It has come out today that Shaka Smart is going to be heading to Marquette to become the head coach for the Golden Eagles.
Currently, the Texas Longhorns’ top target to replace Smart is Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard, according to a report from Sam Marsdale at 247 Sports.
If Beard doesn’t seem interested in the position, there has been some rumblings that Texas could show some interest in trying to get John Calipari to Austin.
Kyle Tucker and Kyle Mann both have had some interesting comments to say on the topic.
Wow. If John Calipari wants a change of scenery, Texas is one of the few places that could pay. https://t.co/9Xgo39pYS1— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) March 26, 2021
ive had multiple people now tell me texas would throw the kitchen sink at calipari, that they really want him— J. Kyle Mann (@jkylemann) March 25, 2021
but im sure every school with an opening does, and the interest is supposedly one-way ♂️
By now, all Kentucky fans should be use to the Calipari rumors that fly around each offseason. Whether it is the NBA, UCLA, or whoever else, it is no secret that when it comes to predominant job openings Coach Cal’s name will at least be thrown at the wall to see if it sticks.
This is what seems to be happening out of Austin.
There is no secret the desire Texas has had to get back to the elite of the elite when it comes to their athletics programs. Regarding basketball, going back to Rick Barnes’ days where they pulled players such as Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, it hasn’t been quite the same since, even though Smart had a nice run this past season. And even with those guys, Barnes was only able to take Texas to one Final Four (2003), as the school has made it there just three times in program history.
So it goes without saying the folks at Texas will be doing everything in their power to bring in someone like Beard or Calipari, both of whom have taken smaller programs to the Final Four. Beard made it all the way to the 2019 national title game before the Red Raiders fell in overtime to Virginia.
Calipari, meanwhile, has taken UMass and Memphis that far in addition to the four Final Fours and one national title he’s taken Kentucky to.
We have already seen this song and dance this year from the Longhorns’ football team as they attempted to lure Urban Meyer out of retirement, and the odds of getting Calipari are probably even smaller than that ill-fated attempt.
Calipari currently makes $9.27 million a year at Kentucky, so it would have to be a substantial pay bump one would imagine for him to consider it. And just for the record, even if it’s offered, him taking the job is highly unlikely.
Calipari’s overall record at Kentucky is now 339-93. He’s accomplished about as much as a coach could ever hope to achieve, so maybe he could decide to take on a new challenge, and Texas would certainly have the resources to help him contend for national championships.
Still, as of now, Calipari to Texas is extremely unlikely.
Even though Texas is unlikely to land Calipari, who they hire may very well have a big effect on Kentucky recruiting. After all, Calipari has been pulling in elite recruits from Texas since he arrived in Lexington, the most recent being top-10 recruit Daimion Collins. Other former Cats from the state include Julius Randle, Tyrese Maxey, PJ Washington, De’Aaron Fox, Jarred Vanderbilt, and the Harrison twins.
In the 2022 class, Kentucky is recruiting Texas recruits Cason Wallace and Keyonte George.
Shaka Smart was able to beat out Kentucky for elite in-state recruits Mo Bamba and Greg Brown, but overall, Calipari has been cleaning up in the state. That will hopefully continue for the foreseeable future.
However, a guy like Chris Beard could certainly make these battles tougher moving forward. And given Kentucky’s recruiting efforts taking a dip in recent years, losing ground in Texas with elite recruits could be a major blow for the Wildcats.
Then there’s the potential for Calipari to retire or leave for another job during this decade. If that happens, Beard figures to be one of the top candidates to replace him, and prying him from Texas Tech would be much easier to accomplish then if he’s at Texas.
That’s why who Texas ultimately hire will be very significant to Kentucky, even though it’s unlikely to be Calipari taking the job.
One other thing to watch for is assistant coach Jai Lucas, who came to Lexington this past season after coaching at Texas since 2013. Whoever Texas hires may try to hire Lucas back and offer a major raise in the process.
Part of why Lucas left Texas last year may have been due to Shaka being on the hot seat, and it was a good call after he ended up voluntarily leaving this offseason. The next coach figures to have great job security for the foreseeable future, so perhaps Lucas, a Texas alum, will consider heading back to Austin if offered a significant raise and/or title promotion.