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John Calipari says he's leaving Kentucky because he believes the program needs a different leader

LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari from Moon is resigning as Kentucky’s men’s basketball coach after 15 years. He said on Tuesday that the “program probably needs to hear another voice,” amid reports that he’s nearing a deal with Arkansas to

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Moon native John Calipari is resigning as Kentucky’s men’s basketball coach after 15 years, stating on Tuesday that the “program likely needs to hear another voice” amidst reports of him finalizing a deal with Arkansas to take over that SEC program.

Calipari shared a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he mentioned that after discussing with his wife, Ellen, he concluded that a change was necessary. He also mentioned, “We’ve loved it here, but we think it’s time for us to step away and step away completely from the program.”

A message to #BBN: pic.twitter.com/TG344ipTfZ

— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) April 9, 2024

Calipari departs from a Wildcats program he led to the 2012 NCAA championship and four Final Four appearances. He had a 410-123 record in 15 seasons. The recent seasons have been disappointing by Kentucky standards, with a 1-3 record in its last three NCAA Tournament trips, including first-round losses to No. 14 seed Oakland last month and No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s two years ago, despite being a top-three seed both times.

The most recent loss prompted immediate calls to fire Calipari, but athletic director Mitch Barnhart stated that Calipari would return next season. Firing Calipari would’ve triggered a buyout of more than $33 million under the terms of a 10-year, so-called lifetime contract signed in 2019.

Barnhart said Kentucky would work diligently to hire “a proven, highly dedicated coach who embraces the importance of this program to our fans and the state of Kentucky.”

The AD added: “We’re appreciative of John Calipari leading our program for the last 15 years, adding to the legacy of championship success at Kentucky. We’re grateful to John for his many contributions to the University, and our state, both on and off the court.”

Calipari didn’t specifically mention the Arkansas opening he has been linked to since multiple reports surfaced Sunday night about negotiations with the school. The Hall of Famer simply said, “There have been opportunities that have been presented to us, so we’re discussing them as a family.”

However, Calipari’s announcement certainly clears the way for him to go the SEC rival with which he got very familiar while coaching the Wildcats. The 65-year-old would replace Eric Musselman, who left over the weekend after four seasons to become coach at Southern California.

There was no immediate word on whether Arkansas was close to hiring Calipari. A school spokesman told the Associated Press that the Board of Trustees was not scheduled to meet Tuesday.

Calipari made a mark in Lexington upon arriving in 2009 with a remarkable group of standout freshmen known as “one and done” for playing one season before entering the NBA draft.

Kentucky flourished with Calipari’s method in the first half of his tenure as the Wildcats regained their prestigious status and he developed the newcomers into NBA draft picks. The first-round total is 35 alone among 47 overall selections, with No. 1 overall choices in John Wall (2010), Anthony Davis (2012) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015). Opening-day NBA rosters featured 26 Kentucky players, including two-way and inactive.

The interest of professional teams in Kentucky players has led to preseason combines, sometimes shown on TV, with scouts from all 32 NBA clubs. While the focus on young players helped Kentucky win games and fill the 20,500-seat Rupp Arena, fans and media think that the team became too focused on sending players to the next level instead of winning championships.

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