Prior to inking a long-term contract to stay at Kentucky, Wildcats head coach John Calipari shined as one of the hotter names on the NBA head coaching market this offseason. Calipari was linked to the Lakers' opening, thanks in part to Kentucky's own Rex Chapman, but also drew additional interest. Calipari was reportedly in discussions with the Cavaliers about their coaching vacancy before agreeing to stay in the Bluegrass state.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Brett Dawson of Yahoo Sports bring the specifics:
Before finalizing a contract extension with the University of Kentucky late last week, John Calipari had gone deep in discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a seven-year, $60 million-plus contract to become president and coach, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had been persistent in his pursuit and kept returning to Calipari in an effort to deliver full control of basketball operations, sources said.
Gilbert and Calipari had discussed a package in the range of $8 million-plus a year, sources said, and it wasn't until midweek that Calipari finally rejected Cleveland and fully committed to his seven-year, $52 million extension at Kentucky.
If Calipari had gone to Cleveland, the plan would've been for new general manager David Griffin to work with Calipari in the front office, but he would've ceded final decisions on personnel matters to Calipari, sources said.
In addition to the initial report from Yahoo, Marc Stein of ESPN.com shed additional light on the proceedings, including a bombshell that the offer to Calipari could have reached into the $80 million range.
As we just discussed on @SportsCenter, I'm told money details in Cavs' pitch to John Calipari were closer to $80 million range over 10 years
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 9, 2014
Stein's revelation of the astronomical financial totals is interesting, but more than that, the implication that Cleveland's pursuit of Calipari was directly tied to LeBron James opens up an additional can of worms. The rumor mill surrounding the best player in the world and a potential return to his home state is never-ending, and Cleveland's rationale would seemingly make increased sense.
Wojnarowski stood by his original report, but indicated that the Cavaliers were ready to offer Calipari just about everything:
After 7 years as coach/president, there was talk of transition to president-only for Calipari-Cavs. Still, offer was 7 years, $60M-plus.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 9, 2014
While it certainly isn't a surprise that the Cavaliers elected to pursue Calipari with their opening, news that Calipari explored the move with some depth is quite intriguing. The Cleveland opening was made increasingly visible after the franchise won the 2014 draft lottery, but the roster is still in the questionable stage, and with Calipari locked in to one of the top positions in college basketball, it would seemingly take a great deal for him to jump to the NBA. Still, a deal in this financial range would place him in elite company among NBA coaches/executives, and the allure, even aside from any LeBron pursuit, is understandable.
Whispers of interest on the Cleveland side can be traced back a few weeks, but for general manager David Griffin, the thought that he could have been usurped by Calipari just a short time ago could be slightly unsettling. At this stage, the Cavaliers are still searching for their next head coach, but it is unlikely to match the name recognition of someone like John Calipari.
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