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How did it happen? Kentucky’s Calipari is the new Arkansas coach



How did it happen? Kentucky's Calipari is the new Arkansas coach

Nothing like a shocking information drop on the eve of the nationwide championship recreation.

John Calipari is leaving Kentucky and headed throughout the SEC to Arkansas, finalizing a five-year deal to exchange Eric Musselman in Fayetteville.

No person might have foreseen this chain of occasions when SMU fired Rob Lanier after simply two seasons, resulting in the Mustangs poaching Andy Enfield from USC and Musselman departing Arkansas for the Trojans’ emptiness. Arkansas took a few early swings at Ole Miss’ Chris Beard and Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, however each coaches turned down the Razorbacks and returned to their respective faculties.

So, Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek reassessed the search and got here out with a brand new title atop his goal checklist: Calipari.

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello and Myron Medcalf react to the brand new transfer, together with what it means for the convention and the faculties — and who might succeed Coach Cal in Lexington.

How did we get thus far? What compelled Calipari to go away Kentucky?

Myron Medcalf: After a sequence of disappointing outcomes (9-16 in 2020-21; the 2022 NCAA event loss to Saint Peter’s; final month’s first-round loss to Oakland), Calipari now not had full management in Lexington. Fairly than give Kentucky’s brass one other yr to resolve in the event that they needed to maintain him, Calipari did what some coaches do on this state of affairs: He left.

The enjoyment of teaching at Kentucky is having fun with the admiration, reputation and affect one positive aspects from an enormous fan base and basketball model. However Calipari misplaced that assist lately. It had felt like Calipari and Kentucky had been residing underneath the identical roof however have been now not collectively. Calipari simply made it official Sunday evening.

Jeff Borzello: As soon as a coach will get to the purpose the place his athletic director must launch a press release confirming his return as coach, it is laborious to regain the belief of the fan base. And Calipari reached that time. The NCAA event losses, one Huge Dance win since 2019, refusing to embrace the switch portal and persevering with to construct freshmen-focused rosters — all of it added as much as a annoyed fan base. And so when one other college with enormous sources and a passionate fan base confirmed curiosity, Calipari jumped. Higher to go away than dwell on the new seat.



Farnham: Calipari’s ‘recent begin’ advantages each Arkansas and Kentucky

Sean Farnham reacts to the information of John Calipari leaving Kentucky to change into the top coach at Arkansas.

What’s most tasty in regards to the Arkansas job?

Medcalf: Soccer is Arkansas’ past love, and it final received a basketball nationwide title in 1994. It has a particularly passionate fan base, however nothing rivals Kentucky’s Huge Blue Nation. Calipari will not face the identical stress he endured in Lexington, however he can have entry to energy boosters (the Tyson household, Dallas Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones and the Walton household) who will provide sufficient NIL cash to assist him entice elite expertise.

Borzello: Arkansas has loads of sources and is growing its NIL finances to convey Calipari into the fold. The fan base is there too. When Bud Walton Area is rocking, it is the most effective home-court benefits within the SEC. And Arkansas has a stranglehold on maintaining in-state expertise residence for varsity; there was a stretch from 2016 to 2022 when zero ESPN 100 prospects left the state of Arkansas for school.

What are the possibilities Calipari will take pleasure in the kind of success he had at Kentucky now that he is at Arkansas?

Medcalf: In 5 seasons, Eric Musselman had a greater postseason run (two Elite Eight appearances and a visit to the Candy 16) than Calipari did at Kentucky over the identical stretch. Calipari has all the time been a prime recruiter; that will not change at Arkansas. He may not get 4 or 5 McDonald’s All Individuals yearly the best way he did at Kentucky, however Calipari will signal nice expertise.

Borzello: Calipari can win a nationwide championship at Arkansas. All the things is in place to constantly compete on the prime of the SEC and push for Last 4 berths. Musselman did not fairly have the regular-season success to match, however he had the Razorbacks inside a recreation of the Last 4 in back-to-back years. The important thing for Calipari is whether or not he’ll change his outlook on roster building. He’ll be capable of recruit at a excessive stage in Fayetteville, however Calipari cannot proceed to construct with just one or two transfers. There must be a mixture of excessive schoolers and veterans, and he’ll have the NIL finances to construct a roster in that approach.



Pete Thamel lists potential John Calipari replacements at Kentucky

With John Calipari on the cusp of a transfer to change into Arkansas’ coach, Pete Thamel throws out names of some potential candidates to exchange him.

Is the transfer good or unhealthy for Kentucky?

Medcalf: That is a sophisticated query. Calipari had the aptitude (and trace of vanity), persona and expertise to deal with the calls for of a rabid fan base that craved the success he had introduced in his first six seasons — together with a nationwide title. It is a distinctive function, one solely Rick Pitino and Calipari have excelled in over the previous 30 years. There isn’t a clear successor who can proceed to draw five-star recruits and future NBA stars. The brand new coach additionally must endure the expectations of a fan base that hasn’t witnessed a nationwide title run since 2012 however nonetheless expects to compete for a championship each season.

Borzello: It should be laborious to reply this proper now. Whereas Calipari’s buyout was the largest obstacle to firing the Corridor of Fame coach, the dearth of a pure substitute was second on the checklist. A lot of the logical successors both have enormous buyouts or will not make the transfer. If Kentucky has to dip down into its second- or third-tier candidate pool, it may not be an excellent transfer for the Wildcats.

How will the transfer have an effect on the SEC?

Medcalf: It relies upon partially on the dominoes. Will Kentucky goal Alabama’s Nate Oats? Or will the Wildcats chase former Villanova coach Jay Wright or UConn’s Dan Hurley? Both approach, Kentucky will not accept a subpar candidate. On the flip aspect, Arkansas, which hasn’t received the SEC since 2000, is actually in a brand new tier with this hiring. General, a league that may quickly add Oklahoma and Texas in all probability will enhance.

Borzello: It is landscape-shifting. As Myron talked about, the dominoes falling will have an effect. However this is not nearly Kentucky and what it does from right here. This instantly vaults Arkansas into the higher crust of the nationwide dialog — and subsequently the SEC dialog. The Razorbacks immediately have title-contending expectations each season. Kentucky will all the time have these, however the Wildcats may not be the largest story within the league in the course of the 2024-25 season.

What’s subsequent for Kentucky? Who ought to Kentucky goal for its opening?

Medcalf: Once more, there aren’t any easy solutions right here. However Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart ought to pull as much as Monday’s nationwide title recreation and ask Hurley for the amount of cash it will take to lure him to Lexington — though Hurley is pleased in Storrs, Connecticut. Oats would make sense, however he has an $18 million buyout. Wright would not appear too involved in leaving TV to return to teaching. If these choices all fall by, Kentucky will not have an apparent goal. That mentioned, the Wildcats do not owe Calipari his $33 million buyout as a result of he left, in order that they have the monetary backing to buy groceries.

Borzello: There are enormous obstacles to rent a lot of the names who would theoretically be the highest targets. I do not assume Hurley would go from UConn to Kentucky, particularly if he wins one other nationwide title on Monday evening. Does the Chicago Bulls’ Billy Donovan actually need to coach in faculty once more? Does Wright need to coach in any respect once more? Oats has an enormous buyout. Iowa State’s T.J. Otzelberger has an enormous buyout. Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd simply signed a brand new contract. Auburn’s Bruce Pearl has had comparable NCAA event struggles lately. Baylor’s Scott Drew might be probably the most sensible goal, and he simply turned down Louisville. Whether or not Kentucky can rent — or at the least attempt to rent — Drew will seemingly be decided by the buyout in Drew’s new deal.

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