John Calipari announces he's leaving Kentucky, doesn't indicate next move despite Arkansas reports

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 20: Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats speaks during practice day at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 20, 2024 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
John Calipari has left Kentucky after 15 years at the helm of the Wildcats. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

It's now official: John Calipari is leaving Kentucky.

Calipari posted a video Tuesday on X announcing his decision, but didn't indicate his next move. On Sunday, multiple media outlets reported Calipari was in "serious talks" to become Arkansas' next head coach.

"The last few weeks, we've come to realize that this program probably needs to hear another voice, that the university as a whole has to have another voice giving guidance about this program," Calipari said in the video.

Calipari had experienced quite a bit of success at Kentucky. Hired in 2009, he led the Wildcats to six regular-season SEC titles and 12 NCAA tournament appearances, which included five trips to the Final Four and a national title in 2012.

Things haven’t gone well in the NCAA tournament since the Wildcats won that national title in 2012. In the 12 years since the championship, Kentucky has missed the tournament twice and hasn’t made a Final Four since 2015. And Kentucky hasn’t made a Sweet 16 since 2019.

After missing the tournament in 2021, Kentucky lost in stunning fashion to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in 2022. Following a loss in the second round as a No. 6 seed a season ago, the Wildcats again were a part of the biggest upset of the NCAA tournament this March when they lost to No. 14 seed Oakland in the first round.

Those two first-round losses over the past three seasons discontented Kentucky’s fan base. And put the school in a tough spot given Calipari’s recruiting success and his massive buyout. It would have cost Kentucky over $30 million to fire Calipari.

Not long after the loss to Oakland, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Calipari would be back as the team’s coach for the 2024-25 season. But USC head coach Andy Enfield’s departure to SMU set off a domino effect that led Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman to the Trojans. And that allowed an exit for both Calipari and Kentucky. By Calipari resigning for another job (likely at Arkansas), Kentucky doesn’t have to pay him a buyout.

At Kentucky, Calipari was reportedly the second-highest paid coach in the country, earning more than $8.5 million per season, which has him behind only Kansas’ Bill Self.

Barnhart said on X: "We're appreciative of John Calipari leading our program for the last 15 years, adding to the legacy of championship success at Kentucky. We're grateful to John for his many contributions to the University, and our state, both on and off the court."

Now it's Kentucky's turn on the coaching carousel. The Wildcats have already had some "thanks, but no thanks" responses from high-profile coaches like Jay Wright, formerly of Villanova, and Dan Hurley, who led UConn to another national championship on Monday night. But Kentucky shouldn't have a problem finding a talented individual willing to return Kentucky to its former glory — especially knowing what the school can afford to pay the right coach.

"We are working diligently to hire a proven, highly decorated coach who embraces the importance of this program to our fans and the state of Kentucky," Barnhart said on X.

Calipari didn't give hints about his reported next move.

"There have been opportunities that have been presented to us, and we're discussing them as a family," he said.