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If John Calipari goes to the NBA, who does Kentucky turn to?

Apr 4, 2012, 4:02 PM EDT

NCAA Men's Championship Game - Kansas v Kentucky Getty Images

The goal for John Calipari has always been to make it back to the NBA and be successful, so it should come as no surprise that, after winning a national title with Kentucky this season, Cal’s attention would start to shift upwards.

And as Adrian Wojnarowski writes, the team that currently has Cal’s eye is the New York Knicks. I’m not going to try and tell you that I have any inside information on this decision or know more about than what I just read myself. Eventually, Cal’s decision will be known and he will either have managed to work a raise out of the folks at Kentucky or he’ll be off coaching at a level where it actually it acceptable to pay the players.

Honestly, that doesn’t interest me.

What I find fascinating is figuring out who Kentucky hires to replace him.

Calipari is absolutely perfect for the Kentucky job in every single way. He’s got a larger-than-life personality and he’s charismatic with a great sense of humor. He wins every press conference and he knows how to stoke the flames of the country’s most passionate and demanding fan base. More importantly, he is able to bring in the kind of talent that Kentucky fans require. Even if Cal had lost on Monday night, he would continue to bring in recruiting classes good enough to keep his program at or near the top of the rankings.

Whoever comes in after Cal is going to have nearly impossible expectations to live up to. The two questions that would need to be answered: Who would be able to deal with those expectations, and who would actually want to?

Is Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart going to go to a place where they have to live and die with one-and-done freshmen, a place where Billy Gillispie went from talented up-and-comer to train wreck in the span of two years? Will Billy Donovan be willing to leave Florida to go to Kentucky, where he will be on the other side of a fierce rivalry with Rick Pitino? Would Tom Izzo actually leave Michigan State? Would Buzz Williams leave Marquette? Can Jamie Dixon have better success at a blue-blood program than Ben Howland? If Josh Pastner is struggling to handle pressure at Memphis, what would happen to him in the Commonwealth? I honestly cannot picture any of the biggest names — Bill Self, Roy Williams, Coach K, Jim Boeheim, etc. — even considering the move.

So how about this for a name: Sean Miller. He’s proven that he can bring in talent with the recruiting classes that he has signed at Arizona, even if he still needs to learn how to get them to play more together. He’s not Calipari — no one will be — but Miller wouldn’t be a bad option.

If Calipari does end up leaving for the NBA with, in all likelihood, the majority of his title-winning rotation, Kentucky is going to have a tough time finding a suitable replacement.

  1. ag4913 - Apr 4, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Jay Wright

  2. larrybrown43 - Apr 4, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    To leave one of the most prestigious jobs for the drudgery of the NBA and player attitudes is insane.

    About 80 of the 82 regular season games mean nothing with little intensity. In college 20-25 games are battles or wars.

    If it’s all about the money that disappears after you quit if you’re miserable, get canned because your owner is insane or the players are uncoachable.

    Sometimes happiness is right where you are.

  3. AlohaMrHand - Apr 4, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Bruce Pearl needs work

  4. jumbossportsblog - Apr 4, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Reblogged this on jumbossportsblog.

  5. mandalp - Apr 4, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    Jay Wright. Flirted with him last time; would do so again. This time he would listen. With Wayns and Cheek leaving, next year is even worse than this year

  6. jh4prez - Apr 4, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    Cal is def going to the heat.called it here first.

  7. ed12261973 - Apr 4, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    My top three picks would be Coack K. because he’s Coach K, Scott Drew because he knows how to recruit, the type of players to recruit, and he knows how to get his players to win unlike Sean Miller having beat Kansas last year in the Big 12 Tournament and making his way to The Elite Eight two of the last three years, and finally Shaka Smart. I think Brad Stevens lacks the right personality and is too white bread for the UK program. As for Donovan, unlike Drew, he really hasn’t done anything in the last five years. The major question about Drew in my mind would be whether Mitch Barnhart would go after another Big Twelve or Texas based coach after the Gillispie debacle.

    • rejamaro - Apr 5, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      Scott Drew would be a great pick! Not for Kentucky, but for the rest of the country that hates Kentucky. Not a very good coach and no one likes him. Would fit in perfectly!

  8. ed12261973 - Apr 5, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Another reason not to go after Jay Wright or Brad Stevens is the fact that neither one of them made the NCAA Tournament this year. If Calipari goes Pro, Kentucky can’t settle for a coach that’s not going to bring them the same level of success that the Greatest Program in College Basketball history has been enjoying the last few years. Brad Stevens didn’t demonstrate in his third year that he could keep Butler’s momentum going through Elite ( for a mid major ) level recruiting. Kentucky is used to going to the NCAA Tournament every year and Jay Wright’s teams seemingly always underachieve in the post season.

    • ed12261973 - Apr 5, 2012 at 7:06 AM

      I meant to add that Jay Wright’s teams like every team Billy Donovan has coached at Florida since 2007 always underachieve in the post season. You can’t even give kudos to Florida for reaching the Elite Eight this year because they should have beat Louisville, and if I remember correctly, Florida even lost to a mid major early last season, also they failed to beat Butler in 2011’s NCAA Tournament. You just can’t have that at Kentucky.

      • phillyrox - Apr 8, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        You know Donovan has twice as many championships as Couch Cal right

  9. davidcl77 - Apr 5, 2012 at 6:34 AM

    Obvious….. Pitino!!!

  10. kimjacksonesq - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Miller makes the most sense as a recruiter, but I would worry about his X and O ability. I’m not sure why Bill Self wouldn’t listen – maybe not but unlike Roy who has UNC ties or Coach K who has been there forever, Self is not bound by such intangibles.

  11. rejamaro - Apr 5, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Why would Self listen? Kansas is on par with Kentucky (Aside from Monday night). Bill has the best coaching job in the country. He knows it. And he does have intangibles at Kansas, he was a coach their under Larry Brown. Calipari would probably come to Kansas before Self would go to Kentucky!

  12. cmart0907 - Apr 11, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Who don’t want to coach KENTUCKY????? Uk is everybody’s “DREAM” job. Calipari is winning at uk. Why go to the nba and start loosing? Who wants to loose? Calipari is the king of college basketball and he is loving every minute of it and everybody hates it. SO WHY LEAVE??? I SURE WONT

  13. dougtucson - Mar 6, 2014 at 1:18 AM

    Miller is a very good coach and his record is fine for somebody ‘who doesn’t know his X and O’s’ ? Silly comment. Just check his record, especially with Xavier teams who never should have gotten where they got. Doing OK this year too. Here’s hoping Kentucky agrees with those who doubt his coaching skills and that he stays in Arizona. We like winners.

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