Did John Calipari almost become the UCLA basketball coach?

Now that former Kentucky head coach John Calipari is leaving Lexington to become the next head coach of the Arkansas Razorback, did he almost become the coach at UCLA?
UCLA v Kentucky
UCLA v Kentucky / Joe Robbins/GettyImages

There was talk in 2019 that John Calipari might leave the University of Kentucky to take a head coaching job at UCLA.

Calipari was reportedly offered a lucrative contract by UCLA, estimated to be worth $8 million a year, which was alluring given that he was already making $9.3 million at Kentucky.

It was also reported that Calipari and UCLA had discussions, and Kentucky had even granted them permission to speak.

When Kentucky saw how serious the offer was, they responded by offering Calipari a lifetime contract extension. This new contract offered Kentucky a very alluring offer to stay, with a lengthy coaching career, a hefty pay, and an ambassador status upon retirement.

In the end, Calipari opted to remain at Kentucky, expressing gratitude to UCLA for their interest but emphasizing his devotion to the Wildcats.

There may have been various reasons why Calipari did not leave Kentucky to take the job at UCLA. One could of been that Calipari was not really interested in becoming the new coach of the Bruins but that he may have used UCLA to get a new contract with the Wildcats which he so happened to have received shortly after the rumors of him going to UCLA were made public.

Another credible reason is that UCLA offered Calipari less money per year then what he was making in Lexington at the time. There were national sports media members as seen below which questioned why UCLA would offer him less money per season then what he was currently making as the head coach at Kentucky.

Even though UCLA did not hire Calipari, they hired a coach that would take UCLA to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for three straight years.

Mick Cronin was named as UCLA's new basketball coach in 2019, following a somewhat rocky hiring process. The vacancy became available with the dismissal of Steve Alford, who was the head coach at UCLA, in December 2018. This was the first mid-season coaching change UCLA had ever made as most schools including Blue Blood programs like UCLA usually wait to the conclusion of the season.

Former Bruin and Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers among others was on the search committee, which was headed by athletic director Dan Guerrero. The initial coaches UCLA looked at did not end up becoming the new coach at UCLA for one reason or another.

Rick Barnes of Tennessee and Jamie Dixon of Texas Christian University were allegedly their first targets in the coaching search but there is not 100% confirmation of this. Due to buyout clauses and other issues, negotiations with both coaches reporting did not end in either coach becoming the new head coach of the Bruins.

After realizing that their rumored first picks were not available, UCLA focused on Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin. Cronin had a great track record at Cincinnati, having guided the team to nine consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. The Bruins would end up giving him a six-year, $24 million contract, putting an end to their quest for a coach.

Cronin wasn't the first choice, but his background and coaching philosophy were seen to be a strong fit for the Bruins squad. In conclusion, despite some early setbacks, UCLA's search for a new coach in 2019 resulted in the hiring of Mick Cronin and not that of Calipari.

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