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John Calipari says he would jump at chance to coach LeBron James

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I won't call anybody a liar because that's such a harsh label. But there's no denying that coaches, by and large, aren't completely honest when publicly discussing jobs.

Mostly, they operate in non-answers.

They're asked about openings that have been attached to their names, and they usually answer by saying they "plan" to stay put because they really "love" right where they're at, and I've forever rolled my eyes at that type of answer because, well, it's not an answer at all. For starters, plans can change at any time. So talking about "plans" gives everybody an out because a person can always say, "Hey, my plan was to stay put. But then something happened, and my plans changed. So I wasn't lying."

Beyond that, professing love for your job isn't remotely the same as expressing a commitment to your job. For instance, I love my house, and I'm comfortable sharing that with you. But my publicly stated love for my house doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't move tomorrow if, you know, I found a house I thought I could love even more than the house I now have, and that's why you should never care, one way or another, about how much a coach claims to love his job because that alone means very little.

Which brings me to John Calipari, of course.

For more years than I can remember, Calipari has almost always addressed speculation about his future with an approach either exactly like, or similarly to, the approach described above. He's a master with words, the best at delivering sentences that sound nice but mean nothing, and the top example is when he was asked about the opening at Kentucky two days after coaching what ended up being his final game at Memphis.

"I wanna be here," Calipari told some Memphis reporters. "This is where I want to coach."

Four days later he was the coach at Kentucky.

In other words, Calipari has a history of being less-than-honest with this stuff, which is why his quotes Wednesday to The Plain Dealer were out of character and interesting. Asked about the possibility of coaching LeBron James someday, Calipari said this ...

"If I had a chance to, I would absolutely.''

Wow, right?

Now, in fairness to Calipari, he didn't say anything that any other coach hasn't thought because, let's be honest, who wouldn't want to coach the world's best player smackdab in the middle of his prime? I think an argument could be made that coaching James now is the single best job in all of sports because it guarantees winning and makes you among the favorites, if not the favorite, to win a championship almost regardless of the supporting parts. So I'm not surprised that Calipari would jump at the chance to coach James.

But I am surprised that Calipari said it, if only because, far as I know, he's never said anything like that before publicly, and now here he is, middle of May, taking a call from a reporter from the newspaper in Cleveland, a city that just so happens to have a coaching vacancy after the Cavaliers fired Mike Brown earlier this week. Now all we need is for James to suggest that he'd also love for Calipari to coach him someday, and then guess who becomes the leading candidate in Cleveland?

Answer: John Calipari!

And the circus never stops, does it?

Either way, it would be naive to suggest Calipari isn't, at the very least, positioning himself to maybe have options, and it would be just as naive to deny that any NBA franchise would consider hiring Calipari if it gave them an advantage in a pursuit of James -- who, it should be noted, can become a free agent this summer, if he wants. If nothing else, this was a calculated move featuring a quote laced with purpose unless you think a man recovering from hip surgery would take a call from any newspaper in any market in May.

Don't be silly.

John Calipari talked to the Cleveland paper for a reason.

And he said what he said about LeBron James for a reason.

In the end, it might all amount to nothing, and, in fact, it probably will. But where it leads has little to do with the motivation behind it, and Calipari showing his hand on Wednesday is sure to spark a fascinating conversation at both the NBA and college levels.

"All those people who said I couldn't coach in the NBA, if I coached [James], would say, 'Oh, he's a really good coach,' " Calipari told The Plain Dealer, and then, according to the paper, he laughed and laughed and laughed.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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