12:38pm: Calipari took to Twitter to deny interest in the Pelicans. “Even though Anthony and Tyreke are in NOLA, I have no interest in the Pelicans or any other job,” Calipari wrote. “I have a great job and I’m happy at UK.”
12:00pm: University of Kentucky coach John Calipari has made Pelicans higher-ups aware that he has interest in the team’s job, a source close to Calipari told John Reid of The Times-Picayune. The sides have had exploratory conversations, Reid adds, but it doesn’t look like the team would be on board with paying him enough to lure him from his college gig. The Pelicans are willing to pay between $4MM and $5MM for their next coach, league sources tell Reid, but Calipari is reportedly close to an extension with Kentucky that would bring his average annual salary to around $7.7MM. Calipari hasn’t signed that extension, Reid points out, but the gap between those salaries and what he would make with the Pelicans is a major stumbling block to the idea that the recruiting maestro would end up in New Orleans, Reid hears.
The Pelicans reportedly interviewed Alvin Gentry on Monday night, and have apparently made calls on Jeff Van Gundy and hold interest in Scott Brooks, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Most of the chatter surrounding the New Orleans job before Monday centered on Tom Thibodeau. There’s reportedly been mutual interest there, and league sources confirm to Reid that the Pelicans still have him in their sights. Still, there was a lot of talk at the combine that the Pelicans would be hesitant to give Chicago the compensation it would seek for letting Thibs out of his contract, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
Johnson surmised that it supports the notion that New Orleans is waiting to see how it shakes out between the Bulls and Thibodeau, who have seemed destined to part. Chicago still has its coach under contract for two more seasons for a total of close to $9MM, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported. It’s unclear just how much Thibs would seek in a new deal from another team, Reid notes, suggesting, meanwhile, that what Gentry would command would fall into the Pelicans’ preferred $4-5MM range.
Calipari would want to have input on player personnel decisions in New Orleans, Reid hears, though that would be difficult to accommodate with executive vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis and GM Dell Demps both exercising prominent decision-making powers. Still, there are close ties between the Kentucky coach and the Pelicans roster, which features Anthony Davis, perhaps the most prominent player among the many stars who’ve played for Calipari on the Wildcats. Tyreke Evans, who played for Calipari at the University of Memphis, is also a Pelican.
An NBA executive told Steve Popper of The Record in March that Calipari “desperately” wanted back in the league, years after a disastrous stint as a coach/executive with the Nets in the late 1990s. Nothing has come of speculation that there was a way for him to rejoin the Nets, in spite of the apparent presence of advocates for him within the Brooklyn organization. Calipari and the Cavs reportedly had talks about the idea that he would become Cleveland’s coach and president last year, but Calipari instead returned to Kentucky. Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors speculated this past weekend that Calipari was a dark horse for the New Orleans job.