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John Calipari leaves UMass for the New Jersey Nets


Sixers talk to Calipari about job
AD doubts that he's interested

By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 5/31/1996

University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari met with Philadelphia 76ers general manager Brad Greenberg Tuesday in Hartford about the NBA team's vacant coaching post, a club official said yesterday.

“It was a good, long meeting. A lot was discussed,” said the source, who requested anonymity. Asked if he felt the meeting was simply a courtesy or feeling-out process, he said, “We assume there's interest. Otherwise, we are wasting his time and ours.”

Greenberg refused to confirm or deny the report. Yesterday the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Calipari had met with Greenberg, who also talked with former Celtics coach Chris Ford in Hartford Tuesday. Calipari did not return calls from the Globe.

UMass athletic director Bob Marcum last night would neither confirm nor deny that Calipari had spoken with the Sixers. Marcum did say, however, that he didn't feel Calipari was interested in the job because the coach had not mentioned it to him.

“If John had an interest in the Sixers, he would have mentioned it to me. What does that mean? That's the way we've always done things in the past. That is not to say the Sixers haven't talked with his attorney,” said Marcum, who in April denied St. John's permission to speak to Calipari about its coaching vacancy because he said Calipari wasn't interested. UMass spokesman Bill Strickland confirmed that the Sixers had talked with Craig Fenech, Calipari's attorney.

Since guiding UMass to a 35-2 mark and its first trip to the Final Four last season, Calipari has been mentioned as a possible candidate for several NBA vacancies – including Philadelphia, Charlotte and New Jersey. That's nothing new for the eight-year mentor, who turned a beleaguered program into a national power.

Still, on the day center Marcus Camby announced his eligibility for the NBA draft, Calipari was asked if he was heading to the pro ranks as well. “No, I'm going to be here,” Calipari said. “My intention is to be here for a long time.”

This marks the second time in as many years the coach has met with representatives from a pro team. After the 1994-95 campaign, Calipari talked with the Celtics and Golden State Warriors. Then he signed a 10-year, $5 million deal that put him out of reach of most college programs and probably a few NBA teams.

When asked if he felt the school had done enough contractually to keep Calipari, Marcum said, “I think the person to best answer that is John, and I think he stated it publicly many times that he has a great job and is comfortable in the Amherst area. When he says that, it's a sincere comment.

“Is that to say John wouldn't have an interest in some of these jobs? He might. If Kentucky comes knocking on the door, don't you answer the door? But I think when it comes to some of these pro teams, it's a little different. When you look at pro teams, it seems like you don't have the same type of dynasties [as in colleges].”

Peter May of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Calipari says he'll listen
From The Boston Globe, 6/1/1996

University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari said yesterday in Providence that he doesn't plan to leave Amherst but that his lawyer, Craig Fenech, is reviewing proposals.

Calipari, who has a 10-year, $5 million contract with UMass, reportedly met Philadelphia 76ers general manager Brad Greenberg Tuesday in Hartford and discussed the NBA team's vacant coaching position. He also has been mentioned as a candidate for the New Jersey Nets position.

“My lawyer has listened to some people talk to him to find out exactly what people are talking about, which he will do every year,” Calipari told WJAR-TV. “I'm happy where I am. I have no intentions of moving, but I'm never, and I've said the same thing, I'll never say never.”


Player could envision coach's move
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 6/4/1996

CHICAGO – The thought of University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari taking his motto-spewing, ranting, raving style to the Philadelphia 76ers made Marcus Camby burst out in laughter yesterday.

“I can see him telling [Sixers forward] Derrick Coleman, `Dive on the floor!' “ said Camby, the former Minuteman star center.

While Camby said he would not be surprised if Caliapari ended up in the NBA, he said his former coach probably would have to amend his approach for the pro ranks.

“I think it would be a challenge for him,” said Camby. “He's a great motivator. But I think he would have to approach it differently with guys in the NBA making millions. They can blow you off and say, `What is this guy talking about? I'm making X amount of money.' Things like that.

