Calipari Being Touted as Next Knicks Coach (Again)
NEW YORK — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
An embattled Knicks’ coach is fired and one of the first — if not the first — name that comes to mind as a replacement is none other than Kentucky’s John Calipari.
We saw this scenario play out a year and a half ago when owner Jim Dolan canned Mike D’Antoni and Calipari, with his Creative Artists Agency ties — was touted as a possible savior.
The drumbeat grew so loud that Calipari was forced to Tweet a response.
“As I’ve said before, I have the greatest job in basketball at any level,” he Tweeted then. ”Why would I be interested in another job?”
He added: “I love being the coach of the commonwealth’s team. To that #BBN & all the recruits that are coming or want to come, I will be at Kentucky.”
Now here we are just 11 games into a disastrous start to the 2013-14 season, and D’Antoni’s replacement — Mike Woodson — already feels his seat growing hotter by the minute.
“I’m sure people are worried about it, I don’t want to see that happen,” J.R. Smith said Wednesday night at his locker when asked if he thinks Woodson is in danger of getting sent packing the way D’Antoni was.
After a tough 103-96 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks are 3-8 (as are the Nets) as they head out on a four-game road trip that includes stops in Portland, Los Angeles for the Clippers and Denver.
“Me personally, I’m panicking,” said Smith, who is also repped by CAA. “I don’t want to be playing 3-8 basketball. I don’t want to play 50-50 basketball. If we are going to be a championship-caliber team and call ourselves that, we gotta play like that. There can’t be no other way.”
Calipari is again being mentioned for a possible return to the NBA, with one NBA executive telling Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that he could command $8 million per year and that Calipari’s guy William Wesley, aka “Worldwide Wes,” would ask for that.
“That’s what Wes will be pushing,” one executive told Berger. “That’s what CAA will be pushing.”
Another executive told Berger of a potential Calipari return to the NBA: “He wants full control, bottom line.”
Yet another NBA executive told SNY.tv Wesley has the authority within CAA to make a Calipari arrival in New York happen.
“If that’s what Wes wants, that’s what they will do,” the executive said.
Of course, it’s hard to imagine Calipari walking away from Julius Randle and this loaded Kentucky team in the middle of a season in which the Wildcats can challenge for the coach’s second NCAA title in three years.
But could the Knicks make Herb Williams the interim coach for the remainder of this season and then go after Cal in the offseason, perhaps after Kentucky has reached another Final Four or captured another NCAA championship for BBN?
Sure, anything’s possible.
Let’s say Kentucky cuts down the nets in Arlington, TX on April 7.
At that point Calipari would have accomplished something only a handful of coaches have done by winning two NCAA titles.
Might it be time to return to the NBA at that point?
“John, at present rate, based upon numbers, is going in the Hall of Fame, assuming he stays in college basketball,” former UConn coach Jim Calhoun said in 2012, before Calipari won his first title.
“I don’t think he has to prove anything more in college basketball. If he got a very good NBA job, if that’s what he’d want to do. I personally don’t think he has to prove anything.”
Of course, Calipari, or whoever were to take over the Knicks, could be returning to a barren desert.
In a worst-case scenario, the Knicks miss the playoffs, or make it as the seventh or eighth seed and get bounced in the first round.
Does Carmelo Anthony, yet another CAA client, not only opt out, but head out of town as well?
“He is gone. This is it for him in New York City,” Stephen A. Smith said of Anthony Wednesday on SportsCenter.
Adding to all this doom and gloom is the fact that the Knicks have no first-round pick in this loaded 2014 Draft.
When last we saw Worldwide Wes, he was courtside in Chicago, a couple seats over from Bill Simmons, watching Randle, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker put on a show at the Champions Classic.
Knicks execs Allan Houston and Mark Warkentien were there, too.
They can’t get any of those players in the draft, but perhaps they can land the ultimate one-and-done coach himself.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.