In nearly every radio interview I've ever done about John Calipari, for as long as I can remember, somebody has asked, either at the beginning or the end, whether I think Kentucky's coach will eventually return to the NBA.
And I've always said yes ... without exception.
Oh, sure, I've usually qualified things by explaining that Calipari would only take a great NBA job -- one in a large market or with a roster built to win big immediately, i.e., a roster featuring LeBron James or somebody similar. But I've still been consistent in predicting a jump, at some point, to the professional ranks, and yet I'm now ready to change that opinion and state for the record that I believe Calipari will likely retire at UK.
That's the byproduct of this new contract announced Thursday.
To be clear, I don't care about the fact that the deal runs through 2021, because years on a college basketball coach's contract are rarely what keeps him from leaving for another job (or a school from firing him). The years are irrelevant way more times than not. But the money does matter, and Calipari's new contract -- a seven-year deal worth a total of $52.9 million -- is so lucrative that I honestly think he's now probably priced out of the market.
On average, Calipari is scheduled to make $7.55 million per year.
Do you know how many NBA coaches make that?
I believe the answer is zero.
Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Stan Van Gundy (Pistons) both reportedly make $7 million per year, and Gregg Popovich (Spurs) has a reported salary of $6 million annually -- although multiple NBA sources told me late Thursday that his number might actually be higher. Either way, you get the point. NBA franchises simply do not pay for coaches what Kentucky proved on Thursday that it's willing to pay for Calipari, meaning he'd now almost certainly have to take a paycut to leave Lexington for literally any job in the NBA, and does that sound like something Calipari would do?
I'd be surprised.
Calipari is a lot of things.
But he's never struck me as the kind to voluntarily take a paycut.
So congratulations, Kentucky fans.
I really do think, for the first time ever, that John Calipari's future will not include a return to the NBA. Simply put, he's worth more to UK than he would be to any professional franchise, and that's no longer just a saying. It's now on a contract that's signed and sealed.