Good College Basketball coaches work through rumors of the NBA trying to get them. John Calipari might know how that’s like better than anyone else, but his new contract that keeps him in Kentucky until 2021, with a salary that makes him better paid than most pro head coaches, was put in place to deny any suggestions of him going anywhere else.
Calipari has been the head coach of the Wildcats for the last five seasons. He was making $5.2 million a season before the extension, but this new 7-year deal greatly improves his earning ability and not just with salary but also through endorsements and retention bonuses. His base salary through the 2020-2021 season will be $400,000, but next season for example comes with a retention bonus of $1.6 million and media/endorsements of $4.5 million.
That number rises through the years: $7 million in 2015-16, $7.25 million in 2016-17, $7.75 million in 2017-18, and $8 million each of the final three seasons. Overall he’ll be paid $52.5 million over the next seasons, guaranteed. That still doesn’t make him the highest paid head coach in college basketball. That honor is reserved for Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, who makes $9.8 million a season.
Calipari, who has coached in the NBA before with the New Jersey Nets, was linked to the Los Angeles Lakers and a couple of other vacancies in recent weeks. He used media outlets to deny any interest in NBA jobs, but that didn’t stop the spin doctors from mentioning his name. So while the negotiations for an extension were kept on the down low, Calipari didn’t seem to have any intention of going anywhere. Or maybe it was simply his agent throwing around some bread crumbs so his client would get a better deal.
Calipari has been in Kentucky since 2009. He has taken his teams, usually completely different each season because of his one-and-done recruiting approach, three times to the Final Four, including the 16th this season. In 2012, with Anthony Davis as his best player, the Wildcats won the national title for the first time in 14 years. This season, despite a rough regular season, Kentucky reached the national championship game, losing to UConn after a wonderful tournament run.
He is 152–37 overall since taking the job at Lexington, adding to his previous success with Memphis and UMass, with a short NBA stint coming between those jobs. He is widely considered the best recruiter in college basketball, landing top-three freshman classes annually dating back to his days with the Memphis Tigers. No school has had more Freshman drafted by NBA teams since 2010, with Kentucky producing 10 pro-worthy prospects. The closest school to them is Texas with three.