For Calipari to consider the Nets – and, yes, the Sacramento Kings, too – league sources tell Yahoo Sports that the teams have been informed of his asking price: 10 years, $120 million.
When Calipari spoke with minority ownership in Sacramento last spring, he told them that it would take an offer of $11 million-plus a year to get his attention, league sources said.
Calipari’s sell will be this: As his old Kentucky stars – DeMarcus Cousins (2018), John Wall (2019) – become free agents, he’ll have the Nets positioned to sign them. His former players have largely kept excellent relationships with him, but there are those close to them who say that most of his ex-stars remain reluctant to committing to 82 games a year of Cal’s abrasive style.
If I were the Nets or Kings, I wouldn’t come close to meeting those demands.
Calipari is far from a lock to succeed as an NBA coach. He failed once already running the Nets, and college coaches rarely translate to the pros. His best skill, recruiting high school players, means nothing in the NBA.
Pitching free agents arguably requires similar abilities. But unlike college, players rarely choose a team for its coach. I’d be shocked if Cousins or Wall sign anywhere with Calipari as the prime reason. Perhaps, Calipari could put Sacramento – where Cousins has already expressed a commitment to winning – over the top with the center, but that’s about it. And a winning NBA coach would do far more than one with a college connection.
I believe Calipari is better equipped now than he was for his previous Nets stint, but that means only so much. His overall performance also might be all-or-nothing with his ability to lure free agents. Calipari, though underrated in this regard, has hardly shown the Xs-and-Os acumen to lead a less-talented roster to success.
If the Nets or Kings are going to spend that type of money, they should go after people more likely to succeed. Start with Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford and work your way down the list. See how much money would be necessary to convince someone to leave their better job and how much compensation it’d take his current team to let him out of his contract.
Don’t target Calipari – a huge risk – with those resources.
For Calipari, this asking price is completely reasonable. If no NBA team jumps at making him the sport’s highest-paid coach, he can stay at Kentucky – the premier program in the country – and remain one the highest-paid coaches. His fallback option is great.
And just in case it works, he can try preying on the desperation in Brooklyn and Sacramento.