LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s a conversation nearly every offseason, but here we are again speculating that it's possible John Calipari could be lured back to the NBA.
Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky since 2009 with four trips to the Final Four and one national championship during that time. But Calipari's Wildcats have not seen success as of recent. They haven't made it to the Final Four since 2015 and haven't won a tournament game since 2019.
On Monday's Locked On Kentucky podcast, your daily podcast covering all things Kentucky Wildcats, host Lance Dawe discusses rumors that are emerging about Calipari potentially seeking a job elsewhere.
“With the heat that fans are attempting to put on him this offseason, I assumed that something like this would come around at some point,” Dawe said on Locked On Kentucky.
Dawe references how Heavy.com NBA editor Sean Deveney said there’s a growing buzz that Calipari is willing to explore leaving Kentucky, specifically with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dawe said Deveney said on a live stream that Calipari is a possibility for the Lakers job, which is expected to open up this offseason. Deveney also mentioned things were comfortable at Kentucky for Calipari, so it may be difficult to leave. But, Dawe says things may not actually be so comfortable for Kentucky.
“I don’t know if there’s legitimate smoke here, but I will say this. Deveney noted that Calipari was a ‘god’ at Kentucky and he also said it’s a comfortable situation…I think a lot of people would agree it’s not a comfortable situation. It’s not an easy place for Calipari to be in," Dawe said on Locked On Kentucky. "A lot people are upset with what’s going on, especially considering he couldn’t pull at least one NCAA Tournament win in season where you had the national player of the year.”
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Dawe said if Calipari doesn’t put together a deep run in the NCAA Tournament soon, it’s just going to get worse for him.
“If you saw this past season, you would know not only is Calipari not in a good spot, but also the road is in fact getting tougher and tougher…Texas and Oklahoma are coming to the SEC in a couple years and nothing is going to get easier for John Calipari from here on out. And we’ve already gotten to see a bit of a dip in recruiting," Dawe said.
Kentucky hasn’t won a tournament game in three years. Recruiting has dipped. But Dawe still said he doesn't believe now is the time that Calipari would leave, despite the Lakers job likely opening up and rumors that they would be interested in Calipari. However, the end could be near for him at Kentucky.
“I don’t think he leaves now," Dawe said. "I don’t think he leaves this summer. But this could be on the horizon. I’ll also say this, I think a move to the NBA would make sense for Calipari. You don’t have to worry about recruiting. I think Calipari’s offensive system works best when you have the 5-star elite talent. I think he could find some success in the NBA. It’s realistic to think his next move, if he has one, is to go to the NBA.”
Calipari coached the New Jersey Nets from 1996-1999 and was an assistant with the Sixers from 1999-2000, before taking the head coaching job at the University of Memphis.
It's not expected that the Lakers will continue with Frank Vogel at head coach after a tumultuous season that looks like it will end with the Lakers missing the playoffs.
The Lakers obviously have LeBron James as well as Anthony Davis, who played at Kentucky for Calipari when they won the national title.