“He'll have to go about it a different way, but there's no doubt in my mind that he will be a successful coach. He has a great game plan and great strategies for different styles.”

Although Calipari's name continually surfaced as a candidate for other jobs in each of Camby's three seasons at UMass, Camby knew the coach wouldn't take any of them.

“When I first got there, Coach Cal gave me his word that as long as I was there, he was going to be there,” said Camby. “That's why there probably wasn't as much talk about him leaving last year. He told me he was going to stay; he gave me his word.”

Even if Calipari leaves, said Camby, the UMass program should continue its success.

“We have a bunch of players, we have the core of our backcourt back and a nice recruiting class,” he said. ”Bruiser [Flint, associate coach] would probably get the job if Cal leaves. He's a great coach and a great motivator, too. I think they'd just pick up where they left off.”

Speaking of next season, Camby was one of the many who called for a matchup between UMass and Connecticut, but he now will have to be a spectator for the contest, which sources say will be played in December.

“I knew it was going to happen – Ray [Allen, former UConn guard] and I both knew,” said Camby, who figured the game would come off after he and Allen departed. “It won't be the same, but we've got a good core coming back. They lost a few, but they'll be all right. It will still be a good game minus me and Ray.”

UMass forward Donta Bright is also at the predraft camp here.


Calipari is said to spurn Sixers
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 4/22/1996

CHICAGO – John Calipari apparently has told his boss at the University of Massachusetts that he is no longer interested in the Philadelphia 76ers' head coaching job.

UMass athletic director Bob Marcum said yesterday that Calipari “told me he was no longer involved in the Philadelphia job. He told me he wasn't interested in pursuing it any further.” However, two sources last night, including one from Philadelphia, indicated that was not the case.

Calipari interviewed with the Sixers eight days ago. Since then, his name also has been linked to the vacant New Jersey job, although it is uncertain how serious the Nets are.

Asked last night whether he had met with the Nets, Calipari said, “No, I have not. I haven't talked to anybody.”

Nets president Michael Rowe, also here for the NBA predraft camp, declined comment last night.

“I don't think it's a bad idea to listen and I've told him that,” Marcum said. “I'm sure if it gets serious with New Jersey, we'll talk. We have a good relationship.”

New Jersey has said it wants a coach with NBA experience, something Calipari lacks. The club made a well-publicized and lucrative pitch to Kentucky's Rick Pitino but was turned down. In addition, the Nets sought permission from Cleveland to speak with coach Mike Fratello. The Cavaliers, however, reportedly wanted stiff compensation and Fratello, who has two years left on his deal, apparently will stay where he is.

In addition, Rowe is expected to interview general manager candidates here in Chicago, among them Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. How that might affect Calipari, if he is indeed interested, is not known.

Calipari has had his name linked to several coaching openings in the last few years since he officially became a hot commodity. He was interviewed by Golden State, Miami and the Celtics last summer, prompting skeptics to feel he is simply posturing to get a better deal and keep his name in the pipeline.

Asked if he was going to explore job opportunities among the NBA people out here, Calipari said, “I don't have any plans, but I'm out here and I'm going to spend some time with [Spurs coach] Bob Hill, a good friend of mine, and I will probably see a few other NBA friends of mine and then watch Donta [Bright] play.”

Asked if the recent problems involving Marcus Camby might make Calipari leave Massachusetts, Marcum said he thought the opposite was just as possible.

“It might change his mind [if he were thinking of leaving],” Marcum said. “We were talking about this [yesterday morning], and John was concerned where all this was going.”


Calipari plays it cool on courtship
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 6/6/1996

CHICAGO – There will be a press conference at the Basketball Hall of Fame this morning, at which time the long-awaited UMass-UConn basketball meeting will be announced. John Calipari will be there in his role as coach of Your State U.

This alone will come as a source of some shock to the NBA community gathered at the Chicago predraft camp. Most of the general managers, coaches, scouts and assorted pundits expect Coach Cal to receive his mail at Exit 16W next year. Why? Well, isn't that what everyone hears?

