After interest from UCLA, John Calipari gets new 'lifetime' contract from Kentucky

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Update: April 1 - 6:20 p.m. ET

Kentucky has confirmed that it has agreed to terms on a “long-term contract” with John Calipari that will allow the coach to “finish his career” at Kentucky.

Original story: April 1 - 3:45 p.m.

In an effort to fend off a serious overture from UCLA, Kentucky has reportedly offered John Calipari a “lifetime” contract to stay in Lexington.

According to Seth Davis of The Athletic, the “lifetime” extension would “include a 10-year term as coach plus a promise to serve as a paid ambassador for the school after his retirement.” Calipari would also be in line for a raise.

The 60-year-old Calipari, whose current deal extends through 2024, is already the highest-paid coach in the country, earning $9.2 million in 2019, according to the USA Today coaches salary database.

Calipari led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight before falling to Auburn on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The 77-71 loss spelled the end of Calipari’s 10th season at UK. During that span, Kentucky has a 305-71 overall record and has reached the Final Four three times, including the 2012 national championship.

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 31: Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari stands with his hands folded late in overtime of the NCAA Midwest Regional Final game between the Auburn Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats on March 31, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.  (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Kentucky Wildcats and John Calipari lost in the Elite Eight to Auburn on Sunday. (Getty Images)

UCLA’s pursuit of Calipari

UCLA fired Steve Alford back on Dec. 31 and Calipari has been atop its list of potential replacements.

According to Davis, UCLA had a contract worth “approximately $48 million over six years” on the table for Calipari. The annual salary would have been a pay cut compared to what Calipari makes at Kentucky, which gave UCLA permission to speak with Calipari.

However, Calipari went public with his commitment to stay in Lexington on March 20, but talks between UCLA and Calipari’s representatives were “more extensive than previously reported,” per Davis.

When Kentucky officials “learned how serious UCLA’s offer was,” they moved to keep Calipari entrenched at UK for years to come. Calipari said in a March 20 tweet that his “plan and desire” is to retire at UK.

What’s next for UCLA?

With the dream of bringing in Calipari apparently off the table, the school has other candidates in mind. One will coach this weekend at the Final Four.

As Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported last week, UCLA has interest in Virginia’s Tony Bennett. Davis’ story reiterated that interest, saying Bennett has declined to speak to UCLA “until his team is through playing.” Virginia plays Auburn on Saturday night in Minneapolis.

Other names under consideration in Westwood include Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and Eric Musselman of Nevada, per Thamel. Ex-Ohio State coach Thad Matta spoke with UCLA officials but withdrew his name from consideration for the job, according to Davis.

UCLA went 17-16 this season. The Bruins played in four NCAA tournaments under Alford but failed to make it past the Sweet 16. The program also won just one Pac-12 title during Alford’s tenure.

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