Coach John Calipari is synonymous with the University of Kentucky. Since 2009, Calipari has led the Wildcats men’s basketball team to astounding success. He helped mold future stars like Anthony Davis into the NBA-dominating forces they are today.
His career starts as a division one NCAA player, pivots to coaching, and even includes a couple of stints in the NBA. But it’s coaching college ball that became Calipari’s natural habitat. So does he get compensated well for his efforts?
Let’s take a look at Calipari’s long career, and piece together his net worth from all those years of steadily increasing earnings.
How a fringe division one prospect became a coach
John Calipari came up in the back half of the ’70s as a competitive high school point guard in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
He was good enough to just barely make the cut as a division one prospect. He stuck to point guard across his two years at UNC Wilmington, as well as his final two years at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
At Clarion, Calipari led his team in assists and free throw percentage. The NBA draft didn’t come calling, though, so he continued his basketball career as an assistant coach with the University of Missouri instead.
John Calipari’s NBA years
A string of assistant jobs through the next decade built Calipari’s resume to the point where the NBA came calling. First, the then-New Jersey Nets as their new head coach in 1996. His three season run was controversial, with limited success on the floor and notable clashes with the press as Calipari lashed out.
He finished his run as an NBA head coach with a 72-112 record. The Nets organization fired him after a 3-17 run. He landed an assistant coach job with the Philadelphia 76ers, but the writing was on the wall. Calipari wasn’t a great fit for the NBA — yet. He had some more developing yet to do.
The incredible success and strange ending to John Calipari’s time in Memphis
After a year in Philadelphia, Calipari returned to the NCAA. He took the job as the University of Memphis head coach in 2000. This proved to be the start of a second act in Calipari’s career.
He went looking for innovative concepts to flip the narrative after his struggles in New Jersey. And he found something special: the “dribble drive” offense, created by high school coach Vance Walberg.
Calipari adjusted the concept for the NCAA and found explosive success. While shepherding notable future NBA stars like Derrick Rose, he won 214 games in nine years.
It was his relationship with Rose that also led to the odd ending of this otherwise massively successful period of his career. An NCAA Division I violation involving Rose’s SAT scores caused all wins from Calipari’s final year in Memphis to be vacated.
It led to an awkward moment: Sports Illustrated’s 2009 College Basketball Coach of the Year had no official wins to his name for the season in question.
Obviously, it was time to move on. What happened next turned out to be the career move that would define Calipari’s career in the imaginations of many.
How John Calipari earned a “lifetime” contract with Kentucky
Calipari’s controversies didn’t keep him from finding a good job. The University of Kentucky signed him for an eight-year, $34.65 million contract after tense negotiations. He knew what he was worth.
If contracts are essentially paying cash in to extract wins out, Calipari’s paid off generously. His record with Kentucky is living legend status: 325-76 so far.
This comes after former head coach Billy Gillispie turned in consecutive losing seasons in the same position. The turnaround was massive, and clearly on Calipari.
That contract ended. With that kind of record, the competition to sign Calipari was fierce. Kentucky didn’t want to let him go and paid big for the pleasure: a lifetime contract worth $86 million over 10 years. It includes a lifelong ambassador position with the organization.
The big money is coming down the line. Currently, Calipari’s net worth sits at $45 million. Within the next few years, that will drastically change. And he’s likely worth it. His career college record is 770-216. John Calipari has earned his place in the way that matters the most.