Fact: Craig Fenech represents John Calipari, and he has spoken to both the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers on behalf of his client. Neither team has yet – key word – told Fenech what he and his client wish to hear.

Coach Cal was a study in relaxation as he lounged in his hotel room between the morning and late afternoon sessions at the Moody Bible Institute, where he was monitoring the efforts of Donta Bright. “So tell me,” he said. “What are they saying about me?”

I told him that one guy had it from two authorities that “as of two hours ago” (i.e., 10 a.m. CDT), a deal with the Nets had been cut and Coach Cal was on his way to East Rutherford. I told him that another guy had been informed by his source that the money had been agreed upon two days ago, but that Fenech had come back to Nets honcho Henry Taub with two additional requests for, as my man put it, “perks,” that Taub had balked and that the matter of the perks was still being hashed out. I also told him that there probably weren't three people here who expected him to be in charge of the Minutemen when they finally get it on with the Huskies next season.

“That's very interesting,” he replied. “But if Craig has gotten the type of offer I'd need to hear if I were to leave UMass, he hasn't told me.”


“Understand,” he said. “If I never coach in the NBA, I'll be OK. Would it be intriguing? Yes. Would it get me really charged up? Yes. Would it be a challenge? Of course. Coaching in the NBA is the ultimate challenge in my profession. So I'm not saying I'd never go.”

As Calipari has said at least a thousand times publicly during the past two or three years, he's well paid at UMass and he likes his job. There would have to be a very good reason for him to leave Amherst.

“I have categorically ruled out all other college jobs – except two or three,” he declared. Two schools he'd listen to are Kentucky and Kansas. He didn't specify a third.

As for the NBA, Calipari says he would listen to any team which meets his guidelines. Start with the idea that the basis of the offer would have to be what is now euphemistically referred to in the trade as a “Riley Deal.” So right away, you'd be talking about $3 million a year, plus a major say in personnel matters. This, according to Calipari, is non-negotiable.

“Let's look at this,” he said. “How many teams would step up? I'd say 95 percent would not because of the price tag. Then there'd be 4 1/2 percent who would not want me because I have no NBA experience. That leaves one-half of 1 percent left.”

That's a laugh line. We all know that. But it is his way of saying that the inducement he'd need to leave UMass and go to the world of 82 games, plus exhibitions, plus playoffs, the world of insubordination and massive egos, might conceivably never come.

There are teams out there who already know what won't get the job done.

“A team has said, `Would you take $500,000 a year for three years?' No. Another team has said, `Would you take $700,000 a year?' And I said, `No thank you, and good luck in your search,' “ Calipari reported.

Calipari has often said that ego, not money, would lure him away from the Amherst cocoon.

“Money's important,” he said. “But I'd like to think I would never make a move strictly for the money. I'm doing very well now. There are, what, 29 NBA teams? Then I'd say I'm doing as well financially as 28 of them.”

Calipari reasons that if he could pry Riley money out of an owner, he would then have the necessary job security he'd need to get the job done. Calipari lives well, but he is hardly a noted conspicuous consumer.

The team that gets Calipari is the one which demonstrates to him it is totally committed to hoisting a championship banner in its arena. “That's why I would go,” he explained. “I would want to build a championship organization. Even if the money were there, if I saw that the owner and I were not on the same page, or that management was simply not capable, I would not leave UMass.”

The Celtics, by definition, are out. Calipari loves Boston and he freely admits that he's dreamed of coaching the Celtics. The Old Celtics, anyway. Or perhaps the Future Celtics. He is as appalled as the rest of us when he looks at the bumbling regime currently in charge of this once-great franchise.

Calipari hardly denies he's been thinking about the NBA. He can even describe his staff.

“I'd have an NBA veteran, a la Don Casey,” he said. “I'd have a young ex-player who could relate to the athletes. And I've have my guy, whether he's from the college ranks or the NBA. It's a long season, and I'd need someone to run with, to eat with, just to hang out with.”

