John Calipari eyes life after basketball

Updated: December 9, 2011, 5:52 PM ET
Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari said being the coach of Kentucky is a 24-hour job and one he doesn't see doing for more than a decade.

"I'd like to live a life after I'm done coaching. I'd like to be alive and happy," Calipari said Friday. "What I don't want to be is a bitter, just a bitter old coach. I just don't want to be that. ... I want to be a guy that had a good run, took care of a lot of kids, a staff that all got jobs, everybody benefited by us coming together and my wife and I look back and say, hey, we've done good, we treated people right.

"And if that's the case, I'd be surprised if I'd be here longer than 10 years."

Calipari, 52, is in his third year with the currently top-ranked Wildcats and says he had a recent conversation with former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, who mentioned that a long run at Kentucky would be 10 years. Hall retired after 13 seasons at age 57.

[+] EnlargeJohn Calipari
Jim O'Connor/US Presswire"I'd be surprised if I'd be here longer than 10 years," Kentucky coach John Calipari said Friday. Calipari, 52, is in his third year with the top-ranked Wildcats.

"This is one of those ones that's as long as I'm having a ball coaching that means my kids will have fun," Calipari said. "If I'm not having a ball doing this, I just won't do it and I'll pass it on to the next guy and say, 'You'll do great. It's a great thing. I'm telling you, you'll love it.'"

Calipari spent eight years at Massachusetts and nine years at Memphis before taking over Kentucky. He also had a 2½-year run with the New Jersey Nets before heading to Memphis. Calipari took over Kentucky in 2009 and led the program to its 14th Final Four last season.

"It took me 20 years to get here, so I'm not like so quick to leave a place like this. Other guys have had these jobs for 15, 20 years. It took me 20 to get a job like this," Calipari said. "So, I'm not in a hurry to leave, but it's the same sense. When it's time, I think we'll all know."

It's not time yet.

Calipari and the Wildcats (8-0) head to Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers (8-0) have won all of their games by at least 11 points and rallied at North Carolina State on Nov. 30 before beating Stetson on Sunday for their best start since 2002.

The last time that coach Tom Crean had a crack at No. 1 Kentucky, it worked out well.

Crean's Marquette team that featured Dwyane Wade bounced the Wildcats from the 2003 NCAA tournament in the regional finals after Kentucky was ranked No. 1 in the final poll.

That win propelled Crean into the national spotlight and eventually gave him the opportunity to take over beleaguered Indiana in 2008 in the wake of Kelvin Sampson's era. His first three seasons have been rocky, but a victory over the Wildcats could be a signature moment in the program's return to prominence.

"It was so much about what our mindset was going to play that game," Crean said of the first time he knocked off No. 1 Kentucky. "We locked in defensively, we started to make shots and it just snowballed. It was a fantastic win."

Crean continues to lure talented recruiting classes back to Bloomington, including 6-foot-11 freshman center Cody Zeller, who'll be tasked with slowing down Anthony Davis, the key of Kentucky's athletic frontcourt.

"I have played against Davis in the summer quite a bit. A lot of them I have played against in camps, even some of the guys that are older. All of them have improved so much since last summer," Zeller said. "A lot of things have changed since I have played them."

That includes Calipari's latest top-ranked freshman class that includes Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer. Sophomore Terrence Jones removed is name from the NBA draft and returned to school this year.

Calipari has had nine players drafted in the past two seasons. His name is regularly mentioned when NBA coaching vacancies arise, but a remaining hole on his resume as a college coach is a national championship. His Memphis team lost the 2008 title game, which was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions against the school.

He's having success at Kentucky and is being well compensated for his efforts.

Calipari signed a contract extension in July worth $36.5 million that runs through 2019. It pays him at least $3.8 million a year with multiple retention bonuses and incentives. He's won 38 straight games at Rupp Arena, the longest winning streak in the building's 35-year history, and 72 games over his first two years and eight games.

But he knows at some point, he will walk away.

"There's not many jobs where you wear the coat 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It never leaves. This is one of them. Then it becomes how long can you go at the pace that I go?" Calipari said. "I'm not sure I'd be very good at like 72 years old and still trying to do this."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press