Welcome to the First Annual "Will Cal Stay" Watch.
That's how a reader began an e-mail response to last Sunday's note about John Calipari's many flirtations with other jobs while Memphis coach.
That attention-grabbing start to an e-mail sparked the need to see whether the pattern was the same when Calipari coached at Massachusetts. It was.
You might recognize the pattern: Rumor of interest in another job. Existing contract is "restructured," to borrow a term favored by Kentucky athletic officials.
Some restructuring is in order this off-season amid speculation of Calipari being willing to listen to NBA job offers.
According to newspaper reports, Calipari received a new four-year deal from UMass in 1992 after his name was linked to an open job at Alabama and a new 10-year deal in 1995 with Calipari linked to the Celtics, Warriors, Knicks and Heat. Then in 1996, UMass denied St. John's permission to talk to Calipari, who subsequently talked to the Sixers before taking the Nets' job.
The reader saw a method to his madness, a "beauty" to this "annual rite." Calipari keeps himself and his program in the media's crosshairs and, more importantly, in the minds of fans and, even more importantly, in the minds of recruits. Speculation that Calipari might leave for some high-profile job elevates him and his program in the eyes of every high school five-star recruit.
Then when the annual rite plays out, Calipari turns down the career alternative, which tells prospects that UMass or Memphis or Kentucky must be the ideal place.
With LeBron James part of the rite this spring, Calipari and Kentucky look better still.
Many might conclude this annual event is about nothing but Calipari's ego, a desire to improve his contract or way to leverage the administration. All of that may play a part in this exercise.
But, here's another possibility: It serves to promote and build the reputation of the program and the coach. It puts program and coach front and center 24/7/365.
Marketing on steroids.
The Chicago Tribune playfully tried to pin down the omnipresent William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley with a photo spread in Thursday's editions.
Under a headline reading "The dude is everywhere," the Tribune doctored some photographs to make Wesley history's Zelig as well as basketball's.
Suddenly, Wesley was the Fifth Beatle coming down the stairs from the plane landing in New York in 1964, one of the original Mercury astronauts and kissing the girl in Times Square to celebrate V-J Day.
"William 'Worldwide Wes' Wesley has surfaced as a power broker in the LeBron sweepstakes," the Tribune wrote in a paragraph accompanying the photos. "Who is he? Good question: His home, his job, his connections are mysterious. Yet he seems to be everywhere: On the field during the Super Bowl and BCS title games. On the court at the NBA Finals and All-Star Game. With MJ, Jay-Z, Phil Knight, John Calipari, Derrick Rose, Etc.
"He even helped break up the Malice in the Palace."
K.C. Johnson, the Chicago Tribune reporter who first broke the story about William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley peddling the idea of John Calipari and LeBron James as a coach/player package, wrote a story Thursday about the Bulls' search for a coach.
"The Bulls wouldn't be swayed to hire John Calipari no matter how that pitch is presented," Johnson wrote.
According to Johnson, more plausible candidates include Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks, Kelvin Sampson, Kevin McHale and former UK player and assistant Dwane Casey.
Rumors about LeBron James signing with the Chicago Bulls led to rumors of James house hunting in the Highland Park area of Chicagoland. Not true.
But it revives memories circa 1985. Joe B. Hall has retired as UK coach and Al McGuire supposedly has been seen house hunting in Lexington.
Buyouts for Cal
According to his existing contract, John Calipari must pay UK $2 million if he leaves before the end of his second year on the job. That buyout drops to $1 million if he leaves before the end of his third year on the job. The buyout is $500,000 if he leaves within the first four years.
There's no buyout thereafter.
Mock drafts for 2011 suggest UK will be needing to replace one-and-done players again next year.
As of last week, Draftexpress projected Enes Kanter as the 13th player chosen in the 2011 draft. NBADraft.net saw Kanter as the second player chosen and Brandon Knight as the fifth player selected.
Wherever former UK forward Patrick Patterson goes to begin his pro career, he expects his parents to follow. Toronto to San Antonio, Portland to Miami, it doesn't matter.
"I definitely know wherever I go, they're going to follow," he said. " ... They'll probably live a couple blocks down the street."
His father, Buster Patterson, is talking about getting an RV, the better to travel to NBA road games, Patterson said.
Big man not on campus
lf Daniel Orton had returned to UK next season, he would have been the big man on campus. Instead, he opted to take his considerable potential into this year's NBA Draft.
