John Calipari

And-Ones: Calipari, Trice, Ochefu, Pistons

After receiving some interest from UCLA, Kentucky head coach John Calipari has elected to remain with the Wildcats, and the program made it worth his while to do so, reports Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com. According to Borzello, Calipari – who was already under contract through 2024 – has agreed to an extension that will run through his retirement, and will also feature a lifetime role as an ambassador to the university.

“Where else would I want to coach?” Calipari said on his radio show in confirming the news.

Calipari reportedly received a six-year, $48MM offer from UCLA before electing to extend his agreement with Kentucky, per Seth Davis of The Athletic. The 60-year-old is the highest-paid head coach in the NCAA ranks, earning a reported $9.2MM salary this season.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Travis Trice, a veteran G League guard who has been in camp with the Knicks and Bucks in recent years, is headed to Turkey to continue his professional career. After averaging 16.9 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 4.3 RPG in 36 total NBAGL games this season for the Austin Spurs and Wisconsin Herd, Trice has officially signed with Tofas SK, the team announced (via Twitter).
  • Former Wizards center Daniel Ochefu, who appeared in 19 games for Washington in 2016/17, has signed with Spanish team CB Breogan, according to an announcement from the club (via Twitter). Ochefu spent most of the 2018/19 season with the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate, posting 14.8 PPG and 8.9 RPG in 39 games (24.2 MPG).
  • The Pistons will enter the offseason looking to fortify their point guard and wing spots, but won’t have much financial flexibility to do so. As such, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press wonders if attempting to re-sign Ish Smith and Wayne Ellington might make the most sense for the club.

Calipari Meets With NBPA About Eligibility Changes

Kentucky coach John Calipari met with NBA Players Association representatives last week to explain his ideas for major reforms to the “one-and-done” process and the G League, writes Mac Engel of The Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Calipari advocates a system that would create an easier path for high school players who want to go directly to the pro ranks. He is urging the union to set up a “combine” for high school juniors.

“Kids should be able to go [to the NBA] out of high school,” he said. “That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association. Don’t put restrictions on kids.”

Calipari sees failure in the current rules, adopted by the NBA and the union in 2007, that stipulate players have to be at least age 19 or a year past graduation to be eligible for the draft. The purpose was to reduce the role of agents, but their reach has become greater than ever.

He envisions a system similar to minor league baseball, with the NBA providing G League players with salaries in the $30K range, along with money for college tuition.

What do we do with these kids now,” Calipari asked. “What do we do if they are not academically ready at all, because they didn’t plan on it. Who wants to take care of those thousands of kids whose family, many times, are dealing with generational poverty and their chance was maybe to get him an education?

“Now, how many kids do you think who went thinking, ‘I’m here one, or two, and done and stayed all four years? It’s been proven by the graduation rates it’s a ton. What’s wrong with that? I don’t care what they do, but let’s not force them to go to the G League. If they choose to do that, that’s fine, but why don’t we make sure if they don’t make it in, they at least have a chance at a guaranteed education.”

Gasol, Fizdale Tensions Went Far Beyond Benching

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and former coach David Fizdale had such a strained relationship that they rarely spoke to one another, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins. Fizdale was fired on Monday, one day after he benched his leading scorer, rebounder and shotblocker in the fourth quarter against the Nets. The benching served as the breaking point and Gasol, who has a tight relationship with owner Robert Pera, had expressed major concerns about the team’s direction under Fizdale, Calkins continues.

Commercial Appeal beat writer Ronald Tillery confirms the longterm disconnect between coach and star player. A team source told Tillery that the tension between them and Sunday’s benching weren’t the only reasons that Fizdale was axed. That source said the team was “trending down in several categories.” However, Tillery tweets that as recently as Saturday, a source close to the owner said that Fizdale’s job was safe because of the team’s injury issues. That’s an indication that Sunday’s incident swiftly changed Pera’s thinking.

In other reactions to Fizdale’s dismissal:

  • Cavaliers stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both expressed their dismay on social media, demanding answers regarding the firing, as Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com relays. Both played under Fizdale when he was an assistant with the Heat.
  • Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff is one of the potential long-term replacements for Fizdale but Sean Deveney of the Sporting News lists several other intriguing names. Former head coaches Mark Jackson, David Blatt and Monty Williams, former player Shane Battier, and several current college coaches such as Tony Bennett, Patrick Ewing and John Calipari are some of the candidates Memphis could look at, according to Deveney.

Calipari Denies Interest In Knicks Presidency

10:15pm: Calipari has vehemently denied the report over Twitter, saying that he intends to be the coach at Kentucky for a long time.

