John Calipari looks forward to ‘second tour’ under new lifetime contract


Kentucky head coach John Calipari addresses the media on Saturday, March 30, 2019, the day before their Elite Eight game against Auburn at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

A new chapter is underway in the John Calipari era of Kentucky Men’s Basketball.

After 10 years as the head coach of one of the most storied programs in men’s college basketball, Calipari enters more than just his 11th year as the Cats’ head coach. He’s entering his first year under his new lifetime contract.

Well, at least that’s not what he calls it.

“There’s no such thing as a lifetime contract. Will you guys, please, they could fire me in a year and that was my lifetime, right there. I mean, there’s no, there’s no such thing,” Calipari laughingly said during UK media day. “They want me to finish coaching here and that’s what we had talked about, for more, it was probably five months.”

Calipari signed a lucrative $86 million deal back in April. That total includes his base salary of $400,000 a year along with any endorsement payments. He will make $8 million in total compensation over the next two seasons. His payments will increase starting in the 2021-22 season as he’ll receive $8.5 million per year for four seasons. Then, starting in 2025-26, he’d start receiving $9 million per year for four seasons.

Calipari also has the option to step down as the head coach and become special assistant to the athletics director or university representative at the beginning of his sixth year under the new terms. That’s in place of his previous retention bonus. His potential bonus based on his team’s performance under the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate metric remains unchanged though.

Numbers aside, Calipari is ready for new beginnings.

“I’ve been here 10 years. Kind of thinking back, it’s been a pretty good run. So now going forward has been, this is the second tour, let’s see what happens now. That, what happened for those 10 years are done. Final Fours, national champion, all the stuff, it’s done, league,” Calipari said.

The Hall of Fame coach has gone 305-71 at Kentucky with victories in 31 NCAA Tournament games. Under Calipari, UK has appeared in eight Sweet 16s, seven Elite Eights, four Final Fours, two national title games and reached cloud nine in 2012 after winning its eighth national title in program history. He’s also cultivated 38 NBA Drafts at UK – 29 of them first rounders.

Despite Calipari’s historic accolades at UK, however, the first half of his tenure differs from the second half. The Cats have not been to the Final Four since 2015 after reaching four in five seasons up to that point. They’ve fallen short in the Elite Eight twice in the last three seasons, including last year’s overtime loss to conference foe Auburn.

But Calipari isn’t looking into his rearview mirror.

“Now what happens in the next 10? How do we grow as a program? How do we keep getting better as a staff? As a coach, how do I keep leading better, communicating better, what do I do and forget with that. Let’s move to this next tour. This next 10. So that’s been my mentality,” Calipari said.