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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is Cal Being Courted By St. John's? Is He Interested? No, But Read On........

Interestingly, I was recently contacted by a blogger who writes the blog. He inquired as to whether I thought there was validity to John Calipari possibly leaving Memphis in the future to take the job at St. Johns.

These are my thoughts on the subject.

At least at this stage in the game, I can not see Cal leaving since he (most likely) feels he still has unfinished business at Memphis - namely, winning a national title. But, lets look forward a bit to possible outcomes to this year for the Tigers.

1) We all hope that Cal brings home the crown to Memphis. A Final Four appearance is clearly expected, anything less than that will be deemed a failure on the season. If Cal doesn't make it to the Final Four this year, I believe he will 100% come back.

2) Memphis advances to the Final Four or beyond. The season will be viewed as a success. Cal will have succeeded in taking his second non-BCS league team to a Final Four. As best I can tell from my research, that has NEVER been done.

So, the question is will Cal look for another chance to rebuild a program?

We know that Cal was seriously approached last year by Arkansas and Kentucky. He reportedly never really considered either, and why would he with the Tiger team he had coming back (you know the #1 ranked Tigers who are 20-0)?

We also know that was very seriously approached and publicly courted by North Carolina State after the '05-'06 season. Cal turned down the Wolfpack, but got a sizable raise at Memphis and some assurances that assistant coaches would be taken care of.

However, we also know Cal probably looked at NC State and said this isn't 1974 and I don't have David Thompson. Also it isn't 1983 and I do have a shot clock to deal with (sorry Jimmy V, you didn't win with better talent, just better game time coaching). Can NC State really compete with Carolina and Duke these days? Did Cal say I don't want to go up against Roy Williams and Coach K four times a year. IMO, Probably.

So, what about St. John's?

NYC is the greatest stage in the land, but it isn't the greatest college basketball stage. Sure, St. John's has some tradition. But it isn't Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, Indiana, Duke or Kentucky. New York is a pro sports market. I've been to MSG for a tournament when St. John's was really good. The place was half full in a city metro with 8.2 million bodies. Gee, Memphis averages 16K with only 1.2 million in the metro. Cal has already experienced the New York media market as head coach of the Nets in the NBA. I don't think he has the best memories of the experience. Sure $15 million over five years probably made him get over it, but why subject yourself to that again? Can St. John's afford Cal? Yes, I'm sure they can. If Memphis can, then St. John's can - probably several times over.

Cal does have a big $2.5 million annuity payment coming his way in about two years. That on top of his annual salary of $1.3 million (or up to $1.7 million with incentives - most of which he will qualify for this year) is a nice package to stay around for.

Has anyone really looked at the cost of living in Memphis relative to New York City? Manhattan is just under a double, Queens not as bad, but clearly a big cost adjustment to little ole Memphis, with no state income tax and very affordable housing.

But let's just say this is not about the money (really if it was about the money, Cal would have most likely taken the Kentucky post).

Is St. John's a better job than Memphis. Well, playing in the Big East is clearly more impressive than C-USA, but a lot more competitive to boot. Frankly, I'd rather have the UConn or Georgetown job considering their histories.

Don't get me wrong, I think St. John's is a good job. It would easily place in the Top 50 jobs in D1 basketball. Recruiting is a lot easier. You can field a top 20 team and never have to miss a home cooked meal.

Memphis has a lot to offer too. The FedEx Forum is a top 25 facility, the Larry Finch practice facility is also top 25. Playing in C-USA, while not impressive, does afford Cal the chance to play the top non-conference schedule (i.e. Arizona, Gonzaga, UConn, Georgetown, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas).

Cal is pretty darn popular also. The networks love him. He is a regular guest on the Best Damn Sports Show. He could run for mayor in Memphis (though former Memphis Grizzlies and Dukie Shane Battier would beat him out even now).

Ok, enough on this. So, in conclusion, will Cal leave Memphis? Maybe, but not for the Red Storm. Maybe Chuck Martin will go back to Queens.


George said...

good arguments. who knows what goes on in the mind of a highly successful basketball coach, who also happens to be a father and a family man.

i don't think he is going to draw retirement at memphis.

on the other hand, he has a good thing going, and as long as the family is happy, he is doing well at recruiting, and the university is willing to fund his program, i think he will stay.

pico said...

Thanks for writing this! I cross posted it and wrote a little commentary of my own, the link is here.

NorthFloridaTiger said...

Cal isn't getting any younger. The question now becomes the legacy that he leaves. Memphis gives him the opportunity to become legendary. Any other program and he starts over in establishing the legacy at that school. And he is still having fun!