Before finalizing a contract extension with the University of Kentucky late last week, John Calipari had gone deep in discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a seven-year, $60 million-plus contract to become president and coach, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had been persistent in his pursuit and kept returning to Calipari in an effort to deliver full control of basketball operations, sources said.
Gilbert and Calipari had discussed a package in the range of $8 million-plus a year, sources said, and it wasn't until midweek that Calipari finally rejected Cleveland and fully committed to his seven-year, $52 million extension at Kentucky.
If Calipari had gone to Cleveland, the plan would've been for new general manager David Griffin to work with Calipari in the front office, but he would've ceded final decisions on personnel matters to Calipari, sources said.
Beyond the considerable length of the proposed contract – with an annual salary that would've moved Calipari among the highest-paid executives/coaches in the NBA – Calipari had some intrigue with the infrastructure of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and the possibility of the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.
Calipari has remained intrigued about a return to the NBA in the right situation, and it's unclear how well he believed he could've co-existed with Gilbert, a hands-on owner.
The Cavaliers have met with several candidates for the job, including Los Angeles Clippers assistants Alvin Gentry and Ty Lue, ex-Memphis coach Lionel Hollins and ex-Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. Cleveland has pursued Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Florida's Billy Donovan in the process, too.
After reaching the NCAA championship game in April, Kentucky will return as a clear-cut No. 1 in the preseason college polls. Once the Harrison twins – Andrew and Aaron – made decisions to return to Kentucky as sophomores in late April, it became a more difficult proposition to lure Calipari out of his job, sources said. With the Harrison twins staying, Kentucky will return nearly 60 percent of its scoring – despite losing two projected lottery picks to the NBA draft in Julius Randle and James Young.
Around Calipari, there is a strong belief that he would've landed in Cleveland had those key players decided to turn professional this year.
Calipari held the titles of president and coach with the New Jersey Nets from 1996-99, reaching the playoffs once before getting fired.
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