According to Adrian Wojnarowksi and Brett Dawson, before agreeing to a seven-year, $52 million extension with the Kentucky Wildcats, John Calipari was deep in negotiations with the Cleveland Cavaliers to become both head coach and president of basketball operations.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was very aggressive in his attempt to persuade Calipari to return to the NBA and his offer trumped that of Kentucky’s, reportedly being worth $60-plus million over seven-years. Had he gone to Cleveland, Calipari would have been making $8 million-plus per year.
The deal would have placed Calipari among the highest paid coaches and executives in the NBA.
Furthermore, The two time Naismith college coach of the year was tempted by the prospect of coaching Kyrie Irving and the fact that the Cavaliers have the number one pick in June’s draft. Had he made the leap to the NBA, it would have amplified the rumors about LeBron James returning to Cleveland, a possibility that now seems as unlikely as ever.
Calipari would have worked with new general manager David Griffin but ultimately would of had final say on personnel matters.
It is believed that a significant factor in the Wildcats head coach’s decision is the fact that Andrew and Aaron Harrison as well as Willie Cauley-Stein are forgoing the NBA draft to return to Kentucky for another season.
Calipari was president and head coach of the New Jersey Nets from 1996 to 1999 but made the playoffs just once, being swept by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.