#John Calipari Knicks whispers won’t go away despite doubts he’d leave Kentucky

#John Calipari Knicks whispers won’t go away despite doubts he’d leave Kentucky

The John Calipari-Knicks conspiracy theories abound.

Some league sources have suggested never to count out Calipari when Leon Rose, the new Knicks president, and William Wesley, unofficial team advisor, are involved.

Last February, the Kentucky coach raved about Rose but said he wouldn’t be interested in leaving Kentucky to work for him. Calipari signed a 10-year “lifetime’’ contract with Kentucky last June.

Former Knicks coach Larry Brown, who bounced back and forth from the NBA to college during a Hall-of-Fame career, is Calipari’s longtime mentor and speaks to Calipari a couple of times a week.

Brown doubts the 61-year-old Calipari would throw his hat in the ring at the last minute and upend the Knicks’ coaching search, in which Tom Thibodeau is the heavy favorite.

Brown said Calipari used to ask him about whether he should return to the NBA for another crack, but those questions no longer come. Calipari has been linked several times to the Lakers.

“I think he’s so happy where he is,” Brown told The Post from his East Hampton home. “He’s done such a great job and [is] so beloved there and he’s helping kids. Those things mean something to him. I know he’s been asked before to coach in the NBA a number of times. He hasn’t given it a second thought because of how comfortable he is where he is.

John Calipari Knicks
John CalipariGetty Images

“He has a chance to win the national championship every year because of the type of players he’s allowed to recruit. I can’t imagine him leaving. I really can’t. You read his name because of his relationship to Leon and relationship to Wes but we’ve never once talked about him going to the Knicks. But I do know how competitive he is. He didn’t like not succeeding in New Jersey.”

Calipari’s lone NBA stint was with the Nets and it didn’t match the rousing success he has experienced in college at the University of Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky.

Calipari went 72-112 with the Nets and was fired in 1998 during his third season at 3-17, after which Brown hired him in Philly as an assistant.

Calipari created a one-and-done factory in Lexington with 29 Wildcats on NBA opening-day rosters last fall. Two of them are on the Knicks – Kevin Knox and Julius Randle.

“He does so much besides just being the coach,” said Brown, who attended Kentucky practices this past season. “He’s so visible and so comfortable being there. (His wife) Ellen is comfortable. When you name the great coaches in college, his name will be up there with anybody. He’s done an amazing job wherever he’s been.”

Calipari has nine seasons left on his Kentucky contract. He will make $4 million this season, jumping to $8 million per year the next four seasons and rising to $9 million the four seasons after that, according to a press release issued at the time of the extension.

“The only reason he’d do it is ego,” one Calipari friend said. “Even with the change in one and done, he still has the best job in the country.”

Another Calipari associate told The Post, “His name comes up for a reason because he’s been so successful and develops NBA players. It’s deserved. But he hasn’t talked about it.”

One NBA coach wonders if Calipari would give up his Kentucky financial security. The Knicks could not give him anything close to that type of long-term pact – especially during this economic crisis when even next season may not start with fans.

“You always hear he was always extremely money-motivated,” the coach said.

Brown thinks leaving money on the table is not a factor.

“John has enough money and people don’t realize how generous he is with it,” Brown said. “I don’t think that’s an issue for a coach going to the Knicks. It’s where he has a chance to win.”

Meanwhile, the new G League pay rule could effect Calipari’s one-and-done kingdom. The G League can now pay top high-school prospects $125,000 to play on a separate G League team, unaffiliated with any current NBA or G League franchise, rather than attend college for one year if 18 and not draft-eligible.

Brown said the G League rule is his “sorest subject,” adding “I’m so opposed to having kids not going to college and going to the G League.”

John Calipari Knicks Larry Brown
Larry Brown and John Calipari in 2009AP

However, Brown thinks Calipari will still get his recruits.

“How will that effect John?” Brown said. “Any great player in high school — if he has a good family support system — they’ll tell him Kentucky is a great place to go to school.”

Brown thinks the Knicks job, despite the team’s recent losing history, has become a very good one with Rose and GM Scott Perry in charge. Brown worked with Perry in Detroit and has known Rose from his days as Sixers coach. But he doesn’t know if it’s as good as Kentucky.

“He’s got as good as job as we have in sports,” Brown said. “He’s beloved in Lexington.”

Brown prefers to see his former Detroit assistant Mike Woodson get the job and Woodson is expected to interview.

“I know Woody would do anything to go back there,” Brown said. “He loved it. He was treated great. I think he has nothing but good feelings about the Knicks. It’s still as good a job as there is in basketball with the people running it now.”


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