Will Kentucky fire John Calipari? Why Wildcats coach could be on hot seat after March Madness loss to Oakland

Feeling the blues.

Kentucky saw an uneven campaign come to a close on Thursday, suffering a shocking defeat to No. 14 Oakland. It was a sudden end to a subpar campaign for the Wildcats, a side that flew too close to the sun, straddling between bubble seed and contenders for much of the campaign.

Kentucky hasn’t made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2019. For a blue-blood program like the Wildcats, that’s a millennium. Given the program’s lack of quantifiable success over the years, a great many fans are wondering if this is indeed the end of the road for longtime coach John Calipari.

Cal has been with the program for 15 seasons. He’s cemented his status as one of the game’s greatest minds during his tenure in the Bluegrass State, even capturing a national championship. But time waits for no one, especially not a 64-year-old looking increasingly obsolete in an ever-changing basketball landscape.

Here’s what you need to know as the ‘Cats prepare for another offseason swirling with uncertainty.

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Will Kentucky fire John Calipari?

Coach Cal is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches to ever grace the college game, and while he’s produced a steady stream of NBA-caliber guards in recent seasons (Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Tyrese Maxey, and, soon, Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham), the Wildcats have faltered time and time again when the lights are at their brightest.

Kentucky has two postseason wins — one in March Madness, one in the SEC tournament — since its run to the Elite Eight in 2019. For a program of UK’s prominence, that’s simply untenable. Or is it?

Calipari has struggled mightily in recent years, but he and the program are still tethered to one another by way of a mammoth contract. Check it out:

John Calipari contract buyout

Calipari inked a so-called “lifetime” contract in 2019, agreeing to a 10-year, $86 million deal. His contract features an eye-popping buyout clause, too. He’s due to receive 75 percent of the value remaining on his deal if he were to be sacked. That comes out to $33.375 million in money Kentucky would have to shell out if it wanted to part ways with its legendary coach.

John Calipari ‘lifetime’ contract

Given his age in 2019 at the time of his 10-year, $86 million deal — Cal was 59 at the time — it will likely be Calipari’s last before riding out into the sunset with retirement. As such, it’s widely considered to be a ‘lifetime’ contract

Calipari is the second-highest-paid coach in college basketball, trailing only Kansas’ Bill Self. If Kentucky was to hand Cal the pink slip, it would be tantamount to forking over $6.675 million per season to get rid of him. By comparison, the third-highest-paid coach in college ball is Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. His salary? $6.2 million.

The Wildcats could let Calipari go, but given his price tag, it seems unlikely at present. That’s not even considering the fact that Big Blue would have to seek out the services of another ostensibly expensive/big-name man to stalk its sidelines.

How much does John Calipari make a year?

Calipari’s currently on a 10-year, $86 million contract. As such, he makes $8.6 million a year, the second-highest total in college basketball (behind only Self’s $13 million a season).

How old is John Calipari?

Calipari is 65 years old, turning that age on Feb. 10. He’s still some ways away from the true elder statesmen of the college game, as six coaches are on the other side of 70, including Miami’s Jim Larranaga and St. John’s Rick Pitino.

Still, he’s no spring chicken, to say the least.


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