UK re-assigns Strickland; Barnhart 'very confident' Calipari staying

jtipton@herald-leader.comMay 13, 2010 

Rod Strickland will no longer have coaching duties. Deputy Director of Athletics Rob Mullens will work as a day-to-day liaison between the coaches and athletic administration.

Kentucky announced those changes to UK basketball going forward on Thursday.

But Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart dismissed speculation about another seismic change: Coach John Calipari leaving after one season.

"I'm very confident he's going to be our head coach next year," Barnhart said after a UK Athletics Association Board of Directors meeting. "... and I feel very confident good times are ahead."

Barnhart noted that he has spoken to Calipari about restructuring the coach's contract. Barnhart issued a statement to that effect last week after word spread linking Calipari to the Chicago Bulls' vacant coaching position.

The two had "very cordial and good conversations" about "a little restructuring" of Calipari's contract, Barnhart said.

Calipari gave the impression last week that any new deal would see changes in years, not salary. If people assumed the dollars would not change in a restructured Calipari deal, Barnhart said, "That's probably an accurate assessment. ...

"If he wants to be here a long time and he's doing what we think he should be doing, we want him here a long time."

Mullens, who had been acting as a liaison between the athletic administration and the UK baseball team, will help give the basketball program a direct and more constant link to the top of the department, Barnhart said.

"My time gets divided in a lot of ways," Barnhart said. "... I felt they needed a lot of day-to-day attention."

Barnhart noted that a link to UK basketball can help enhance Mullens' résumé.

When asked what impact Mullens might make on UK basketball, Barnhart said, "This gives the basketball staff somebody they can talk to and be reasonably accessible on a moment's notice."

Mullens had already been working with the basketball office on scheduling, travel and NCAA Tournament questions.

"I'm probably the liaison for basketball," he said. "If there's anything they need or questions they have, or they'd need (help) from an administrative standpoint, I'll be that point person."

Barnhart described his relationship with Calipari as "good."

As for Strickland, the former NBA player asked for a reassignment, Barnhart said. UK is hoping to hire a new assistant coach within two weeks, the athletics director said.

The change comes after Strickland was charged in April with driving under the influence of alcohol.

When asked if the change in duties was a result of the DUI, Barnhart said, "I'm sure there are a lot of things that go on in people's lives, and we all understand what that can look like."

Barnhart could not say if Calipari would promote one of the current staffers into an assistant coaching job. Another staffer, former UK All-American Tony Delk, reportedly is in line for an assistant's job at Western Kentucky.

Strickland had been being groomed for a head coaching position. He had been linked to his alma mater, DePaul, this spring.

When asked if the change in duties represented a new career path for Strickland, Barnhart said, "We want to help him do what he needs to do to get back on his feet in his career. And he's got some work to do."

Strickland was arrested April 11 at about 3 a.m. at Tates Creek and New Circle roads in Lexington after an officer saw him run a red light, according to documents filed in Fayette District Court.

The officer administered several tests for alcohol intoxication, and Strickland failed, the report said. The officer noted in his report that Strickland smelled of alcohol. Strickland refused a breath test, according to the report.

In addition to the alcohol charge, which is listed as a first offense in Fayette County, Strickland faces charges of disregarding a traffic light, failure to maintain insurance and improper registration.

Before April's Lexington arrest, Strickland's most recent alcohol-related charge was in 2001 in Virginia, according to ABC News.

In April 1999, when he was a guard for the NBA's Washington Wizards, he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving. He was acquitted, according to ABC News. Strickland was convicted of the same charge in 1998. He completed a year of probation and 30 hours of community service, the report said.

In March 1994, Strickland and another member of the Portland Trail Blazers were arrested after a brawl with a truck driver in a parking lot. Strickland was charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor.

Strickland came to Kentucky from Memphis, where his job titles were director of student-athlete development/manager and later director of basketball operations.

A two-time All-American for DePaul University, Strickland played 17 seasons in the NBA before becoming a coach-in-training at Memphis in 2006.

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