John Calipari confirms exit to Kentucky fans: 'Time for us to step away'

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 09 Apr, 2024 at 07:09 PM

Credit: Sam Upshaw Jr. / Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

John Calipari bid farewell to Kentucky in a video posted to social media on Tuesday.

Saying he was "indebted forever" to the players he's coached at Kentucky since 2009, Calipari declared it was time for the program to hear a new voice.

Reports emerged Sunday night that Calipari was finalizing an agreement to become head coach at Arkansas, an SEC rival. The move was not yet officially announced as of Tuesday with Arkansas set to approve a contract.

Calipari did not refer to Arkansas in his video on X, formerly Twitter, other than to say there were "opportunities that have been presented to us" he is discussing with his family. The 65-year-old coach said he had been reflecting with his wife Ellen about their 15 years in Kentucky.

"It's been a beautiful time for us," Calipari said. "This is a dream job. It was my dream job. Anybody in our profession looks at the University of Kentucky and basketball and says, 'That is the bluest of blue.'

"The last few weeks, we've come to realize that this program probably needs to hear another voice, that the university as a whole has to have another voice giving guidance about this program that they hear. And the fans need to hear another voice. We've loved it here, but we think it's time for us to step away, and to step away completely, from the program."

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart acknowledged Calipari's departure early Tuesday afternoon.

"We're appreciative of John Calipari leading our program for the last 15 years, adding to the legacy of championship success at Kentucky," Barnhart said in a statement. "We're grateful to John for his many contributions to the University, and our state, both on and off the court.

"We are working diligently to hire a proven, highly dedicated coach who embraces the importance of this program to our fans and the state of Kentucky."

Under Calipari, Kentucky became a factory rolling out NBA players -- and elite-level professionals at that. Seven former Wildcats were selected for the 2024 NBA All-Star Game, a record for players from one college program: Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Anthony Davis, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyrese Maxey and Karl-Anthony Towns all suited up for the game in Indianapolis while Julius Randle was unable to participate due to a shoulder injury.

Calipari guided Kentucky to the national title in 2012 and three other trips to the Final Four, the last coming in 2015.

Kentucky fans grew frustrated with the lack of success in more recent years, as the Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament in 2021, were upset by No. 15 seed Saint Peter's in the first round in 2022, dropped a second-round game to Kansas State in 2023 and lost in the first round again last month to No. 14 Oakland.

Calipari exits Kentucky having gone 410-123 as the Wildcats' coach. He is 855-263 as the coach of UMass (1988-96), Memphis (2000-09) and Kentucky.

He spent time in his nearly four-minute message thanking his ex-players, their families and Kentucky fans.

"Hopefully it was an experience with your kids that you can look at and say, 'Man, this is something that we'll remember the rest of our lives together,'" Calipari said. "Those memories and what we were able to do together is what this is all about."

--Field Level Media