According to Coach Cal, the Marcus Camby situation involving alleged payoffs from agents during his college career has no bearing on any current negotiations with the pros. “If anything,” he said, “it would drive me back in, not induce me to come out. I'm more disappointed than anything. We pride ourselves on teaching life skills and we feel we have as good a handle on this whole agents business as you can have, and what happens? The kid makes a bad decision.

“But there is one good thing about all this,” he continued. “It focuses attention on a bad situation for both the pros and the colleges. It's not that all agents are bad. But many are unscrupulous. And the question remains: Would Marcus Camby have taken the money and the jewelry if you had stipends and loans for college athletes? I don't think so.”

Calipari has no need to head in the direction of Exit 16W if he's looking for challenges. He's got to replace his starting frontcourt, for openers, and he isn't exactly playing a glorified Division 2 schedule. “It's another unbelievable schedule,” he said. “I should be drug-tested. In addition to our regional rivals [Boston College and Connecticut], we've got North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland and Georgetown. We go to Maui after Christmas – and they're saying it's the strongest field ever. And our league is going to be improved.”

The assumption is that he will be the coach for all these games. “Someone could come along with the right offer,” he said. “Someone could come along who is willing to make the complete investment in building a championship team I think would be necessary to get the job done. If something like that came up, I'd be honest – I'll listen. It may happen. It may happen next week. But I don't expect it.”

Anyway, he leaves all the dickering to Fenech. His toughest decision yesterday was whether to attend last night's NBA Finals opener after he was through watching Bright.

“I guess I should go,” he reasoned. “You know, I've never seen Michael Jordan play in person.”

But he might see more than he wants of him one of these years.


He's N.J.-bound
Calipari: 5-year, $15M deal

By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 6/7/1996

Material from Associated Press was used in this report.

AMHERST – John Calipari is already saying “we” and “our” when referring to the New Jersey Nets. The coach is already comparing the players on the beleaguered NBA team to those who played for him the past eight seasons as he transformed the University of Massachusetts from a moribund program into a national power.

Standing 15 feet from his office, flashing a wide smile and brimming with enthusiasm, the 37-year-old Calipari said yesterday he is leaving to coach the Nets, adding that the franchise's offer was too good to refuse.

According to Calipari, the Nets will also name him head of basketball operations, and though he wouldn't specify terms, the deal reportedly is worth $15 million over five years.

The agreement caps two weeks of speculation, innuendo and rumors surrounding the courting of Calipari by the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. While talk swirled that Calipari had met with both clubs, he either denied doing so or made himself unavailable for comment.

Romanced in recent years by NBA teams such as the Celtics, Warriors and Heat, he became an especially hot commodity this season after guiding the Minutemen to the No. 1 ranking for most of the year, a 35-2 record and their first Final Four appearance ever. But even as the conjecture about the NBA mounted and the fallout began to be felt from this week's allegations that star center Marcus Camby had accepted payments from agents in violation of NCAA rules, Calipari was decidedly noncommittal about his intentions. If anything, it appeared he would be returning to UMass, where he long has maintained he has been quite comfortable and could easily finish out his career.

But that all changed late Wednesday evening when Calipari received a call from his New Jersey-based attorney, Craig Fenech, with word on the deal, the final terms of which were still being worked out yesterday afternoon.

“Craig had been working, and I didn't think it was going to happen,” said Calipari. “Last night he called me and he said, `The deal is done. Here it is. This is what they've done.' And I said, `Come on.' And he said, `Nope.' And I said, `OK, I can deal with that.'

“And I called [UMass] late last night, because I had called and said it wasn't going to happen. So first I told them that we're not doing it. Then I said I am doing it. Then the thing came through, and I said, `Look, I'm doing it.' “

His departure is sure to leave a huge void at UMass, where in 1988, Calipari took over a team that had posted 10 straight losing records and built it into a perennial power, compiling a 193-71 record with two NIT and five NCAA postseason appearances. The rise was capped by this year's run to the national semifinals, where UMass was eliminated by eventual champ Kentucky, coached by Calipari's mentor, Rick Pitino – whose later decision not to accept an offer from the Nets cleared the way for Calipari.

