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New contract another commitment by Calipari, UK to shared future

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John Calipari has signed a new contract that will keep him at Kentucky through the 2020-21 season. (UK Athletics) John Calipari has signed a new contract that will keep him at Kentucky through the 2020-21 season. (UK Athletics)
Contract details.pdf | Complete contract with addendum.pdf

The conversations that led to John Calipari's new contract were fairly straightforward.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart wasn't trying to do anything other than keep the right coach for Kentucky basketball at Kentucky.

"This was agreed to in principle right after the season," Calipari said in a phone interview. "It was let's try to get this right and let's try to get it right for your staff. I want this to be someplace you're comfortable being the rest of your career, and I said, 'That's good, let's do it.' "

They got it done.

On Thursday, UK made official a new contract for Calipari that will last through the end of the 2020-21 season. For Barnhart, the deal is a commitment to a coach who has restored UK to its rightful place atop the college basketball world and deserved recognition of his work.

"We feel like we have one of the premier coaches in college basketball and he certainly needs to be rewarded and recognized for all the things he has accomplished," Barnhart said. "It has long been our goal over the last three to five years that Cal enjoy this as his final stop in coaching and that he has an opportunity to finish his career at the University of Kentucky and hopefully set standards and win championships that will be remembered for many, many years to come."

The contract comes after yet another season of Calipari's name being attached to various NBA jobs through rumor and innuendo, in spite of Coach Cal's constant reassertions of his happiness in Lexington. Putting pen to paper yet again reinforces that he doesn't plan on going anywhere.

"I certainly think the university has made an incredible commitment to Cal and this is a further indication from him that this is where he wants to be long term," Barnhart said. "I think that loyalties are very, very important in the world today. In college athletics it's very hard to find, and his loyalty to this program and this university as many times as his name has popped up is indicative of him wanting to be here and to continue to grow this program.

"I'm sure he's had other opportunities to try the NBA again, but I'm not sure there is an NBA job that is any better than what this program and this fan base can give."

Calipari's contract will increase his annual salary to $6.5 million next season if he returns the following season. The numbers are big and Barnhart doesn't hide from that fact, but deal is dictated by an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The men's basketball program, along with football, plays a crucial role in the success of UK Athletics, helping to fund the 20 other sports sponsored by the school and maintain UK's status as one of the few self-sustaining athletics departments in the nation. As much basketball tradition as UK may have, the importance of an elite coach leading the way cannot be overstated.

"We certainly have the most incredible fan base for basketball," Barnhart said. "We have great facilities. Obviously we always have a dynamic schedule and great exposure. If you put all of those things together and you don't have someone at the head of the thing leading it the right way, it can quickly go the wrong direction. So he has been the right person at the right time at the University of Kentucky and has done a fabulous job of leading our program and is very deserving of an extension of his contract."

Calipari didn't pretend to know what outsiders will make of his new contract, nor does he care all that much. His only interest is continuing to do work at UK that can be done in precious few places.

"All I know is that Kentucky is one of those places that is unique to work," Calipari said. "There's great satisfaction, yet it's one of those jobs that it's hard to stay on top of. It's just what it is. I don't know the statement that's made other than hopefully people look at us and they see that we've set a standard on a lot of different fronts, from academics to what we've done on the court to developing players to developing young men and then also what this position can do as far philanthropic endeavors and how this position can be leveraged into something that's bigger than all of the little pieces combined."

When Barnhart hired Calipari five years ago -- time both agreed has "flown" by -- that was the goal both had in mind, to compete at the highest level while also enriching the lives of the student-athletes who made it all possible. On both fronts, it's impossible to qualify Calipari's tenure as anything other than a success.

Calipari's record at UK is a sterling 152-37 (.804 winning percentage), including 18-3 in NCAA Tournament play with a national championship, another title game appearance this season, a Final Four Berth and a trip to the Elite Eight. No school has more wins than Kentucky in the tournament since Calipari's arrival.

It's a similar story of excellence off the floor.

For the sixth time in seven semesters, UK posted a team grade-point average of 3.0 or better this spring. The program's APR scores also remain high, including a perfect score of 1,000 in 2012-13 and a most recent four-year composite score of 989.

"What Cal has done is returned us to those glory days of Final Fours and championship efforts, great players, and all along he's helped young people understand the responsibility of going to class, of the commitment to each other and to a program that has as rich of a tradition as this one does," Barnhart said. "So those are not easy tasks at any level, and he manages it all with incredible effort, great excellence and has done a marvelous job of managing the program."

Calipari had a vision for what he could accomplish when he became coach, but even he could not have foreseen all this.

"You know what, I knew it was a unique place," Calipari said, "but if you told me you would have nearly 20 guys drafted in five years, that you'd have the number of wins that we've had, which may be the most in the country, that you'd have three Final Fours, two national championship games and all that, and have four straight years of a 3.0 or better, and have an APR that is one of the highest in the league, I would have said, 'You're asking for everything. You want everything!' "

By recruiting at an unprecedented level and focusing on helping student-athletes achieve their dreams, Calipari has delivered. To the former players who starred at UK and now are scattered throughout the NBA, that's why Coach Cal's new contract is so important.

"This is a great move for the basketball program and the university as a whole," John Wall said. "Coach means more to UK than just wins on the floor. He helps change lives for both his players and their families, as well as people in the community in ways that a lot of people don't know. I'm really happy for him and his family."

Wall and his fellow former Wildcats know Calipari in a way few do. Because of that, they know there's no better coach for Kentucky.

"I have the utmost respect for Cal," said Anthony Davis, who followed Wall as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. "He has always had my best interests in mind, from before the recruiting process, while I was at Kentucky and now that I'm gone. He's like a father figure to so many players that come through UK. He really wants to help all of us succeed in our own ways. I'm glad to see that he will be the coach at Kentucky for a long time."

Exactly how long remains to be seen.

Coaching at Kentucky, according to Barnhart, is a 24/7 proposition and Calipari knows it's not a challenge that can be undertaken half-heartedly.

"It's not a place that you can plant your flag for a 28-year run nowadays," Calipari said. "It's just not. As long as I'm having a lot of fun, as long I am helping families and young people reach their dreams, I'll be good. But again, my plan all along, even when I was 30, was I'm going to coach until I'm 55 or 60 and give everything I have while I'm doing it. Leave nothing on the table."

With that approach, Calipari continues to raise the bar and expectations have followed suit. Add in his new deal and a stacked 2014-15 roster and those expectations go through the roof.

"The contract is substantial," Barnhart said. "There's no question about that. High expectations come with those kinds of things. So it's not easy. You do get rewarded for some of the things you've done, but with those rewards also come expectations and those come for a variety of reasons. One, it comes from where you live. You live at Kentucky; the expectations are already there. You add to it outstanding recruiting. And then you throw on top of that a contract and everybody goes, 'Well, those three things together, the expectations went from one level to another level.' "

"I will tell you that it's been an amazing five years," Calipari said. "And now, it's Kentucky - there's an expectation that we're going to do better. I don't even know what better would be. I mean, what is better? Like, let's go for it, but I don't even know what that would look like."

If his first five years are indication, Calipari might just surprise himself again over the next seven.

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Good job UK and glad to see that Coach Cal will be here for the foreseeable future. Any chance you can work out a deal to get Rex Chapman to never speak publically again?

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  • Larry: Good job UK and glad to see that Coach Cal will be here for the foreseeable future. Any chance you read more