Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Updated: April 1, 10:38 AM ET
Calipari still weighing Kentucky's offer
ESPN.com news services
Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall says John Calipari is having "difficulty" making up his mind about accepting the Wildcats offer and is trying to get as much information as he can before deciding.
Hall said he and Calipari talked for about 15 to 20 minutes on Tuesday. As reported Monday by ESPN.com's Andy Katz, Calipari has an eight-year, $35 million offer -- which would make him the sport's highest-paid coach -- to leave Memphis for Lexington.
"He talked about the difficulty in making the decision and wanted to establish a relationship in case he came to Kentucky, somebody he could bounce things off of," Hall said. "He had not made up his mind. He was trying to get all the info he could."
As of 5 p.m. ET, Calipari had not made a decision, sources told Katz.
Hall said the informal chat centered on what it takes to survive one of college basketball's most prestigious -- and more scrutinized -- jobs.
Kentucky president Lee Todd told reporters before a scheduled meeting with UK students on campus that the school was "working on it" when asked about the coaching search. He then cut short any speculation during his remarks.
"I won't be talking about playing styles or coaching or things of that nature," Todd said. "We have a process in place. It's active, I would say."
Calipari stopped by a Memphis doughnut shop he frequents on Tuesday, where he told some of the regulars that he needed to make a decision by the afternoon.
The anticipation of an announcement grew around Calipari's home. Police blocked off the section in front of his house from a main road back to an adjacent golf course. Approximately five police cars kept TV crews at bay.
A dozen fans gathered just down from Calipari's home. One fan put a "For Sale By Owner" sign on Calipari's house with "NOT" in red letters at the top and "STAY CAL!" written in place of the phone number. Others held a sign: "Please Don't Go Memphis Needs You."
Even some of Calipari's recruits didn't seem to know what was going on.
DeMarcus Cousins, the fourth-rated recruit on the ESPNU 100, verbally committed to Memphis earlier this month and, while talking to reporters before the McDonald's All-American game in Coral Gables, Fla., said he was kind of "lost."
"I'm trying to stay focused [and] just come out here and have fun," he said.
Memphis also has signed guard Xavier Henry of Oklahoma City, the No. 1 overall player on the ESPNU 100. Point guard John Wall, sixth on the ESPNU100, considers Memphis one of his top college choices.
Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown, who hired Calipari twice as his assistant -- first at Kansas and then with the Philadelphia 76ers -- has talked with Calipari and said Calipari's decision was difficult because he loves Memphis and his players.
"That community, that town, just adores John and respects what he's done. But it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Brown said Tuesday morning after the Bobcats' shootaround.
Brown pushed Calipari to take the Memphis job in 2000, and Brown noted Conference USA was different then with Louisville, Marquette and Cincinnati still in the league. He also thinks Calipari is curious to test himself in a big conference after coaching in the Atlantic 10 and lightly regarded C-USA.
"I think all along he's always been thinking in the back of his head, 'I'd love to be [on a big stage].' And how can anybody fault him? If he leaves, they're going to be upset, but it's because he's done such a phenomenal job," Brown said. "If you leave and you've done a bad job they're happy that you're gone. So you can't win."
Winning has never been a problem for Calipari, who is 253-68 in nine years at Memphis and 446-139 overall. His name has popped up as a candidate for other jobs during his stay with the Tigers, but he has likely never been tempted like this.
Calipari certainly seems to be Kentucky's choice to succeed Billy Gillispie.
The school received permission to talk to Calipari on Monday, though Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said the program would do whatever it takes to keep the coach who has spent the last nine years turning the Tigers into a national power.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that after meeting with his players Monday night, Calipari met with a number of influential Memphis boosters. While the meeting was at first said to be a last-ditch effort to persuade Calipari to stay, another source told the newspaper that Calipari was lobbying for Tony Barbee, the current coach at UTEP, to succeed him in Memphis. Barbee played for Calipari at Massachusetts and was previously his assistant at Memphis.
While the waiting game continued early Tuesday, sentiment to lure Calipari to the Bluegrass continues to grow. A Facebook group touting Calipari had increased to more than 16,000 members by the afternoon.
The Wildcats have deep pockets, play in a major conference and have a national presence. What they haven't had since Rick Pitino left in 1997 is a charismatic leader who could bring some electricity to the program.
Calipari would certainly provide that, but it'll be costly. He has four years left on his contract paying him $2.35 million annually. He also has an annuity averaging $1 million over the deal through 2013.
Throw in whatever settlement Kentucky negotiates with Gillispie, the Wildcats could have near $10 million invested in the head coach of its basketball program next year.
It could be money well spent for a school that is quickly trying to move on after Gillispie's hurried departure after just two seasons.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.