Prior to LeBron James’ return to Cleveland, Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert was primed to make John Calipari one well-paid NBA coach—a $60 million offer which was eventually turned down. But now that James and a host of other quality players have decided to make their way to Cleveland through various channels, Coach Cal, who returned to the University of Kentucky, says he doesn’t regret leaving the money—or the wins—on the table.
“No. No. I don’t think so. Because he and I have a great relationship (with LeBron), but it’s not based on me coaching him,” Calipari told Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal. “We’ve got a relationship. I’ve known him for years and years. We’ve always been friends. But it was never based on that. I’ve said that. I’ve had a chance to coach Derrick Rose, John Wall and DeMarcus (Cousins), Anthony Davis and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist). And I’m leaving names off, but I’ve coached some of the best players in basketball, and it is a thrill. There’s nothing better than that. Especially when those guys are all good guys.
“Well, LeBron is also that kind of player and that kind of person. But again, leaving guys who made decisions based on what’s right for their career was something I couldn’t have gotten by anyway.”
Calipari, always the warm soul, says he chose the relationship with his players over the NBA pay day. The Cavaliers ended up hiring David Blatt, a guy without the domestic popularity of Cal, but one who has impressed at every level he has coached. For his loyalty, however, Kentucky gave Calipari a $52.1 million extension through 2021. So fear not—there will still be a roof over his head and rumors of him making the leap to the NBA should subside for at least another 10 months.