Kentucky may have finally found a way to silence persistent chatter that John Calipari will one day leave for the NBA.
The school gave Calipari such a lucrative contract extension Thursday that he'd likely have to take a paycut to coach an NBA team.
The seven-year contract Calipari signed is worth a total of $52.9 million, meaning the Kentucky coach will make an average of $7.55 million per year. The length of that contract is largely irrelevant because college coaches often leave with years left on their deal, but the money Calipari is receiving is certainly notable since it's probably more than he could make as an NBA coach.
Doc Rivers makes $7 million per year as coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. Stan Van Gundy will reportedly receive the same amount to coach and run basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons. With the possible exception of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, it appears no other current NBA coach has a salary that approaches the $7 million mark.
Why would Kentucky pay Calipari more than he'd be likely to receive in the NBA? Well, frankly, because he is probably worth more to the Wildcats than he'd be to an NBA franchise.
Though Calipari's oft-maligned tactical skills are probably better than he gets credit for and his knack for motivating players would translate well to the NBA, there's no question that recruiting remains his biggest strength. The ability to land a handful of McDonald's All-Americans each year is invaluable at Kentucky but irrelevant to the Lakers, Knicks or any other NBA franchise.
Under his new deal, Calipari is guaranteed $6.5 million in compensation next season; $7 million in 2015-16; $7.25 million in 2016-17; $7.75 million in 2017-18. He'll receive a guaranteed $8 million per season the last three years of his contract.
It's always difficult to measure the exact salaries of college coaches because so little is often base salary and so much is incentive-laden, but it appears Calipari's contract makes him the second highest-paid coach in college basketball. USA Today reported that Mike Krzyzewski earned $7.2 million in 2010, $9.7 million in 2011 and just over $6 million in 2012.
Calipari's new contract doesn't ensure he'll never jump to the NBA — the potential for burnout at a program as intensely scrutinized as Kentucky is high and the challenge of redeeming himself for a poor showing as coach of the New Jersey Nets has to be appealing.
Still, Calipari doesn't seem like the type to voluntarily take a massive paycut. That means if an NBA team is interested in him, it will probably need both a roster built to win right away and a contract offer lucrative enough to make Calipari one of the league's highest-paid coaches.
For more Kentucky news, visit CatsIllustrated.com.
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