Kentucky’s longtime coach John Calipari reportedly in talks with Arkansas

Longtime Kentucky coach John Calipari is in negotiations to possibly leave and take the men’s basketball coaching job at Arkansas, according to multiple reports.

Arkansas officials have been in discussions with Calipari about the opening The Democrat-Gazette in Arkansas reports this, citing anonymous sources. ESPN reported that Calipari, also citing anonymous sources is finalizing a five-year agreement.

The 65-year-old Hall of Fame coach played the past 15 seasons at Kentucky. Athletic director Mitch Barnhart recently said Calipari would return despite calls for his dismissal following the Wildcats’ third straight early exit from the NCAA tournament.

Kentucky was seeded third in March Madness, but fell to No. 14 seed Oakland 80-76 in the first round. This loss came one year after the Wildcats were ousted in the second round, and two years after they were upset as a No. 2 seed by 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s in their NCAA opener.

Kentucky’s quick departure led to immediate calls for Calipari’s firing on sports talk shows and on social media, with many criticizing Kentucky’s defensive weaknesses and its reliance on so-called “one and done” freshmen. Calipari’s firing would have triggered a $33 million buyout under the terms of a lifetime contract signed in 2019; there is no buyout if he leaves for another job.

Calipari has a 410-122 record at Kentucky, including the 2012 national championship and three other Final Four appearances (2011, 2014 and 2015). His teams have reached the tournament a total of twelve times.

“As we normally do at the end of each season, Coach Calipari and I have had conversations about the direction of our men’s basketball program and I can confirm that he will return as our head coach for his 16th season,” Barnhart said five days later. the loss to Oakland.

Calipari and Barnhart met privately after the season ended. “That’s part of athletics and dealing with that, trying to get better, trying to figure out how we can do this together,” Calipari said, according to the Democrat-Gazette. “What must we do? I think one of the things I said about the meeting was Mitch said, “How can I help you? What can we do to help you get where you want to get this thing?” And we talked about three or four things, but that’s when you’re coaching.”

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Overall, Calipari has an 813-260 record in 32 seasons as a college head coach. He led UMass to the 1996 Final Four and also spent more than two seasons as coach of the New Jersey Nets before returning to the college ranks at Memphis.

Eric Musselman coached Arkansas for the past five years before leaving last week to become Southern California’s coach.