"I thought of that a lot," he said of being the star of next season's UK team. "I thought about it both ways."
Ultimately, Orton decided to stay in the draft. "Everybody was talking and saying I could go pretty high in the draft," he said.
UK is fan-tastic
Patrick Patterson agreed with the suggestion that UK is essentially a pro basketball team.
"It's the fans that give it that feel," he said. "If you're losing, they get on you. If you're winning, they're happy. But they still get on you."
Past, future tenses
DeMarcus Cousins has not forgotten the disappointment of Kentucky's Elite Eight loss to West Virginia.
"I think about it every day," he said. "The first person I saw when I walked in here (for the NBA combine in Chicago last week) was Devin Ebanks. That made me sick to my stomach."
Looking ahead, Cousins noted the excitement he feels about his upcoming rookie season in the NBA.
"What's really hitting me is I'll be on the same court as LeBron James," he said. "I don't know how I'm going to react."
UK vs. U of L
Louisville's agreement with the Arena Authority provides the Cardinals with scheduling priority in the new arena until at least Sept. 15 for each upcoming season. That's why it has already been said that Kentucky would continue to play their annual game in Freedom Hall. Because there will be an abundance of dates available there.
But contrary to some speculation, there is no language about UK in U of L's agreement to play in the new arena.
For those who think U of L should accommodate UK, which, after all, only needs one date per year, here's another factoid to consider:
U of L sought to play one of its pre-season exhibition games early this decade in Rupp Arena. During November, Freedom Hall is largely booked with other events. U of L was to play the Globetrotters, who had former Cardinal Alex Sanders on its team.
U of L requested a specific date to play the exhibition. But U of L was turned down despite there being no other events scheduled those days.
During a news conference last week, Arizona Coach Sean Miller commented on his new boss/athletic director, Greg Byrne, the former chief fund-raiser for UK athletics before becoming Mississippi State's A.D.
"I probably share the sentiment of all coaches here. I'm really excited about Greg Byrne being our athletic director," Miller said. "He has a youthful energy to him, and coming from the SEC, he has a fresh perspective. No question he wants championship-caliber programs, and will support and make that happen for us. I'm really excited about him. Moving forward, there's a feeling of excitement around our athletic department."
Brooks vs. Cal
A reader sent an e-mail comparing the achievements of Rich Brooks and John Calipari.
"Coach Brooks and his staff pick up football recruits which the Georgia, Florida, etc., powerhouses pass over, plus a very few from Kentucky and Ohio," he wrote. "The coaches mold them into a team, which does better than one might expect in the nation's strongest and most fanatical conference. Then UK goes to and wins bowl games on top of that.
"From this team, three or four players (about 5 percent of the team?) are considered good enough to be drafted by the NFL, the lowest draft number among them being so high I can't count that far.
"And then there's Coach Cal. He gets the top basketball recruits from anywhere in the world he wants to go. His team does very well in that same conference, except that in that conference football is valued relative to basketball as brussel sprouts compared to a Big Mac. Five of Cal's players (40 percent of the team) are taken in the top 15 or so in the NBA draft. And yet, this team doesn't get to the Final Four. This is like LeBron, Kobe, Dirk, Dwyane and Dwight all playing for the same NBA team and they lose in the first or second round of the playoffs.
"And so we wish Coach Brooks a modest thanks and have-a-nice-day while we worship Coach Cal like the anointed saviour of the universe.
Comment: OK, it's not as simple as that. UK did win 35 games this past season and the program returned to an elite status. And well-coached, elite teams lose in the NCAA Tournament every year (see Kansas, 2010). The Cats added to the degree of difficulty by depending on freshmen, always risky no matter the talent level.
But no argument here with UK football coaches having a much larger rock to roll up a steeper hill.
To Larry Vaught, the sports editor of the Danville Advocate-Messenger. He was named last week as one of the new inductees into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
To Jamaal Magloire. The former UK big man turned 32 on Friday.
Magloire has been described as a "throwback" by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In part, that's because Magloire plays a fundamentally sound style in an age of flamboyance. In that vein, Magloire removed the tattoo that read "Mister Magloire" from his left bicep.
"I got my tattoo in high school, and I was in a different frame of mind," he told the Sun-Sentinel last year. "I'm just getting older, a little more conservative. I have a son coming up and just want to lead by example."
Magloire played in 36 games for the Miami Heat last season. He averaged 2.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. He just finished his ninth NBA season, a notable achievement in a league where the average career is about five seasons.