Wildcats signed head coach John Calipari through the 2020-21 season. (John W. McDonough/SI)
How much is John Calipari's ambition or patience worth?
At least $52.5 million over the next seven years, Kentucky figures.
Those are the jaw-unhinging details to Calipari's new seven-year contact to coach the Wildcats men's basketball team, announced by the school Thursday evening. Should he stay for the length of the deal, he'll earn in excess of $52 million. Calipari will starting by raking in $6.5 million total in 2014-15, a number comprising salary, additional compensation and what the school deems "retention bonuses" -- large outlays to Calipari for every year he remains on campus.
By the end of the deal -- in the years 2018-2019 through 2020-21 -- Calipari would earn $8 million per year, and that's before he earns any incentive bonuses for SEC championships or NCAA tournament Final Four appearances.
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Calipari, 55, has led Kentucky to a 152-37 record in his five seasons, featuring four Elite Eight trips, three Final Fours, two national title game appearances and one national championship in 2012. The Wildcats lost this year's title game to the Connecticut Huskies. Just as regular as the winning has been, so has the speculation Calipari might leap to the NBA in an effort to conquer the level where success eluded him. Calipari went 72-112 during a forgettable three-year stint with the then-New Jersey Nets from 1996-99.
"What Cal has done is returned us to those glory days of Final Fours and championship efforts, great players, and all along he’s helped young people understand the responsibility of going to class, of the commitment to each other and to a program that has as rich of a tradition as this one does," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "It has long been our goal over the last three to five years that Cal enjoy this as his final stop in coaching and that he has an opportunity to finish his career at the University of Kentucky and hopefully set standards and win championships that will be remembered for many, many years to come."
The lucrative new contract would be Kentucky's very strong move to mitigate the intense pressures coaching Kentucky thrusts upon him yearly, as well as an effort to snuff out any financial incentive Calipari would have to leave.
"I’ve said over and over that I have the best job in the country," Calipari said. "With the continued support from our administration and the greatest, craziest, fans in college basketball, we have accomplished a lot in our five quick years, but we still have lofty goals for the future. We want to continue to help young people and their families reach their dreams, while at the same time maintaining our success on the basketball court, in the classroom and in the community."