Kentucky Next Coach Odds: Pair of favorites emerge

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 08 Apr, 2024 at 05:04 PM

Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The stunning news of John Calipari's departure for SEC rival Arkansas broke stirred a national debate -- who's next for Kentucky?

Given the timing of Calipari's exit and the large buyouts tied to several big names Kentucky might typically pursue, the Wildcats' search might not be as cut-and-dried as typical for a blue-blood program.

One sportsbook released odds Monday morning with New Mexico coach Richard Pitino installed as the early +300 favorite. The son of former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, who led the Wildcats to a national title in 1996, the younger Pitino took over at New Mexico in 2021 and is still just 41. He led the Lobos to the Mountain West Conference tournament title this season, but his odds of taking over one of the nation's marquee programs quickly lost steam in favor of two other potential candidates.

Baylor coach Scott Drew opened at +500 but was quickly bet down to the +100 favorite. That was ahead of Nate Oats, who is fresh off leading Alabama to the Final Four. He opened at +900 before seeing his odds quickly bet down to +300.

Noticeably lurking on the list is the 71-year-old Pitino, who narrowly missed leading St. John's to the NCAA Tournament in his first season at the helm. Pitino, who ran the Kentucky program from 1989-97, opened with the seventh-shortest odds at +1200 before lengthening to +2000, still among the top 10.

Scott Drew (+100)
Nate Oats (+300)
Richard Pitino (+700)
Billy Donovan (+900)
Mark Pope (+1000)
Kelvin Sampson (+1200)
Sean Miller (+1600)
Jamie Dixon (+1600)
Chris Beard (+1800)
Rick Pitino (+2000)
Shaka Smart (+2000)
Scott Padgett (+2000)
Anfernee Hardaway (+2500)
TJ Otzelberger (+2500)
Bruce Pearl (+2500)
Dan Hurley (+2500)
Jay Wright (+2500)
Will Wade (+2500)
Brad Underwood (+3300)
Jerome Tang (+3300)
Mark Few (+3300)
Mick Cronin (+3300)
Shaheen Holloway (+3300)
Tommy Lloyd (+3300)
Bill Self (+5000)
Mike Krzyzewski (+5000)
* Odds provided for informational purposes.

Calipari's pending departure came as a bombshell on the eve of Monday night's national title game between UConn and Purdue.

Calipari, 65, became Kentucky's coach in 2009 but his future has been the subject of speculation since his third-seeded Wildcats lost to 14th-seeded Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Calipari is under contract with Kentucky through the 2028-29 season but can exit without paying the school a buyout, The Athletic reported Sunday. He would have been due $33 million had he been fired.

ESPN reported that Calipari's annual base salary at Arkansas would fall just short of the $8.5 million he received at Kentucky, but that incentives would enable him to top that figure.

The reports pointed to Calipari's ties to a Razorbacks booster, billionaire John H. Tyson, whom the coach has called a "longtime friend." Tyson is the chairman of Tyson Foods and an Arkansas booster.

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman departed the program last week for Southern California.

Under Calipari, Kentucky won the national title in 2012 and advanced to three other Final Fours in his first six seasons there. The Wildcats, however, have won just one NCAA Tournament game since making the Elite Eight in 2018-19.

He also led Memphis, where he coached for nine seasons, to the title game in 2008, and took UMass (eight seasons) to the Final Four in 1996. He has an overall college coaching record of 855-263 in 32 seasons, according to Sports Reference.

Calipari also coached the then-New Jersey Nets in the NBA from 1996-99.

--Field Level Media