John Calipari was the head coach and the guy with the hammer on personnel decisions with the then New Jersey Nets for three seasons in the late 1990s, and he was 72-112 with that team. And Jerry West fleeced him out of drafting Kobe Bryant. Eventually, Calipari went back to college and has done quite well for himself, returning Kentucky to a powerhouse position in the sport.
As soon as Lionel Hollins was fired as coach and GM Billy King was reassigned from his duties on Sunday, Calipari’s name started coming up again in rumors. With good reason, explains Adrian Wojnarowski over at Yahoo Sports.
One of the major influences in the search process promises to be Nets CEO Brett Yormark, who has remained an immense ally of Kentucky coach John Calipari since Calipari’s late 1990s tenure as Nets president and coach. Yormark has remained a proponent of making a lucrative offer to bring Calipari back to the Nets in a dual president and coaching role, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Calipari returning to the NBA rumors are an annual tradition — just like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhogs Day, and just about as meaningful. That said, the Nets do have the money and they could give him the power that would make him consider a return to the NBA.
Do they have the situation to get him to return? Probably not. He’s a man with options, and the Nets GM job is set up to be the worst one in the league for the next few seasons. It’s going to take years to rebuild, and owner Mikhail Prokhorov has not shown himself to be the most patient of owners. The Nets don’t have a lot of talent on the roster (10-27 record this season), and what they do have is generally older and not going to get a lot on trades (outside Brook Lopez and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson). If you’re thinking rebuild through the draft remember the Nets don’t have or control their own first-round pick until 2019.
Calipari would be counted on to use his charm and connections — his former players at Kentucky, and other players as well, love him — to lure free agents to Brooklyn. The Nets have the cap space. But elite free agents are going to see the rebuild ahead in Brooklyn, and even the pull of New York and Calipari together will not be enough.
Which is why Calipari will look at his options and stay in Kentucky.
That said, expect the Nets to make a run at Calipari. Well, probably. It’s hard to say who has control or what they are going to do in Brooklyn.