What would be next for John Calipari? He’s currently guiding an unbeaten Kentucky team through the NCAA Tournament, and there’s nowhere to go but down for him in the college game. According to a new report, though, Calipari is angling for another crack at coaching in the NBA, and it could come with the Nets, the team he coached previously.
It’s simple to follow the trail of where it went wrong, but one NBA front office official looked at the situation and believed there is a way back — and one that could happen.
The one name that could return the Nets to all of those things they thought they could be, that they seemed primed to be, is currently guiding the best college basketball team in the nation, a coach who crashed and burned with the Nets once already. The Nets can be saved by John Calipari.
“He desperately wants it,” the front office official said. “He won’t say it out loud. The NBA is the only place he’s ever failed and it drives him nuts. He’s not the same guy he was then. He came to the NBA and he wasn’t ready. He’s ready now.”
If it seems like grasping at straws, a big name to save the day, maybe it is. But NBA sources point to ties that are already in place. In the Nets’ struggles, the one person who has held the trust of Prokhorov is the man behind the marketing, the tireless Brett Yormark. While the product on the court has struggled, the branding of the Nets has been a blueprint for other franchises. While Calipari may have left some rifts when he was fired by the Nets, he remained close with Yormark.
Calipari previously flopped as Nets coach in parts of three seasons from 1997 to 1999. He had a 72-112 record and went back to the college ranks, where he’s had phenomenal success in recent years. He’s become known as the best recruiter in the nation, routinely attracting top-level talent to Kentucky and getting players better prepared for the NBA than any other college coach. If you look at the list of players who played for him at Kentucky, it speaks for itself: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Karl-Anthony Towns is in the conversation to be the top pick in the upcoming draft.
In June, Calipari reportedly turned down a $60 million offer from the Cavaliers, opting to stay at Kentucky. At the time, it wasn’t yet known that LeBron James would be returning. If James, a close friend of Calipari, was already on board, that may have changed the calculus on his decision.
Calipari wasn’t successful as an NBA coach before, but the climate of the NBA is far different now than it was in the 1990s. Player movement is controlled so much more by superstars, and Calipari has relationships with many of them. His strengths as a recruiter could prove invaluable to an NBA team, especially one in a big market like Brooklyn.
This is all speculation for now. Calipari is still trying to seal the deal on another national title with Kentucky. But the rumblings are starting that he may have his sights set higher going forward.