Kentucky AD confirms Calipari to return as coach



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Despite another early exit from the NCAA tournament, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari will return for his 16th season in 2024-25, according to athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

Calipari’s future seemed cloudy following the Wildcats’ first-round loss to Oakland, a 14-seed, in the NCAA tournament last week. It was the latest upset on the program’s résumé; two years ago, Kentucky was a 2-seed when it lost to 15-seed Saint Peter’s in the opening round of the 2022 tournament.

“As we normally do at the end of every season, Coach Calipari and I have had conversations about the direction of our men’s basketball program and I can confirm that he will return for his 16th season as our head coach,” Barnhart wrote Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter.

Calipari, speaking Monday on his season-ending radio show, said he understood that the standard at Kentucky — the winningest program in men’s college basketball history and an eight-time national champion — is to cut down the nets in the final game of the year, and acknowledged that his team had fallen short of that goal.

“I talked again about the standard … that I believe in, that I think we can do,” Calipari said. “But that standard of national titles has been here from Coach [Adolph] Rupp on, and the only thing I’m saying to all our fans is you know I’m going to work — work in our state, work on this program, this university. … That’s my commitment. I’m not changing, 24/7, let’s go — whether it’s recruiting, all the stuff that we have to do.”

Calipari has one national title (2012) and his most recent Final Four appearance was in 2015. The past few years had been rough for the Wildcats’ devoted fans, as Kentucky finished 9-16 in 2020-21, the program’s worst record in 100 years, and suffered early postseason exits in 2022 and 2023.

But the emergence of Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham, projected top-10 picks in the NBA draft, and the return of veteran Antonio Reeves suggested this season could be different for the Wildcats. Then, Oakland reserve Jack Gohlke hit 10 3-pointers in an 80-76 upset win over Kentucky, a result that prompted buzz about Calipari’s future.

It seems clear to all that Calipari — who would have been owed a $33 million buyout if the school elected to fire him now — will face intense pressure to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament next season and rebuild a team that finished 111th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

Kentucky’s 2024 recruiting class includes three of the top 25 prospects in ESPN’s rankings, including four-star recruit Karter Knox and a pair of five-star talents in Jayden Quaintance and Johnuel Fland.

Calipari has faced criticism for relying too heavily on youth when most teams are getting older through the transfer portal. But he said Monday on his radio show that he will continue to recruit freshman talent and balance his team with veterans from the portal.

“This is like wearing a coat: It never goes away,” Calipari said. “But I love it. This is what I want. This is what I wanted. This is why I never left. This is it. And now it’s let’s come together and let’s do something. Let’s do something special. We’ve done it. Let’s do it again.”





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