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Sunday, April 27, 2008

News and Notes From Dan Wolken

News and Notes on a Rainy Sunday
Posted by Dan Wolken

John Calipari’s new contract, as we wrote about yesterday, is a significant development in every way. Though it’s never wise to get into absolute predictions with regard to coaching tenures, the sheer numbers involved in this deal — essentially, he’ll make $3.35 million per year — will make it very difficult for Calipari to leave Memphis any time soon. Simply put, he’s now priced himself out of all but a few jobs. It would take one of those mega-blockbuster contracts — probably from an NBA team — to pull him away.

Even at that, let’s just say an NBA team next week offered Calipari a contract worth $5 million per year. How much of the total contract would be guaranteed if he got fired after three years? He’s got $16.75 million guaranteed if he stays at Memphis for five years, and really, it’s even more than that because the deal will pretty much roll over every year. Plus, he lives in a state with no income tax, and from what I understand, the annuity part of his deal is also an advantageous tax situation.

And, of course, the other part of that hypothetical situation is that an NBA owner would have to be willing to spend that kind of money on Calipari, which is probably less likely given the track record of college coaches in the NBA.

The significance of this deal cannot be overstated. When you’re paying your college basketball coach this amount of money — and only Billy Donovan, Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are in the same pay grade — it’s an amazing commitment by the school and especially the boosters. I had heard rumblings before the NCAA Tournament that R.C. Johnson was meeting with boosters to look at ways to sweeten Calipari’s deal, and obviously they came up big in a major way.

And I don’t think anybody could make a serious case that it’s not money well spent. There is no coach in the country who means more to his program than Calipari. At the same time, Memphis has been very good to Calipari, and not just financially. He’s been able to establish a brand here; for potential recruits and fans on a national scale, “Memphis basketball” has certain connotations that are beneficial to him both as a coach and a personality. Calipari is also in a situation where he can win big if he’s able to recruit — and all indications, at this point, are that recruiting is not being hurt at all by being in Conference USA. If Calipari stays at Memphis for 10 more years, he walks into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other notes:

– They re-finished the floor at the Finch Center, and it looks amazing. The new floor also includes the new college 3-point line, which will be an interesting development to keep an eye on.

– After talking briefly with Wesley Witherspoon and his mother yesterday at the Finch Center, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t commit to Memphis this week. Shocked.

– Departure date for China is set for May 26 with a return for June 2 or 3rd. The problem is, how many players will Calipari be able to take? Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey are no-gos. The incoming recruits can’t go. Memphis may actually end up bringing along a few players from other C-USA teams to fill out the roster for the three exhibition games against the Chinese national team.

– Nothing official yet, but Andy Allison and Shyrone Chatman are pretty much set to go to UMass with Derek Kellogg. Memphis is basically operating right now with a three-man staff in John Calipari, John Robic and Rod Strickland. With Calipari and Strickland hosting Witherspoon’s on-campus visit, the Tigers only had one representative out on the road this weekend. Robic went to Akron to see the King James AAU Tournament.

– There has been a lot of chatter on Internet message boards about the status of Hashim Bailey, who was injured fairly early in the season and did not play at all after that. Just informed speculation here, but I don’t expect Bailey to be on the roster next year. There was a reference on Zagsblog this week to Bailey possibly transferring to Marist or UMass. I’d say the odds of something like that are pretty good, though I’m not sure Bailey is good enough to play for UMass.

– Nothing is really happening yet on the Tigers’ schedule for next season, but Calipari would LOVE to put together a Kansas-Memphis rematch of the national championship game as the big opener to the college basketball season. Put it on ESPN and give the sport a made-for-TV event to start the season. How about Saturday, Nov. 8 in St. Louis as a lead-in to Alabama at LSU, which certainly will be the College GameNight broadcast? I could also see a potential Memphis-Louisville game in New York, as it seems Rick Pitino would actually be agreeable to that. I highly doubt Memphis will be in any sort of holiday tournament next season, but a Louisville or Kansas game would be a great addition to an already very difficult non-conference schedule.

– Memphis won’t have anybody coming into FedExForum next season as good as Tennessee or Georgetown, but Ohio State and Syracuse could/should both be top 25 teams. And don’t forget about Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ returning roster stacks up very well, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they’re a top-25 team heading into Memphis next season.

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