Reports: John Calipari leaving Kentucky to take Arkansas job

Kentucky coach John Calipari calls out to the team during the first half of a college basketball game against Oakland in the first round of the men's NCAA Tournament Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Pittsburgh.

Kentucky coach John Calipari calls out to the team during the first half of a college basketball game against Oakland in the first round of the men's NCAA Tournament Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Pittsburgh. AP

CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 04-08-2024 10:08 AM

John Calipari has taken the head coaching job at Arkansas, according to multiple reports late Sunday night. The contract is expected to be completed within 24 hours.

Calipari spent 15 seasons at Kentucky, where he won over 400 games and a national title in 2012. He secured 25 five-star recruits and produced 35 first round picks, but the Wildcats haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2019. After No. 3 Kentucky’s loss to No. 14 Oakland in the first round on March 21, there was enough speculation about Calipari’s job to warrant a statement from Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart five days later confirming the coach would return for 2023-24.

Calipari’s longtime relationship with John H. Tyson, billionaire heir to the Tyson Foods empire and Arkansas booster, was key to Calipari landing in Fayetteville. Calipari replaces Eric Musselman, who left for the USC job last week. Arkansas initially pursued Ole Miss’ Chris Beard and Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, but both returned to their respective schools. Tang was initially rumored to have taken the job, but he announced his intentions to return on Friday.

Calipari’s first head coaching job was at UMass, where he coached from 1988 to 1996. Calipari led the Minutemen to five straight Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles in his final five years in Amherst, In 1996, UMass reached the Final Four, Calipari was named Naismith Coach of the Year and Marcus Camby won the John R. Wooden Award. Both Calipari and Camby are immortalized in statues outside the Mullins Center.

In 1997, Calipari left to coach the New Jersey Nets and an NCAA investigation into Marcus Camby’s acceptance of $28,000 from two sports agents vacated the only Final Four appearance in UMass history. Calipari returned to the college ranks in 2000 at the University of Memphis, where he coached until landing at Kentucky in 2009.

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