John Calipari's Lifetime Deal Doesn't Mean He's Coach for Life
Is there really such thing as a "Coach for Life" in College Sports? Or Pro Sports for that matter?
In an era where Coaching Contracts are sometimes worth roughly the paper they are printed out on, I think the answer to the question is pretty easy to understand.
I ask the question in large part after reading about the "Lifetime" deal University of Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari is/has agreed to.
ESPN has reported the two sides have agreed to extend "Coach Cal's contract past the 2024 expiration date. It will go until he retires and steps into an "Ambassador" role with the school.
This all came up because UCLA has a Coaching opening and as the Coaching Carousel turns---the Bruins allegedly offered him a 6-year, $48 million deal to take over in Westwood. Ironically, it would have essentially been a pay-cut as Calipari drew roughly $9.2 million this season with $2.6 million in retention bonuses for the rest of his original contract.
Yes, that's right, the guy makes more or about the same money than Nick Saban.
The 60-year old Calipari is a bit of a "Lightning Rod" to some in the College Basketball community as he left probational wreckage at both UMass and Memphis after leaving those jobs. But to his credit, he and the Wildcats have remained largely scandal free since his tenure began in 2009.
Alas, the question at hand is not what he did but about a "Lifetime Contract". In this era of Coaching Carousel's and hopscotching coaches who leave shortly after taking a job or signing a new contract---it remains to be seen how "Lifetime" this deal is.
For most of us, the idea of making $10 million a year to do what you seemingly love to do in a place where you seem to enjoy living or being is kinda hard to turn down.
I totally get the guy's thought process. I mean why leave? Lexington isn't "Utopia" but it's a nice, mostly low-key, College based town. As long as his teams compete for Conference titles and Final Four berths, nobody will be chasing after his job.
The question is this however: What happens when injuries or "One and Done" players combine to sink Kentucky to a .500 record?? What happens when the Wildcats end up not in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, I know it isn't likely to happen given the NBA Player factory the place has become/always have been, but stranger things have happened.
If the other "Marquee" schools begin passing Kentucky by, does Calipari remain "Coach for Life"??
Kentucky won their last NCAA Basketball title 7-years ago in 2012. They haven't made the Final Four since 2014-15. Yeah, sure they've been good during the entire decade, loaded with talent. But the drought is real.
Which all harkens back to the question I asked earlier, if the Title drought continues and the game passes Kentucky by, will John Calipari still be there?
My guess is "Coach for Life" means "Coach until you start not winning enough".....that fits today's College Sports structure.
Prove me wrong....