Keeping pace with the Minutemen's success on court was their growing portfolio. In the last three or four years, since the program kicked into high gear, the athletic department has boosted revenues from donors, corporations and licensed product sales from near zero to more than $1.4 million.

Moreover, at a time when the state and school were financially strapped, UMass built the $51 million Mullins Center for basketball and hockey. Calipari was a primary factor in getting the facility, which the school had talked about (and had promised several coaches it would build) for at least 20 years.

That fact was not lost on UMass president William Bulger, who said in a statement yesterday acknowledging Calipari's departure, “We want to take this opportunity to thank him for all that he has done to rebuild the basketball program at the University of Massachusetts and to enhance the visibility of the entire university. We feel fortunate to have had his talents for the past eight years.”

Speaking at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, where UMass' four-year series with Connecticut was announced, athletic director Bob Marcum said, “In most cases [he was kept abreast of Calipari's NBA dealings]. I have a great relationship with Coach Cal and vice versa. I don't have one negative thing to say about any of it and I will not have anything negative to say.”

While he has insisted that the right coaching situation and necessary control would be paramount in any move, Calipari acknowledged that money also was a major consideration.

“The reason I'm doing it is it's an unbelievable opportunity to build another championship organization,” he said. “I have total control of basketball operations. How many times can a guy like me get an opportunity like this?

“I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say money didn't play a part in this. My family is very important to me. My family security is very important to me. I was poor growing up. So the money did play a part even though I was taken care of pretty well where I am.”

Before last season, Calipari reportedly received a 10-year, $5 million contract from UMass.

Yesterday he dispelled rumors that he went to Chicago, site of the NBA predraft camp, to meet with NBA officials. “I did not meet with any teams in Chicago,” he said.

Then he gave the highlights of his Chicagoland stay in chronological order. “I was in [San Antonio Spurs coach] Bob Hill's room,” he said. “I was in the gym watching Donta [Bright, UMass forward]. I ate dinner with Donta. [Globe columnist] Bob Ryan cornered me in my room one night, and I went and watched the Chicago Bulls play. I ate at Houston's [Wednesday night], and I came back here this morning. I met with no teams. I didn't meet with the Nets, and I didn't meet with Philadelphia. I was out there for Donta.”

There may not have been any direct contact in Chicago. But in East Rutherford, N.J., yesterday, where it was announced that a news conference introducing the new coach would be held today, Nets owner Michael Rowe said he held initial talks with Calipari Friday night in Providence.

On Sunday, according to Rowe, Fenech told him that his client was interested in the job, and after two days of further talks, negotiations broke off late Tuesday.

“What they wanted and what we wanted in terms of language and dollars, we just couldn't get close enough,” Rowe said.

Rowe said he telephoned Fenech Wednesday around 4 p.m. to see if there was any movement. Fenech said no and Rowe scheduled interviews with other candidates for yesterday.

But three hours later, Rowe said Fenech called him back expressing renewed interest, and a deal was struck by 11:30.

But earlier Wednesday, Rowe maintained that Calipari had not been considered for the job.

“I would take a lie detector test and I'm sure he would, too,” Rowe told The Record of Hackensack, N.J., for yesterday's editions.

Calipari said he felt the Nets were a better situation for him than the Sixers. “Philadelphia was a whole different ballgame, a whole different animal,” he said. “The best thing for me, without a doubt, is to go to the New Jersey Nets, build a championship organization, get people juiced up and revved up, get players excited about playing and having fun, playing and wanting to play at a high level, improve the talent on the team and try to make a run at things.”

Calipari dispelled notions that the timing had anything to do with either Camby's decision to forgo his senior year and enter the NBA draft or the agent controversy.

“The three reasons I did not leave: One, because I didn't think this team wasn't going to be as good. I think this team is going to be terrific, and I think [associate coach] Bruiser Flint will do a terrific job if he's named head coach.

“The second reason is because Marcus left. That had nothing to do with my leaving. If this job was offered the way it is, which is head of operations and basketball coach, I would have sat Marcus down and said, `Marcus, we've got to talk. I love you to death but this is an opportunity that may never come my way again.'

