Two-time league MVP LeBron James is convinced John Calipari will not be looking to join the ranks of NBA coaches any time soon.
James pronounced himself as someone who would be “very surprised” should the Kentucky coach, fresh off his Wildcats’ runner-up finish in the NCAA tournament, decide to bolt the relative serenity he’s found in the college game for the overriding uncertainty of the NBA. “He loves challenge of bringing in guys and turning them into a team,” added James, known to share some of the same-inner circle as the flamboyant Kentucky coach.
Calipari, who previously coached the New Jersey Nets –without great success– is being linked with the anticipated openings with both the Lakers and the Knicks. There could interest from other teams as well.
Still, Calipari heading for the pros isn’t nearly the given that Mike D’Antoni’s impending firing is. With four games remaining this season, the Lakers have already tied a franchise record for most losses in a season and set a new one for most since the team moved to Southern California more than five decades ago.
Calipari’s lone stumbling block to landing in L.A. could well be the resistance of such veteran stars as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and perhaps even Pau Gasol to play out their final NBA days with a coach still looking to make his mark at that level.
“His personality is too polarizing,” said Sports Illustrated. “The best coaches in the NBA avoid personal attention as if it were a 98-mph fastball under the chin.”
Yet, provided he’s interested, Calipari could soon find himself back at bat. Phil Jackson and the Knicks are also rumored to have some interest. Just a few weeks ago the team was rumored to have reached out to Calipari via third party to gauge his potential interest in coaching the team next season.
For his part, Calipari has taken added precautions to make sure he says all the right things, telling reporters after the Cats’ 60-54 loss to UConn “I’m right here. I’ve got a good group of kids. Love what I’m doing. I got the best job.”
Until a better one comes along, that is.