6:01pm: Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari has reached out through intermediaries to express an interest in the Knicks’ presidency, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets.

The report is corroborated by ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk who adds, in his own tweet, that Calipari has been interested in a return to the NBA but only for the “right job.”

New York, of course, has been seeking a a replacement at the top level ever since the franchise parted ways with Phil Jackson yesterday. Already linked to the franchise have been Isiah Thomas, Masai Ujiri, David Griffin and Sam Presti.

While Calipari has seen action in the NBA before, it seems like a lifetime ago that he patrolled the sidelines for the Nets and 76ers. From 1996-1998, he managed a 72-112 record as the head coach in New Jersey.

Calipari’s NBA Debut: The 1996-97 New Jersey Nets (26-56)

The entirety of Calipari’s previous professional stint, then, came before he evolved into the college game’s most vaunted recruiter, a characteristic that makes him far more appealing than any Xs and Os experience.

Having an asset like Calipari involved with the franchise could be a boon for the Knicks, considering the sheer amount of players he has either coached or recruited over his years with Kentucky and Memphis.

Suffice it to say, all Begley’s tweet suggests is that Calipari has expressed an interest in the position and there’s no guarantee that the interest is mutual at this point in time.

Draft Combine Notes: Durant, Calipari, Hart, And More

To Combine or not to Combine? That is the question to which Kevin Durant and John Calipari are now adding their two cents. The Warriors star encourages expected lottery picks to skip the event altogether, writes Chris Haynes of ESPN. Durant expressed his strong feeling that while the Draft Combine can certainly aid lesser-known and lesser-valued players looking to raise their draft stock, those projected to be taken in the lottery should stay home and work on improving their game. Durant remarked how the vast majority of skills for which the Combine tests, including bench press at which he struggled mightily at his event, have little to no impact on how a player will perform on a basketball court.

Kentucky’s head coach said that players should attend the Combine, but that each should skip individual events if he believes it will not boost his draft value, according to Michael Singer of USA Today.

Kings Notes: Rebuild, Bogdanovic, Seattle

If the Kings are to succeed in their rebuild – one that they committed to by trading DeMarcus Cousins in February – they’ll need to take advantage of their lottery picks, Bobby Marks of The Vertical writes.

Last year the Kings traded down in the draft, this year they’ll need to add “quality over quantity” with, presumably, two Top 10 picks.

Marks also comments on the club’s flexibility post-Cousins and warns that the organization should steer clear of locking into long-term contracts with other players. A wiser approach, he says, would be to focus on one- and two-year contracts.

Pacific Notes: Labissiere, Randle, Suns

The Kings have done a fine job giving their young big men an opportunity to develop this season, as Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee recounts. For 2016 28th overall pick Skal Labissiere, the opportunities let him show all the teams that passed on him what they’re missing.

Sparsely used in the first three months of the season as the Kings flirted with the idea of the competing for the postseason, Labissiere has seen more time on the court as the year has progressed. In three April games, the 21-year-old has played 29.0 minutes per.

I’m feeling a little more comfortable out there,” the Kings center said. “It’s me learning at my own pace, not getting rushed, learning how to see things on the court. […] I’m nowhere near [physically] where I want to be. But this should be a fun summer. Lots of time with the weights, and working on all aspects of my game.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • It’s harder to deny the appeal of tanking when your draft picks are tied up in previously negotiated trades. Such was the case when the Lakers and Kings met Friday, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. The Lakers had incentive to lose in order to keep their top-3 protected pick. The Kings had incentive to lose to keep their top-10 protected pick. (The Lakers won).
  • The Suns have undergone an extensive evaluation period over the course of the final months of the regular season. Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic takes a thorough look at what we’ve been able to learn from it.
  • Count Kentucky head coach John Calipari among Julius Randle‘s biggest supporters, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. Calipari recently spoke with Lakers coach Luke Walton about the forward. “If you can just get a bunch of guys that will fight every possession, you’re winning,” Calipari told Walton. “The dude is going to fight.

Coaching Notes: Thompson, Ewing, Calipari, L. Brown

After 13 seasons at Georgetown, John Thompson III is out as the team’s head coach, the school confirmed today (Twitter link via Gene Wang of The Washington Post). With the Hoyas’ job now open, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical notes (via Twitter) that Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing has never had much interest in NCAA jobs, but it’s possible that the Georgetown job “gives him pause.” According to Wojnarowski (Twitter links), Ewing remains close and loyal to the Thompson family, and came close to landing an NBA job last offseason, so he may very well continue to focus on landing an NBA head coaching job.

