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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Calipari Spurns N.C. State

Calipari spurns State
After a visit to Raleigh, men's basketball coach John Calipari tells his players he will stay at Memphis for the 2006-07 season

Chip Alexander and Caulton Tudor, Staff Writers
The News & Observer

The new N.C. State men's basketball coach will not be John Calipari.Late Tuesday afternoon, Calipari called his Memphis players to his home to tell them that he was staying for the 2006-07 season.

Calipari took a whirlwind visit to Raleigh on Monday night, and those associated with the Wolfpack program were optimistic they would receive a quick reply from him on Tuesday. NCSU was offering Calipari a package worth about $2 million a year.

But as the hours passed Tuesday, that optimism began to fade.

Calipari, whose Tigers were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, will receive a new contract at Memphis that should pay him between $1.5 million and $1.7 million a year, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

What next for N.C. State?

Good question.

Those with knowledge of the search say Texas coach Rick Barnes and Calipari were far and away the Pack's top two targets. Now that both have rejected NCSU's entreaties, Wolfpack athletics director Lee Fowler may next contact LSU coach John Brady, who guided the Tigers to the Final Four this year.

One potential choice, Virginia Commonwealth's Jeff Capel, is no longer available. Capel, an ex-Duke player, was introduced Tuesday as Oklahoma's coach.

Brady has been at LSU for nine years. He just finished the third of a five-year contract that pays him $715,000 a year, among the lowest salaries in the Southeastern Conference, but has received a raise to about $1 million a year.

Fowler and NCSU chancellor James Oblinger flew to Memphis on Sunday to meet with Calipari. When Calipari and members of his staff jetted to Raleigh late Monday night, it was seen as a positive sign.

But a question about state taxes may have been a snag in the negotiations. North Carolina's state income tax is higher than in Tennessee, where the state income tax is based only on dividends and interest income.

Even had Calipari taken NCSU's offer, there may have been questions about his years as head coach at Massachusetts, where he was head coach before leaving for the NBA's New Jersey Nets in 1996.

The Boston Globe published stories in 1994 and 1995 about academic deficiencies on the team. In 1997, UMass reported to the NCAA that star Marcus Camby gave an agent $28,000 after the 1996 season to keep agent John Lounsbury from being killed by loan sharks -- money the newspaper said Camby was given when the agent recruited him as a client.

The NCAA later made UMass return $151,000 in tournament money and stripped the Minutemen of their 1996 Final Four recognition.

On Tuesday, ex-UMass athletics director Robert Marcum said Calipari was absolved of any wrongdoing in the case. Marcum, now at Marshall, said UMass self-reported the violations to the NCAA and that the NCAA ruled UMass did not know in advance about Camby's improper gifts.

N.C. State is looking to replace Herb Sendek, who had a 191-132 record in 10 seasons before leaving for Arizona State.

(Staff writer Jaymes Powell Jr., news researcher Denise Jones and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Chip Alexander can be reached at 829-8945 or chipa@newsobserver.com.

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