John Calipari woke up and took care of some business quickly from Egypt on Friday morning.
The University of Kentucky basketball coach shot down an ESPN report Thursday night that said he had expressed interest in becoming president of the New York Knicks.
“Even in Egypt I can’t escape the rumors,” Calipari posted on his Twitter account. “Are you kidding me?! It’s 5 in the morning here and this is what I wake up to?
“NO ONE has contacted the Knicks on my behalf. I am the coach at Kentucky and will be for a long time!”
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Calipari, who is coaching Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo, Egypt, beginning Saturday, is operating in a time zone six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Daylight Time. The rumors swirled as he slept.
The coach went on to tweet “Off to go see the pyramids in a bit. And by the way, I like my team. And my @usabasketball team too!”
“I like my team” has become one of Calipari’s familiar refrains and should come as good news for UK fans who have witnessed their coach linked to numerous NBA coaching rumors since his arrival at UK in 2009.
The latest, reported Thursday evening by Ian Begley of ESPN, says that the UK head coach reached out to the Knicks upon learning that Phil Jackson departed as team president Wednesday.
Begley’s report, citing sources, said Calipari expressed interest in Jackson’s job “through intermediaries” but that the Knicks are not currently interested in Calipari. Begley also presumed that Calipari would want to coach the team if hired as president.
General Manager Steve Mills is handling the team’s operation after Jackson’s departure. The Knicks, whom star player Carmelo Anthony once called “the laughingstock of the league,” have missed the playoffs four consecutive seasons.
Calipari described his night in Cairo during an appearance on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio show Friday morning.
“Well, I can tell you my phone blew up at 4:45 here, and I had to tweet out — which is great about social media — you can cut stuff off when it’s not true. But there’s no one on my behalf that called the Knicks,” he said. “There may be a college coach who inquired about it. It wasn’t me. I called my wife and I said, ‘Is it you?’ No. I called my son. He hasn’t called me back, so maybe my son had. No.
“I’m in Egypt, and it’s funny. I get thrown into stuff even when I’m out of the country.”
Calipari most recently worked in the NBA as an assistant coach with Philadelphia in 2000 after he was fired as coach of the then-New Jersey Nets.
The coach agreed to a two-year contract extension with Kentucky in March. Calipari’s total guaranteed compensation, including base salary, media/endorsement payments and retention bonuses is $8 million for each year of the extension, which runs through March 30, 2024.
Calipari, 58, has completed eight seasons as Kentucky’s head coach, leading UK to four Final Fours and the 2012 national championship.
Calipari has denied numerous NBA rumors in recent seasons. Last winter, speculation tied him to the New Orleans Pelicans after the team paired up ex-Cats DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
Calipari was asked during “Mike and Mike” whether he is contacted through back channels about NBA jobs every year.
“I don’t think every year, but there have been times it has happened,” Calipari said. “The thing I always say — because of what happens to me every year — I’m in that green room trying to help my kids get drafted. I like to have relationships with those owners and those GMs and presidents. So that on draft night I can pick up the phone and call somebody and say, ‘Hey, what are you thinking of my guy?’ …”
At the end of the 2016-17 season, players who performed under Calipari at Kentucky dotted 15 of the NBA’s rosters. Three more Kentucky players were drafted into the league last week: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.
Earlier in 2016, reports linked Calipari to the Nets, a team he coached to a 72-112 record from 1996-99. Calipari has also been the subject of rumors involving the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings in recent seasons.
“The reality of it is I’m coaching at Kentucky. C’mon. In my mind, I’ve got the best job in the country,” Calipari said on “Mike and Mike. “It’s been a great opportunity for young people to come in and better themselves and better their lives. It’s been an unbelievable stage to challenge them in so many ways, and I just can’t see there’s anything out there that I’d want to leave for.”
Last fall, Calipari said he had no plans to leave Kentucky while his son Brad, a freshman member of the team at the time, was still enrolled in school.
“My son’s now here, so my son’s walking on; I’m not gonna leave,” Calipari told ESPN at the time. “I would say four to five years is a lock, and then after that, (shoot), I may be hanging it up. At that point, I’d be 60, 61. I never thought I would coach past the age of 60 because I’m not … basketball isn’t my life.”
Calipari’s college coach, Joe DeGregorio, said Thursday night that he’s not so sure the UK coach is that ready to wrap things up.
“I think John is a coach. He’s still in his 50s. Maybe you get to 60, you want to do something,” DeGregorio said. “I think he still has fire in his belly to keep going.”