If you believe a report out of New Jersey, Kentucky's John Calipari "desperately" wants another shot at coaching in the NBA, according to an anonymous NBA source. So we project who Kentucky might target if Coach Cal leaves and their odds of coming.
It was the Bergen Record that had the report. "He desperately wants it," the front office official said to the paper's Steve Popper about Calipari. "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."
Of course Calipari failed miserably as the coach/GM of the New Jersey Nets. The team was just 72-112 under him and Calipari was dumped after a 3-17 start in 1998-99, his third season. All successful coaches have egos and no coach wants to be branded a failure so you can see why Calipari might want another chance at the pros. Look at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. He had a dynasty at USC like Calipari has now at Kentucky, but Carroll had an itch to scratch in the NFL due to previous failures (pending NCAA sanctions no doubt helped push Carroll out the door at Southern Cal). Rick Pitino tried the NBA twice.
Why might Calipari leave now? If Kentucky finishes 40-0 and wins a second national title under Calipari, there's really nowhere to go but down. Big Blue Nation will expect undefeated seasons and national titles every year going forward. It's a no-win situation. Plus if Calipari fails, he knows that he can return to college for any job he wants.
Here are who I believe will be the top four candidates Kentucky may target with NCAA Basketball odds on that coach going to Lexington.
Billy Donovan, Florida
This obviously makes all the sense in the world. Donovan learned under Pitino as a former assistant at UK. Donovan has two national championships and had turned Florida into the SEC's pre-eminent program before Calipari arrived. That's at a football school. Think about what Donovan could do at a basketball school with unlimited resources and fan support. After Donovan's second national title at UF, Kentucky tried to get him but Donovan kept the Wildcats at an arm's reach (Donovan took the Orlando Magic job but quickly changed his mind). UK hired Billy Gillispie (oops!). Were Donovan anywhere else but Florida, I could see him taking the Kentucky job, but I find it hard to believe he would leave UF for its biggest basketball rival because Donovan loves Florida. If he goes somewhere, it's the NBA. Those who make NCAA Basketball picks know that he will be Kentucky's first call, however.
Odds to be next UK coach: +1500.
Sean Miller, Arizona
Miller is largely considered the best active coach yet to reach a Final Four, although that could be remedied by this weekend -- Arizona could face Kentucky in the national semifinals next Saturday in Indianapolis. Arizona is probably one of the five-best jobs in the country, and Miller has another great recruiting class coming next year. He recruits about as well as anyone. However, Arizona simply isn't Kentucky. Maybe Miller is more of an Eastern guy as he was born in Pennsylvania, played at Pitt and got his first head-coaching gig at Xavier. I think only two guys make UK fans happy to replace Calipari: Donovan and Miller.
Odds to be next UK coach: +200.
Jay Wright, Villanova
The Big East is a fine conference, but it's still not a Power 5 league. Plus did you see how the Big East flopped in this year's Big Dance? Perhaps Wright has hit his ceiling with the Wildcats, who flamed out in the Round of 32 last weekend as the only top seed eliminated. Under-performing has become a theme in the NCAA Tournament of late for Villanova, which won its second straight Big East regular season championship. Wright is a good-looking, suave guy so he would be a natural fit to coach under the spotlight at Kentucky. The only question is whether Wright would leave what is essentially a hometown job as he is from Churchville, Pa.
Odds to be next UK coach: +500.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
You can't argue with Marshall's success with the mid-major Shockers. He claims to be very happy at the basketball-first school, but there are also reports he will listen when Alabama comes calling for its current opening once Wichita State is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. Might Marshall wait for a better job? Sure, Bama is in the SEC, but it's obviously a football-focused school. There's zero question that of the four guys on this list that Marshall would take the Kentucky job. But is he a big enough name to satisfy Big Blue Nation? Remember, Calipari came from a mid-major (Memphis) as well.
Odds to be next UK coach: +600. (I don't believe he goes to Alabama)