Kentucky Basketball: Does Calipari's New Contract Make Him Too Costly For The NBA?

Jamie Squire

John Calipari just signed a contract for more money at Kentucky than all but a very few NBA coaches make.

Comes now Jeff Eisenberg blogging for Yahoo.com, and talking about John Calipari's latest contract. His main point is that Kentucky is now paying John Calipari enough money to make a jump to the NBA unlikely:

Doc Rivers makes $7 million per year as coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. Stan Van Gundy will reportedly receive the same amount to coach and run basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons. With the possible exception of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, it appears no other current NBA coach has a salary that approaches the $7 million mark.

Even before the most recent contract, Calipari was probably making enough money that a jump to the NBA wouldn't have been made even for a slight pay increase. If Coach Cal were interested in leaving UK, I doubt either a small raise or small pay cut would matter much.

But Eisenberg, I think, is right in the main. Rick Pitino left Kentucky for huge bucks at the Boston Celtics, and the money was the primary reason he left. Yes, coaching the Celtics was also an important consideration, but you'll remember that he was not only happy at Kentucky, he called it the "Roman Empire of college basketball," and in a reverent way. Had Boston not made him such a wealthy man, I rather doubt he would have left.

While it isn't out of the question an NBA franchise could jump high enough to lure Calipari away, in today's NBA, that just isn't very likely. Calipari will leave Kentucky on his own terms, in my view, and I rather doubt that money will be a huge motivator. At this point in his career, he is certainly wealthy enough so that an extra million or so won't make a lot of difference to him.

It's fascinating, and a bit disturbing, that the top of the college coaching ranks now make as much as the top of the NBA coaching ranks, but that's been the trend for some time now. Some argue that this escalation bolsters the plaintiff's claims in the O'Bannon case, but I honestly doubt that. Coaches are manifestly employees of the universities, but college athletes are not, at least not in the normal sense, despite the declaration of the Chicago NLRB. Having said that, nothing is ever certain in the legal system when novel arguments are raised.

In my opinion, this will do everything that can reasonably be done to secure Calipari as the head coach of Kentucky basketball for as long as he wants the job, assuming the current trajectory of the program both athletically and academically are mostly maintained. I think Kentucky and Calipari both know exactly what they want out of this relationship, and I suspect this contract reflects that.

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