University of Kentucky coach John Calipari is the primary target of the Nets, who fired coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned GM Billy King on Sunday, several sources close to Calipari and the team told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News late Sunday. However, Calipari took to Twitter this morning to brush off that and other rumors connecting him to the Nets, writing, “You may have heard me say this before: I absolutely have the best coaching job in sports and I plan on being at Kentucky for a long time. I am not negotiating with ANYBODY. My total focus is on this team and winning the next game” (Twitter links). Calipari later said during a conference call that he appreciates the Kentucky job and is “humbled” to be in it, note Josh Newman and Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
The remark about negotiation seemed to be in response to an overnight report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, who heard from league sources who say Calipari has told the Nets, as well as the Kings, that it would take an offer of at least 10 years and $120MM. He’d also demand that he be head coach and have complete control of the front office, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com confirms. Prokhorov today indicated that he’d prefer a separate coach and GM. Assistant GM Frank Zanin is running the front office for the time being and assistant coach Tony Brown is the interim head coach.
Nets CEO Brett Yormark is reportedly prepared to give Calipari whatever he wants, but while he appears to have more influence than in the past, he’s not seen as a major contributor to the decision-making on the next Nets front office chief, according to Windhorst. People who have spoken to the Nets recently instead believe Nets chairman Dmitry Razumov and Irina Pavlova, president of Prokhorov’s ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment holding company and liaison between the owner and team management, will run the search for a new GM and coach, Windhorst hears. A belief is growing across the league that Nets board member Sergey Kushchenko increasingly has Prokhorov’s ear, according to Windhorst. Prokhorov said today that he’ll spend more time than usual in the U.S. while searching for a new GM and coach and told commissioner Adam Silver that he and Razumov intend to take a more hands-on approach during the transition and going forward, as Silver told Harvey Araton of The New York Times.
King, whom the Nets will reassign within the organization, won’t be directly involved in the club’s search for a GM, in spite of reports to the contrary, though he can offer suggestions “as a friend,” Prokhorov said today, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. The ex-GM has a close relationship with Razumov, as Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com points out, though the organization views the 2013 trade to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett that happened on King’s watch as a “massive mistake,” Mazzeo writes. The ESPNNewYork.com scribe also intimates that King’s fallout with former Nets coach Jason Kidd prompted the GM not to re-sign Pierce, who shares agent Jeff Schwartz with Kidd.
The $120MM is figure that Calipari is reportedly seeking is up somewhat from the $11MM-plus that Calipari told minority owners of the Kings that he wanted this summer, as Wojnarowski also reports. The Cavs offered 10 years and $80MM in 2014, but he turned that down, Wojnarowski adds. Calipari receives nearly annual extensions from Kentucky, having signed one this past spring worth $54MM plus bonuses, Windhorst notes. Calipari’s previous coaching relationships with several prominent future free agents represent his allure to NBA teams, but some people close to his former Kentucky players say they’re reluctant to again endure the coach’s caustic style, according to Wojnarowski. Some around Calipari would prefer he join the Kings rather than the Nets, who have more limited maneuverability to improve, Wojnarowski also writes.
Many people around the league “believe there is more smoke than fire” when it comes to the idea of Calipari returning to the NBA, but his failed tenure with the Nets in the late 1990s is his greatest regret in basketball, sources tell Brian Lewis of the New York Post.