NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If the Nets want arguably college basketball’s best coach to come back and try to fix the mess they’ve created, they are going to have to pay up in a big way.
At least, that’s what Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting.
Not long after the Nets fired head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned general manager Billy King on Sunday in the wake of a brutal 10-27 start, Wojnarowski reported that Calipari, who coached the Nets from 1996-97 until being fired 20 games into the 1998-99 season, is quietly asking for a 10-year, $120-million contract to run an NBA team, presumably as both a head coach and general manager.
Basically, he reportedly wants the same amount per season as Phil Jackson is getting to run the Knicks.
Calipari, however, took to Twitter on Monday and refuted the Yahoo! report, saying, “You may have heard me say this before: I absolutely have the best job in sports and I plan on being at Kentucky for a long time.”
Calipari, who went 72-112 with one playoff appearance during his first go-around with the Nets, is in the early stages of a seven-year, $52.5 million extension he signed with the University of Kentucky last June. In 24 years of college coaching — at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky — the soon-to-be 57-year-old has led his teams to six Final Fours and one national championship, while compiling a stellar 647-181 record.
The Nets were a playoff team in each of the previous three seasons, but have been nothing short of a disaster this season. A lack of overall talent and injuries to players they had hoped to rely on have sent their season off the rails.
Brooklyn appears destined to be a lottery team, but doesn’t have its own first-round pick because of the blockbuster trade it made with Boston back in 2013. In that deal, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, among others, went to the Nets, but Brooklyn gave up its first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The Celtics also have the right to swap their first-rounder with the Nets in 2017.
So whoever is brought in to run things in Brooklyn will be facing quite the uphill battle.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with the media Monday and assured everyone his goal is to get his team going in the right direction.
“I still believe our results will be promising. I will do my best to make a championship team. I’m all in,” Prokhorov said. “We play in the best market in the world. I’m sure next season we will be, I hope, a championship contender.”
Prokhorov said he had contemplating firing Hollins for a while, so it stands to reason he has a pretty good idea of the direction he wants to go next. That said, though, when asked about possibly pursuing Calipari, Prokhorov said, “Coach Cal is a great coach, but we won’t be discussing today any names because it’s the first day of our new approach.”
Prokhorov also said he’d prefer to have a head coach and a GM, not one person doing both jobs.
Assistant Frank Zanin will act as interim GM, while assistant coach Tony Brown will serve as interim head coach.
Nets swingman Joe Johnson said all the players can do right now is block out distractions and try to play winning basketball.
“We just have to continue to work hard, and we’ll move forward,” the veteran scorer said. “Got a great group of young guys here.”