John Calipari's freshly signed contract extension certainly doesn't guarantee he won't leave Kentucky for an NBA gig one day, but it may mean he'd have to take a pay cut to make it happen.
Kentucky awarded Calipari a two-year extension and a raise on Monday, increasing his annual salary to an average of $4.56 million over the next eight years with the opportunity to earn additional performance-based incentives. That's well above the average annual salary for an NBA coach, which was at $3.4 million according to a 2010 Newark Star Ledger story.
The Boston Celtics made Doc Rivers the highest-paid NBA coach when they awarded him a five-year, $35 million extension this spring, but it's hard to imagine a franchise giving Calipari anywhere near that. Not only do college coaches have a checkered history once they make the jump to the NBA, Calipari himself also went 72-112 in two-plus seasons as coach of the New Jersey Nets before being fired early in the 1998-99 season.
Calipari's name popped up in connection to NBA vacancies in Cleveland, New Jersey and Chicago last spring during the LeBron James sweepstakes, but none of those dalliances appeared to progress very far.
Although Calipari has publicly maintained his loyalty to Kentucky throughout his tenure, it doesn't seem unfathomable that he'd have interest in an NBA gig. The opportunity to prove he can succeed there surely would be part of his motivation, but a competitive salary and control of player personnel would also likely be factors.
Such an offer appears even more unlikely today now that Calipari has been rewarded for leading Kentucky to a pair of SEC tournament titles and a Final Four berth in his first two seasons in Lexington. Calipari will make about $30,000 for every 10 game minutes he coaches, more than the average Kentucky resident makes in a year.
"I'm excited being here and I'm happy about this opportunity," Calipari said Monday on the SEC summer teleconference. "It took me a long time to get to a place like UK, no disrespect to Memphis and UMass, both great programs, but to have an opportunity like I have to be connected to our fan base like we are and be a part of a situation that is so passionate, I'm excited about it."
One of Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart's objectives for Calipari's new contract was to align it with his own eight-year deal.
"What John Calipari has done on and off the court in the past two years to reunite and rejuvenate this fan base has been magical," Barnhart said in a statement released by the school. "He understands the responsibility that goes along with this position and there is no other coach out there that is a better fit for the best basketball program in the country."