John Calipari Chosen As Men's Basketball Head Coach
March 11, 2000
By TERESA M. WALKER
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - John Calipari took his boss' advice to return to the college ranks, taking the job that Larry Brown turned down 21 years ago at Memphis.
"Thank Larry Brown," Calipari said Saturday during a news conference.
"He said take the job. He looked back, and he just said, `You know what? That is a basketball community. You have Memphis to recruit from. If you can galvanize the coaches and let the coaches know you're there for them ... you have a basis."'
Calipari signed a five-year contract that will pay him $550,000 a year with a base salary of $135,000, $135,000 for television and radio and $145,000 for public relations. He also has incentives worth up to $380,000 per year, including $300,000 if he wins a national title.
He comes to a program reeling after two straight losing seasons. He replaces Johnny Jones, 38.
"I've never seen a team that's had to go through the swirling adversity," Calipari said.
Athletic director R.C. Johnson said Calipari's past success is why the former Massachusetts and New Jersey Nets coach was hired. He spent the past season as an assistant to Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers.
"You have to find someone that's enjoyed success," Johnson said. "You have to find somebody that's knowledgeable and smart. I think we have found that person."
Calipari brings what the Tigers want most - a winning record.
In eight seasons at Massachusetts, he had a 193-71 record and led the Minutemen to five Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles, two appearances in the NIT and five straight trips to the NCAA tournament, with a Final Four trip in 1996.
Calipari left for the Nets in 1997 but didn't last long, being fired after a 3-17 start to the 1998-99 season.
Calipari called some high school coaches during the flight to Memphis and said during the news conference that he'd pack the 20,142-seat Pyramid.
"Is there a better area in the country for high school players and high school coaches than Memphis? That's why I looked at this and said this is a great situation. I am excited, and I want to do this," he said.
Calipari met with three players and sophomore center Kelly Wise's mother for about 20 minutes. Junior forward Shamel Jones, once recruited by Calipari, said the coach talked of making changes and improving their play.
Junior guard Marcus Moody lost his starting job within the last month and is looking forward to playing for what he called a "big-time coach." He said he also hopes his teammates will give Calipari a chance by staying.
"Everybody's in a different situation. I signed with the university. I want to play in front of my family, and I'm a senior," he said. "I'm looking forward to it and I wish all those guys would stay so we can play together."