Calipari hired by Arkansas, signs 5-year contract - 4 minutes read

Jeff Borzello, ESPN Staff WriterApr 10, 2024, 10:35 AM ETClose Basketball recruiting insider.
Joined ESPN in 2014.
Graduate of University of Delaware.

John Calipari officially was named the head coach of the Arkansas men's basketball program, and the Hall of Famer will be making less with the Razorbacks than he did at Kentucky.

Calipari, 65, signed a five-year contract starting at $7 million per season -- less than the $8.5 million he was making with the Wildcats. The deal, announced Wednesday, includes a $1 million signing bonus and $500,000 retention bonuses each year of the contract, plus incentives for making the NCAA tournament and advancing deep into the tournament. There are also two automatic rollover years for NCAA tournament appearances that would extend the deal to 2031.

"By all accounts, John Calipari is one of the premier coaches in college basketball," athletic director Hunter Yurachek said. "A national championship coach, a four-time national coach of the year and one of the nation's top recruiters, Coach Cal has consistently demonstrated his ability to attract outstanding talent and build championship teams within the Southeastern Conference and position his programs among the best in the nation.

"As I visited with Coach Calipari during this process, he acknowledged the tremendous opportunity we have at the University of Arkansas to attract and retain top players and compete for championships. He understands the deep passion of the Razorback Nation and has experienced the tremendous home court advantage of Bud Walton Arena. I have no doubt that under Coach Calipari's leadership and with the collective support of all those who love the Hogs, Razorback Basketball will continue to maintain its national prominence within college basketball."

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Calipari replaces Eric Musselman, who left last week to take over at USC.

One of the biggest names in college sports for the past three decades, Calipari had been at Kentucky since 2009. He led the Wildcats to the national title in 2012 and went to four Final Fours in his first six seasons in Lexington. Kentucky then went to the Elite Eight in 2017 and 2019 but has won just one NCAA tournament game since that last run to the regional final.

He established the Wildcats as a recruiting powerhouse, routinely landing top-ranked recruiting classes and sending players to the NBA draft lottery. He produced 35 first-round NBA draft picks during his time at Kentucky.

Calipari went 410-123 with the Wildcats.

Prior to taking over for Billy Gillispie at Kentucky in 2009, Calipari was the head coach at Memphis for nine seasons. He led the Tigers to two Elite Eights and reached the national championship game in 2008, where they lost to Kansas in overtime.

Since '09-10UKARKW-LD-I Rank410-1234th312-192T-60th1st-rd picksD-I Rank351st4T-25thSince 2009-10

Calipari also led UMass to the Final Four in 1996 before leaving for the NBA and coaching the Nets for three seasons.

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart released a statement Tuesday announcing the program would begin its search for a new men's basketball coach. Three coaches have distanced themselves from the job this week.

Alabama's Nate Oats announced Monday night that he plans to stay in Tuscaloosa. UConn's Dan Hurley made it clear after leading the Huskies to back-to-back national championships that he's also not going anywhere.

"Now you're thinking in your brain, as I'm looking at the locker room, about the chance to do it three times, like a dynasty in modern times," Hurley said after UConn's win over Purdue. "I mean, that's what I'm thinking about."

Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who began his coaching career as an assistant at Kentucky under Rick Pitino from 1989 to 1993, told reporters Tuesday that he hasn't been contacted by anybody and his "total commitment and focus is here to this team and to this group."

Since news of Calipari's departure first broke Sunday night, Kentucky's roster has undergone major changes. Star guard Rob Dillingham has declared for the NBA draft, while freshman center Aaron Bradshaw entered the transfer portal. In addition, top-25 recruits Karter Knox and Jayden Quaintance both announced they were decommitting from the Wildcats and reopening their recruitment.

Source: ESPN

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