Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Dan Wolken's Blog - On Arizona and Rumors
On Arizona and rumors
Posted by Dan Wolken
It’s only October, but silly season in college basketball coaching has already arrived. And for Memphis fans, the script is incredibly familiar. A high-profile job opens up. Immediately, John Calipari’s name is thrown into the mix because, well, his name is always thrown into the mix. Posters on Internet message boards who previously trashed Calipari will suddenly claim that he’s their program’s savior. A columnist in said college’s area will inevitably write the case against hiring Calipari - regardless of whether he’s really a candidate - drudging up Marcus Camby and the laundry list of the off-court problems he’s had at Memphis.
In the case of Arizona, which will be the big job open next April now that Lute Olson has announced his retirement this week, let me go ahead and save everybody the trouble.
Calipari isn’t going to Arizona.
Of course, some of this stuff has already started, though not by national writers who understand the dynamics of the situation. But Calipari’s name has been thrown out in Arizona newspapers, and apparently even a Phoenix radio host said that he’d heard Calipari would be willing to take a pay cut to go to Arizona (Whoever is spreading that rumor doesn’t know Calipari very well.) When I mentioned to Calipari that his name had popped up in the Tucson papers, he laughed, because it’s entirely predictable. But his response was clear and unequivocal. He’s not interested.
As someone who spends a lot of time around Calipari and the program, there are a couple things are worth keeping in mind when it comes to Calipari and any other job, especially this one.
1) With his newest contract, Calipari makes $3.35 million a year guaranteed. Let me repeat. Calipari makes $3.35 million per year guaranteed. And that doesn’t even include a dime from the new shoe contract Memphis is about to sign with Nike. Now, I can’t get anyone in the athletic department to go on the record right now about what the financial ramifications of this deal will be. But from what I’ve gathered, it will add another significant chunk of money to Calipari’s annual package. How significant? I’m not sure yet, but the total numbers could be Nick Saban-esque. Olson’s total package at Arizona, according to published reports, was somewhere between $1.3-1.5 million, which is pretty much in line with the pay scale in the Pac 10.
2) Calipari’s mindset, at this point, seems to be geared more toward riding out the momentum at Memphis rather than starting over somewhere else. That doesn’t mean he’s going to coach at Memphis forever, but if the Tigers get a couple of the recruits they’re after along with the players who are already in the fold for next year, Calipari sees them right back in the championship mix. Like Indiana, Arizona is probably a 4-year rebuilding job at minimum.
Bottom line, though, is that Memphis fans have no need to wring their hands over Internet speculation, mostly fueled by fans (and in some cases coaches) from teams that are recruiting against the Tigers. As many others have written on a national basis, fans of Gonzaga and Pitt should have much more reason to think about Arizona at this point than Memphis fans.