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ESPN makes case for John Calipari staying vs leaving for NBA

Cal is staying at UK, but ESPN makes a compelling case for an NBA return.

Kentucky v North Carolina Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As the summer days roll by in the Bluegrass, folks are hitting up Lake Cumberland to escape the heat. The lines at the movie theater are a heck of a lot longer than usual. The writing on A Sea of Blue turns to basketball recruiting and preseason speculation about the gridiron Cats.

Oh and the never-ending rumors about John Calipari abdicating his throne in Lexington for a new kingdom in the NBA.

In past years, scuttlebutt linked Coach Cal to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and two weeks ago news broke that he reached out to the New York Knicks through intermediaries.

Of course, Cal took to Twitter to deny the rumors and reiterated that he has the best job in basketball.

There is no way of knowing if how serious the supposed overtures were at the moment, but that won't stop the discussion of when Cal might leave and what it would take to get him into the NBA.

Earlier this week, ESPN writer Myron Medcalf broke down reasons why Cal will or won't stay at UK, and to be honest I'm not buying the majority of his arguments in either case.

According to Mr. Medcalf, Cal might bolt if the money is good enough or if he can corral enough former players onto one team.

Money won't ever be an issue, especially if Mitch Barnhart remains the athletic director. UK is in the midst of an overall upgrade across all sports. Commonwealth Stadium just got a facelift. The baseball team is getting a new stadium in less than two years. Basketball is Kentucky's flagship sport, and if the athletics department is willing to spend big on programs with no traditional success, they will not hesitate to show Calipari the green.

Even with the arms race across the NBA producing unheard combinations of talent, theoretically getting a John Wall and an Anthony Davis on the same team is a longshot. Cal knows the herculean effort that would take, and I doubt he would leave the comfort of the Bluegrass for a chance at a distant star.

In the same light, two of Medcalf's reasons for Cal staying at Kentucky are head scratching: adoration and fun.

Do I think that Coach Cal enjoys the spotlight he receives in Kentucky? Absolutely. But he had a city in love with him and his program in Memphis and at the end of the day that did not stop him from going north in 2009.

So what would it take for Cal actually to leave Lexington?

I'm not sure, and Medcalf was not either. He wrote it would take the perfect offer, and even then I believe it would be a long, hard pull to get Cal out of UK's orbit.

Based on interviews, one tidbit has always stood out to me about Coach Cal: he doesn't forget a slight. He remembers being a poor kid in Moon Township, PA. He remembers his programs at Memphis and UMASS not getting the respect they deserve. He darn sure remembers when the national press or older coaches say he is ruining college basketball.

Winning a national championship did not silence his detractors. Will winning two? Maybe. Will going undefeated? Maybe. If I don't know, then Cal certainly does not.

Which brings me back to the NBA rumors, another obvious fact about John Calipari is he is a marketing guru. He understands how social media, the news cycle, and the world mesh. He knows how short teenager's attention spans these days are. To keep his program relevant, Cal needs to keep himself and hit in the news.

A "leak" and rebuttal is the perfect scenario to do just that. The story generated not just a plethora of interviews, but it also got a spotlight shined on his work with the Under 19 US National Team during a dead period for college basketball.

The timing lends credence to the theory that it is purposefully done in the pursuit of high level talent. Which makes the NBA rumors just another Cal trope along the lines of how his best teams are not any good to start the season.