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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

John Calipari’s Kentucky Exit Is As Slow and Awkward As a Dog in a Stroller

  • He declined comment to a local reporter Monday while walking his dog. 
  • Arkansas booster and food tycoon John H. Tyson reportedly helped recruit the coach to Arkansas. 
Michael Clevenger / Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

While pondering the decision to leave your dream job for northwest Arkansas, walk your dog. 

At least that’s the John Calipari way. 

The Hall of Fame college coach announced Tuesday afternoon he would step down as head coach at Kentucky after 15 seasons, despite reportedly not having any contact with athletic director Mitch Barnhart, according to CBS Sports

Calipari was seen walking his dog, Paul, on Monday in Lexington while pushing an empty dog stroller. He declined to address the situation while reports swirled of his agreement to take over as the next coach at Arkansas. The agreement with the Razorbacks is still not official, according to multiple reports.

WKYT reporter Lee Howard asked whether Calipari had anything to say to Kentucky fans, to which he replied, “No, I don’t, I’m walking my dog right now.” 

On Tuesday afternoon, Calipari tweeted a goodbye video to fans that looked like it was shot in his living room, but he didn’t say anything about Arkansas or his next move. In the video, he thanked the fans for all their support, but said, “The fans need to hear another voice.” 

In his 15 years at Kentucky, Calipari turned the Wildcats into a factory for NBA lottery picks, but they struggled to get out of the first round of the NCAA tournament in recent years. He won his sole national title with the Wildcats in 2012 and made three other trips to the Final Four. Kentucky hasn’t made the second weekend of the tournament since an Elite Eight run in ’19, and the relationship seemed to sour between him and the fan base. 

Arkansas booster John H. Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, reportedly played a role in luring Calipari to the Razorbacks. The full details surrounding Calipari’s contract haven’t been made public, but the Razorbacks are known to have a strong donor base, headlined by the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a former football player at Arkansas, giving Calipari strong financial support for name, image, and likeness. At Kentucky, Calipari was earning $8.5 million a year, making him the highest-paid coach in college basketball. Longtime Kentucky sports reporter Dick Gabriel said Calipari brought Arkansas’s offer back to the Wildcats, but the school declined to counter.

Had the university fired Calipari, they would have owed him $33 million as part of a lifetime contract he signed back in 2019. By leaving for another job, the school doesn’t have to pay him a dime. 

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