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Rumor: John Calipari eyeing potential return to NBA coaching ranks

SEC Men's Basketball Tournament - Kentucky v Mississippi State

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11: Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats watches game action against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half of their second round game in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. Mississippi State defeats Kentucky 74-73. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

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This feels like John Calipari trying to leverage another raise in Kentucky, but the report is out there.

With all the coaching vacancies around the NBA — Boston, Indiana, Portland, Orlando, New Orleans, Washington — Calipari is considering returning to the NBA, reports Ben Rohrbach and Vincent Goodwill with Yahoo Sports.

Calipari is a bit of a surprise here, but multiple sources tell Yahoo Sports Calipari would be open to jumping back into the NBA. He had a taste in the late 90s, taking over the then-New Jersey Nets following a stint at UMass that didn’t go particularly well. But the changing dynamics at Kentucky, along with the massive expectations from the fan base and alumni, could have him looking for a second bite.

“He may have maxed out at Kentucky,” a high-ranking executive told Yahoo Sports.


The dynamics around college basketball are changing — a lot of the one-and-done players Calipari was able to recruit and win with are now jumping to the G-League Ignite or other professional spots — and Calipari may read the writing on the wall and want to get out.

Calipari went 72-112 in 2+ seasons as the head coach of the then New Jersey Nets. Those teams were led by Kendall Gill and Sam Cassell.

Calipari, 62, is loved by many of his former players and others around the league. He’s also known as an intense coach, both in games and in practices, something that works better for college coaches than it does in the NBA (it’s a long grind of an NBA season to be yelling all the time, plus the star players have more power in the organization than the coach).

Where would Calipari fit in the NBA?

Would a team like Washington, looking to make a bold move to win with big stars like Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, consider him? Rebuilding Orlando? Is this the kind of guy Damian Lillard wants in Portland?

Or is this all about Calipari leveraging Kentucky?