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With John Calipari on the way out, a top candidate for the Kentucky job makes a statement

Alabama head coach Nate Oats — widely mentioned as a top candidate for the open Kentucky men’s basketball job — reaffirmed his commitment to the Crimson Tide on Monday night.

Oats, who led Alabama to its first Final Four in program history this season, posted on X — in a message directed to “Bama Nation” — that he will continue in his current role.

“I am fully committed to this team and to this University,” Oats said in his post. “We have already accomplished some great things here, and there is nothing I want more than for the University of Alabama to win its first national championship in men’s basketball. Despite any rumors to the contrary, rest assured that I will continue that pursuit as your head coach.”

Alabama head coach Nate Oats has been with the Crimson Tide for the past five seasons and led them to the Final Four this year.
Alabama head coach Nate Oats has been with the Crimson Tide for the past five seasons and led them to the Final Four this year.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has been in talks with Arkansas regarding its head coaching vacancy, and that deal was expected to be finalized Tuesday. Calipari, who announced his departure from Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon, has spent the past 15 seasons as UK’s head coach, leading the program to four Final Fours and the 2012 national championship, though the Wildcats have not advanced past the Elite Eight since 2015.

Oats, who has spent the past five seasons with the Crimson Tide, is viewed as one of the biggest up-and-coming coaches in the country after leading the program to the No. 1 overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and then making it to the Final Four this season.

He signed a contract extension last month that will keep him with the school through the 2029-30 season and make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. That deal included an $18 million buyout if he left Alabama for another school.

The price tag was not expected to deter Kentucky in its search for a new head coach, though Baylor’s Scott Drew has been viewed as the leading candidate for the opening.

Former Villanova head coach Jay Wright also said on the national championship game broadcast Monday night that he would not be the next head coach at Kentucky, praising Calipari for the job that he has done in Lexington during his tenure.

Wright, who turned 62 years old in December and coached the Wildcats for 21 seasons, retired from the sidelines in 2022 and is now a national commentator for CBS.

“The guy that replaces him is going to be in a really difficult position — to cover all the areas of college basketball,” said Wright, who led Villanova to two national titles. “He’s a college basketball genius. What he did in recruiting, and bringing in all those pros and all those guys that come back to Kentucky — makes that program as strong as ever. Whoever comes in there is coming into an extremely strong program.”

Wright’s broadcast colleague Seth Davis then asked the former Villanova coach if that was a “firm no” that he would not be interested in the Kentucky job. Wright said it was.

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