Let’s round up a few more coaching-related odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • Kentucky head coach John Calipari signed another extension with the Wildcats, according to school, which announced in a press release that the two-year amendment to Calipari’s current contract locks him up through March 30, 2024. Calipari’s name occasionally pops up in NBA head coaching rumors, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere anytime soon.
  • Another former NBA coach appears to be seeking out a college job, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical tweets that Larry Brown is trying to align himself as an assistant as part of Mike Woodson‘s candidacy for Indiana University’s job. Indiana isn’t interested, per Wojnarowski.
  • Meanwhile, Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports reports that LIU-Brooklyn reached out to Brown about the school’s head coaching job, and the two sides are expected to meet soon. However, a source tells ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that the interest is from Brown’s side, and LIU-Brooklyn doesn’t consider him a “viable candidate.”
  • This could be the first NBA season in more than 50 years in which no team makes an in-season coaching change, which amazes Magic head coach Frank Vogel, as John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com details. “The fact that no one has, it’s a shock,” Vogel said. “It’s been overly volatile and unreasonably so, quite frankly, over the last five-to-10 years in particular. (No firings) is something that is great for our profession. I think teams need to understand that continuity is important. Everybody wants to win now, but there is strength in continuity.”

More DeMarcus Cousins Trade Fallout, Reactions

A player of DeMarcus Cousins‘ caliber doesn’t get moved often, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of notes, reactions, and details to round up after the deal got done. On Monday, we published a pair of posts that covered some of the fallout from the deal. We’ve got more to cover today, so let’s dive in…

  • In a piece for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor examines the ripple effect of the Cousins trade and explains why Vivek Ranadive‘s fondness for Buddy Hield resulted in a deal with the Pelicans. A source tells O’Connor that the Suns were willing to offer multiple first-round picks – including one or both of their selections from the Heat – and that the Nuggets were believed to be willing to part with anyone except Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray for Cousins.
  • Pursuing Cousins was a last-ditch attempt by Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak to save their jobs with the Lakers, according to Sam Amick of USA Today (via Twitter). Amick adds that Buss “really wanted” Cousins, though Kupchak handled the talks with Sacramento. Those discussions came to an end when L.A. was unwilling to include Brandon Ingram.
  • Cousins got emotional last night as he tried to say goodbye to Sacramento (Twitter video link via Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140). Cousins told Sean Cunningham of ABC10 (Twitter link) today that he’ll always love the city, and plans to remain a presence in the community. According to Cunningham (via Twitter), Cousins also said today that he still hasn’t talked to Kings GM Vlade Divac — it sounds like that may not happen.
  • The Pelicans have now paired two Kentucky stars in their frontcourt, but don’t expect John Calipari to make the move to the NBA to coach Cousins and Anthony Davis. Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show this week, Calipari was asked in jest if he might end up in New Orleans, and the Kentucky head coach shot down the idea, saying that’s it’s “not happening” (link via The Detroit News).

And-Ones: Dunn, Sanders, Calipari, Blatt

Representatives for Providence’s Kris Dunn don’t want him to go to a team with a young point guard already in place and may refuse to release his medical records to the Celtics and Suns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Speaking on a draft lottery special, Wojnarowski said Dunn’s agents did not submit him for a physical at last week’s draft combine, which would have made his records accessible to everyone. Dunn has undergone two surgical procedures on his right shoulder, and teams may be reluctant to draft him if they are unsure of his current physical status. Dunn has been projected as a possible No. 3 pick, but his camp apparently doesn’t want him to compete for playing time with Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart in Boston or Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight in Phoenix. The Celtics own the third selection in next month’s draft, while the Suns pick fourth.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Rutgers freshman point guard Corey Sanders will withdraw from the draft and return to school, tweets Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. There’s little chance that Sanders would have been drafted, as Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has him ranked 73rd among NCAA freshmen and ESPN’s Chad Ford doesn’t have him listed among his top 100 prospects.
  • Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose name has been floated for several NBA openings, plans to stay with the Wildcats for the rest of his career, he said in a message on his website. Calipari was considered a candidate for the Nets job after they fired Lionel Hollins in January, and the Kings reportedly spoke to him about taking over for George Karl last summer.
  • Spanish power FC Barcelona is interested in former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, according to El Mundo Deportivo (hat tip to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Blatt recently talked with the Rockets, Kings, Knicks and Lakers about their coaching jobs.
  • Twenty-four teams will compete in the Las Vegas Summer League July 8th-18th, the NBA announced today in a press release. The Spurs, coached by Becky Hammon, are the defending champions.