“And the third reason I did not leave was because of what happened with Marcus and the agent. That had nothing to do with it. This thing was talked about before that situation even came up. It almost got me to say I'm not leaving until I looked into it more, and I think everything's going to be fine.”

Calipari said he met with the team yesterday, “and they were disappointed but they said, `Coach you have to do this.' Carmelo [Travieso, a senior guard] said, `Coach, this is our senior year and this is happening, and we're used to you.' “ And I said, `Well, I think everything's going to work out, and if the program does the right thing, which I imagine it will, Bruiser is going to be the head coach and everything's going to move and people will forget about me in about four months.' “

The coach said the Nets are similar to the program he inherited at UMass – plagued by losing (three playoff appearances in 10 years), low in morale and attendance. “The Nets, right now, what I like about them, they're a good group of guys and they play hard and they rebound,” he said.

“You think about my teams. They all play defense. They rebound and they play hard. Now [the Nets] don't shoot very well. Sounds like my teams, too. But the challenge for the organization is we've got to become, perceptionwise, a championship organization in how we treat the players.

“It's got to be a player-friendly environment. A fan-friendly environment where people want to come. And the second part is that we've got to improve our talent over the next three years and then see where it goes.

“When I first got [to UMass], they said it was a graveyard for coaches. They said the administration was very soft. They said it was apathy with fans and not great fan support. Well, that kind of sounds familiar to what I'm doing now.”

Calipari called his new job his biggest challenge yet. “And it's not easy. The first year is just setting the tone,” he said. “But I think the tone is set because they play hard and rebound.”

Now the question is whether UMass will after losing its basketball savior.

Francesa had the inside story
By Jack Craig, Boston Globe Staff, 6/7/1996

There had been rumors about John Calipari leaving the University of Massachusetts to take over the New Jersey Nets, but it was announced as a done deal around midnight Wednesday on all-sports WFAN Radio in New York by Mike Francesa. That was not surprising.

When the Globe ran a story May 9 about distribution of tickets for UMass' participation in the Final Four, Francesa was listed as receiving four, at no cost. He reacted angrily when asked why he didn't pay for tickets, which had a face value of $70 each. “John would have been insulted,” Francesa responded.

Calipari is well known for cultivating the media, and there is hardly anyone more important in New York City than Francesa because of his daily show on WFAN with co-host Chris (Mad Dog) Russo.

Calipari's agent, Craig Fenech, also represents Francesa.

Sarandis ahead of the pack
By Jack Craig, Boston Globe Staff, 6/7/1996

It has not been an easy week for University of Massachusetts basketball. On Monday, Marcus Camby became entangled in a scandal involving alleged payments from an agent in violation of NCAA rules, and yesterday coach John Calipari quit to join the New Jersey Nets. But the week was a good one for Ted Sarandis, WEEI's college basketball devotee. He received a call from Calipari Monday night and engaged in a 20-minute conversation on air about the Camby crisis. He scooped the late TV news shows by several hours. It was a huge story, though Sarandis did not emulate Mike Wallace in his Q & A. Still, the audience heard Calipari use the word ``blackmail” for the first time in connection with the Camby case. As the discussion was about to end, Sarandis inquired about a rumor Calipari was headed for the 76ers. Not so, Calipari replied, but he left wiggle room, which he would use a few days later, by stating that if he were ``overwhelmed” by an offer, he might leave UMass. Reportedly, that same night, Calipari's agent, Craig Fenech, was committing him to the Nets. Was Calipari speaking truthfully to Sarandis? Regardless, Calipari chose Sarandis as his Boston media contact in an effort to get out in front of the Camby situation. ``It looks like all the hard work [on college basketball] finally paid off,” Sarandis said. The interview has since been replayed on WEEI, especially the excerpt in which Calipari said there was a very slim chance he would coach elsewhere. Sarandis said he was surprised by the lack of reaction to the breaking story when he returned to the phones. ``Most wanted to talk about the NHL playoffs,” he said.

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