Hoping to keep LeBron watch from engulfing him as well, John Calipari did something I didn't expect him to do Friday morning: He stated directly and definitively that he intends to remain at Kentucky next season.
The morning after Cleveland's stunning second-round playoff exit ratcheted up speculation that Calipari could bolt for the NBA to coach LeBron James at his next stop, the Kentucky coach took to Twitter again to refute it.
"I've said many times that I've got the best job in the country. Still the speculation runs wild and I can't stop that," Calipari wrote. "I want to address this with the Big Blue Nation one last time, I will be coaching at Kentucky next year. Now let's finish what we started!"
The key phrase from that tweet, of course, is "I will be coaching at Kentucky next year," which leaves Calipari no wiggle room unlike his previous statements that he's "happy" in Lexington and that he has the "best job" in college basketball. It's also a far stronger statement than when he told reporters last spring that Memphis is "where I want to coach" even after beginning negotiations with Kentucky.
Of course, there is precedent for coaches going back on their word after promising to remain at the current job, most famously Nick Saban's adamant denials as Alabama was courting him. The then-Miami Dolphins coach told reporters "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" on Dec. 21, 2006 and then was introduced in Tuscaloosa less than two weeks later on Jan. 4, 2007.
Kentucky fans should probably feel more confident Friday morning than they did Thursday night about Calipari intending to remain in Lexington beyond this season, but it's certainly understandable if lingering doubts remain.
If LeBron calls to ask Calipari to be his coach later this summer, would the Kentucky coach turn down $5 million to $8 million a year and the chance to return to the NBA? Direct denial or no direct denial, it's just not that easy to envision him doing that.