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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

All's well: Calipari expected to stay at U of M

All's well: Calipari expected to stay at U of M
Coach decides against N.C. State, sources say

By Gary Parrish
April 12, 2006

Ending 48 hours of speculation, John Calipari agreed in principle Tuesday to remain at the University of Memphis and in turn reject an offer to become the next basketball coach at North Carolina State. Multiple sources told The Commercial Appeal that Calipari reached the decision following an afternoon meeting with athletic director R.C. Johnson.

Though details of the new deal are unclear, sources said it includes a raise for Calipari that will push his salary from less than $1.1 million to around $1.3 million plus incentives -- that could take the package to about $1.7 million -- through the 2010-11 season. His assistants will enjoy pay increases and there is a guarantee that improvements will be made to the Finch Center practice facility.

An announcement is expected today.

"It's an all's-well-that-ends-well situation," said Harold Byrd, a prominent UofM booster. "I think all the fans wanted coach Cal to stay, and coach Cal just wanted to know he was respected and wanted. It's good that he's staying. As I said before, he is like the Muhammad Ali of coaches. He brings attention from around the nation."

According to sources, when N.C. State chancellor James Oblinger and athletic director Lee Fowler visited Calipari on Sunday the school offered a package worth nearly $2 million per year.
In the subsequent 48 hours, Calipari mulled the situation and considered accepting. But ultimately he turned away dollar signs for the opportunity to remain in Memphis and continue coaching a team that is coming off an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and expected to challenge for a Final Four berth next season.

The UofM players gathered at Calipari's home in East Memphis around 5 p.m. Tuesday for a meeting where their coach apparently relayed the news. But while exiting, they each avoided much dialog.

"He just told us to keep going to class," said point guard Andre Allen, who, like his teammates, claimed at the time he remained unsure whether Calipari was rejecting N.C. State. However, when Allen was asked whether he thought he'd be playing for Calipari next season, he didn't hesitate, answering, "Yeah."

In other developments, assistant Tony Barbee told The Commercial Appeal on Tuesday afternoon that he was withdrawing from Murray State's coaching search after recently interviewing for the job. "I want to stay with Cal," he said. Late Tuesday, Murray State athletic director Allen Ward told the Associated Press the school will hire Miami assistant Billy Kennedy to replace Mick Cronin, who left last month to coach at Cincinnati.

Also, Darius Washington and Shawne Williams each said Tuesday they remain undecided on whether to return to school to play for Calipari or enter the NBA Draft. Washington said he is still "exploring all options." Williams added he is "gathering all the right information" to make an educated decision.

But sources close to the UofM have said Calipari's loyalty to the program could help sway the talented underclassmen to return.

-- Gary Parrish: 901-529-2365

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