On New Year’s Eve, the UCLA Bruins fired head coach Steve Alford after a dreadful start to their college basketball season. The 54-year-old coach led a once-proud program to a 187-124 record in six seasons and never survived past the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. After starting this season with a disappointing 7-6 record, the school decided to move on.
Of course, with every coaching firing comes another round of coaching speculation. One of the biggest names for almost every open job is Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who is tied to the UCLA opening once again. Could Calipari leave Kentucky for the West Coast? Maybe. Then again, why would he leave all the job security in the world and the hefty salary he’s cashing year after year?
During his time at Kentucky, Calipari has become something of a folk legend. He’s famous (or infamous, depending on your preference) for flipping “one-and-done” freshman after a single year into NBA superstars like John Wall and Anthony Davis. Along the way, he’s won more than 350 games, six SEC tournament championships, made four trips to the Final Four, and won the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament national championship.
For his work since being hired away from the Memphis Tigers program in 2009, the Moon Township, Pennsylvania native will take home a whopping $7.99 million for coaching the Wildcats in 2018, with additional bonuses on the table based on how UK finishes this season. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the 59-year-old coach is worth around $25 million.
From the USA Today, here is the list of the highest-paid college basketball coaches and what they’ll be taking home for the 2018-19 season:
1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke: $8.98 million
2. John Calipari, Kentucky: $7.99 million
3. Chris Holtmann, Ohio State: $7.15 million
4. Bill Self, Kansas: $4.95 million
5. Tom Izzo, Michigan State: $3.76 million
6. Sean Miller, Arizona: $4.05 million
7. Bob Huggins, West Virginia: $3.76 million
8. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah: $3.39 million
9. John Beilein, Michigan: $3.37 million
10. Archie Miller, Indiana: $3.20 million
11. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma: $3.10 million
12. Shaka Smart, Texas: $3.10 million
13. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: $3.04 million
14. Tony Bennett, Virginia: $3.00 million
15. Avery Johnson, Alabama: $2.89 million
So why would John Calipari ever consider leaving one of the coziest jobs in all of college basketball?
With all the history and allure of the Kentucky Wildcats, their head coach has been with the program for a decade. His identity and mission is clear: we’re going to sign the best players, develop them as quickly as possible, and send them on their way. Yet, for all Calipari has accomplished, could it be possible that he’s ready for a new challenge?
Los Angeles is the basketball capital of the country. From John Wooden’s dynasty in the 1960s into the ’70s and the Showtime Lakers that followed, the city is bred on high-quality basketball, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get the biggest personalities and basketball minds, like LeBron James, to rebuild it once again.
It’s more likely someone like Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall would be the best hire, but if Calipari went to a place like UCLA, he’d have all the leverage in the world. He could easily pass by Duke’s Coach K, and his $8.9 million per year salary, to become the highest-paid coach in all of college basketball.
Then again, why leave the legacy he’s already built with a blue-blood program at the University of Kentucky?