I mean you, Dan Wolken. And you, Adrian Wojnarowski. Nobody knows, not even Calipari right now if he will decide to up and leave for the NBA. But there are many more reasons why he won't than why he will.
Of course, the "Calipari to the Knicks" rumors started even before the NCAA tournament, so we all knew that they would ramp up again even more strongly after he came home with the NCAA tournament title. People like Dan Wolken are peddling the theory that Calipari himself is responsible for the rumors, ostensibly to prompt Mitch Barnhart to preemptively offer him a pay raise. Others, like Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, try to make the case that the move is inevitable for other reasons. What makes all these so great is that there doesn't have to be one shred of truth to any of this.
Detractors will point to videos like this, from when Calipari was at Memphis. Sure, we can parse words: "I want to be here. This is where I want to coach." is not nearly as unequivocal as today's "I'm not going anywhere," but for many, the two might as well be the same. To guys like Wolken and Wojnarowski, every word out of Calipari's mouth is an equivocation. So be it.
Calipari isn't going to the Knicks. There, I've said it, and if he does, I'll eat all that crow with a side of raven. He's not going to the Knicks this year, or next year. I doubt that he'll be at Kentucky when he's 65, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was here at 60. Why, after the jump.
The narrative the press wants you to believe is that Calipari has always had designs on going back to the NBA. He has unfinished business there, they say. His idol is Larry Brown, they'll tell you, and he wants the same things as Larry Brown wanted -- NBA and college basketball titles.
What a crock.
I have no idea what Calipari wants. What I do know is that he's not Larry Brown, he's his own man. Larry Brown was an affirmed coaching nomad, with 13 job changes in 38 years as a head coach, an average of 2.9 years in each job. Calipari has already had two coaching jobs, at UMass and Memphis, that were longer thanlongest-running coaching position, at the Philadelphia 76ers, by at least 2 years. Calipari has never spent less than 8 years in a head coaching job that he left voluntarily, and every one of his moves were upward moves.
So what in his history suggests he would leave the University of Kentucky, by my lights the top coaching job in all of college sports and better than 75% of all professional basketball teams, to coach the Knicks? What in his history suggests that he would leave any of his college jobs after only three years, let alone the top of the food chain? I thought he wanted to beat Pitino at his own game, not follow him down an avenue of regret. Leaving Kentucky for the NBA has been done, and that result wasn't exactly what Traitor Rick had hoped. Is Calipari willing to do the exact same thing in hopes of succeeding where Pitino failed? Is he really that uncomfortable in his own skin? I don't even think so.
When Calipari left UMass for the New Jersey Nets, he was a legitimate hot property, a young, up-and-coming guy with no NBA experience who turned a mid-major into a national contender. He did not succeed as well in the NBA, probably due to the fact he was young. He returned to college, and we all know what he did at Memphis.
Would Calipari do better now in the NBA? Who knows? The fact of the matter is, there is no real recruiting in professional basketball. In pro ball, the head coach is mainly a psychologist, trying to somehow marry the psyches of young millionaires who don't have to give a crap about the coach into a team. The NBA coach really can't use the bench as a motivator for his best players, and those same players can get him fired if they are good enough and so inclined. Head coaching jobs are far less secure in the NBA than in college, and one NBA championship doesn't guarantee even another year. General Managers and owners have strong personalities, and they tend to blame the head coach for everything that goes wrong, and the coach always loses battles with those guys.
Calipari, at this point, could probably thumb his nose at Mitch Barnhart if he wants to, or even get him replaced. The only firing offense at Kentucky for Coach Cal right now is major NCAA violations, and Calipari has demonstrated over the years that he is a master at navigating those waters, even if some of his players managed to get him in the trick bag. Could that happen again? Yes, it could, but then the NBA would be an easy option and welcome him with open arms, like they have so many college coaches who run afoul of the rules.
As to Wolken's charge that Calipari's creating NBA rumors:
Calipari making the rounds today but he can't change his own history. Spent years engineering job/NBA rumors. Now they're a nuisance?— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) April 4, 2012
Look, Calipari knows he's going to get a raise. Leave aside the $350,000 or so that his contract awards him for winning it all, he knows he's going to get an extension sometime in the next few months -- Bill Self got an extension after his championship in 2008, and it makes sense for Calipari to get one in 2012, so why "engineer" NBA rumors? Calipari is already either the highest paid or near-highest paid coach in college basketball, and has given Mitch Barnhart all the job security he could ever want by delivering this title. If he wants a raise, he merely has to ask.
Why would Barnhart give him an extension? Easy -- it helps Calipari recruit, and leaves Mitch with less to worry about. No, recruits don't give a crap how much Coach Cal makes, but they DO care about Calipari being there while they are there. When they ask for momma and daddy's advice, they will ask, "Do you think Coach Cal will stay at Kentucky?" It's a lot easier for the folks to say, "Yes, son, we think so," when Calipari is the highest-paid coach in the college game and makes a salary that would force even NBA teams to swallow hard when going after him.
Did Calipari engineer rumors at Memphis? I have no idea. I have a feeling that Wolken doesn't either, it just makes for nice copy -- conspiracy theories like that always have tons of buyers out there. So don't buy Wolken's crap. He'll tell you about having covered Cal in Memphis, but in my opinion, the guy is a fraud. As to Wojnarowski, I have a slightly better opinion of him, but he has peddled this sort of drivel before, and has been wrong a whole lot more than he's been right.
Believe them if you want to, but if you really think about it, there are a lot more reasons for Calipari to stay than to go, and starting all over again with a new group of players is something he has never seemed to mind doing. In fact, I think Coach Cal gets great pleasure out of putting young men in multi-million-dollar contracts, and he can't do that from Madison Square Garden.