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Calipari accepts Kentucky offer

A deal worth $31.65 million makes John Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball. A deal worth $31.65 million makes John Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball. (Jamie Squire/file/Getty Images)
Associated Press / April 1, 2009
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John Calipari agreed yesterday to leave Memphis and the dominant program he built and take on the challenge - and riches - of returning Kentucky to college basketball glory.

Calipari will receive an eight-year, $31.65 million deal plus incentives, according to the university, making him the highest-paid coach in college basketball. The school also will pay Memphis a $200,000 buyout.

The 50-year-old Calipari has a career record of 445-140 in 17 seasons. He chose to leave Memphis after nine seasons of success, including a record of 137-14 over the past four years.

Calipari spent the day considering the Wildcats' lucrative offer and calling former Kentucky coaches, including Joe B. Hall.

Hall said the informal chat centered on what it takes to survive one of college basketball's most prestigious, most scrutinized, and most lucrative jobs. Kentucky fired Billy Gillispie Friday after two disappointing seasons.

The Commercial Appeal of Memphis first reported the hiring.

Tigers walk-on Preston Laird said Calipari met with the team yesterday afternoon, first as a group and then with individual players, including Laird. The freshman guard described the meeting as very quiet, "Nobody really said anything."

"He started off by telling us it was the hardest day of his life," Laird said.

But the guard said Calipari wasn't very specific.

"He can't say that he's taking it, but he said he was probably going to sign the contract," Laird told a reporter.

Kentucky spokesman DeWayne Peevy would not confirm a deal had been reached.

"I'm waiting on my boss to tell me it's a done deal," he said.

Memphis spokesman Bob Winn confirmed athletic director R.C. Johnson had spoken with Calipari. Asked if Calipari had told Johnson he was taking the Kentucky job, Winn declined to comment.

Memphis has scheduled a news conference for noon today, when Johnson will discuss the future of the basketball program.

BU continues search
The search for a men's basketball coach for Boston University will move to the Final Four in Detroit, where athletic director Mike Lynch hopes to wrap up the interview process and name a coach in the next few days. Tennessee associate head coach Tony Jones appears to be the leading candidate after Cornell coach Steve Donahue told BU officials he was not interested in leaving the school.

Jones, who interviewed for the job last week, said he had not heard from BU officials. "I think it's a great job," said Jones. "Great city, great pro town, and a great college town."

Rob Burke, an associate coach at Georgetown, was in Boston last week for an interview, said a source at Georgetown. BU officials also met with Villanova assistant Pat Chambers last weekend.

Lynch and other BU officials will be in Detroit finalizing the hiring process, which could include interviews with Louisville assistant Richard Pitino, Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion, Boston College assistant Pat Duquette, Texas A&M assistant and BU graduate Scott Spinelli, and Bentley coach Jay Lawson.

A late entry to the list could be Navy coach Billy Lange. Lange, who has Big East ties from his time on Jay Wright's staff at Villanova, has spent four seasons at Navy.

Lynch and his staff also have spent the last few days attempting to persuade members of the basketball team, who expressed a loyalty to former BU coach Dennis Wolff, not to transfer. Having a new coach in place could help ease the situation.

Paris earns honors

Courtney Paris of Oklahoma became the first four-time All-American in women's college basketball, and sophomore Maya Moore of Connecticut was a unanimous selection in her second appearance on the AP's All-America team.

Moore is joined on the first team by teammate Renee Montgomery and seniors Angel McCoughtry of Louisville and Kristi Toliver of Maryland. Auburn forward DeWanna Bonner leads the second team and is joined by Jayne Appel of Stanford, Marissa Coleman of Maryland, Tina Charles of UConn, and Jantel Lavender of Ohio State.

Penn St., Baylor win
In men's NIT semifinal action last night at New York, Talor Battle scored 17 points, Andrew Jones had career highs of 16 points and 15 rebounds, and Penn State hung on for dear life after squandering a big lead for a 67-59 victory over Notre Dame. Jamelle Cornley added 15 points and Stanley Pringle had 10 for the Nittany Lions (26-11), who set a school record for wins in a season and will play Baylor for the championship tomorrow night. In the earlier semifinal, Curtis Jerrells scored 25 points and LaceDarius Dunn had 23, leading Baylor into the championship game with a 76-62 victory over San Diego State . . . Purdue center JaJuan Johnson has decided to return for his junior year after having a breakout season. The All-Big Ten selection says he's not ready for the NBA, and he will focus on getting stronger and improving his shot . . . The University of Virginia says new men's coach Tony Bennett has agreed to "a memorandum of understanding" that will pay him $1.7 million annually for five years. Virginia also said Bennett will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and another $500,000 if he stays five years. Bennett, 39, was hired Monday after three years at Washington State. He had a 68-30 record with the Cougars and twice took Washington State to the NCAA Tournament . . . A Virginia Commonwealth official says the school has picked Florida assistant Shaka Smart to be its men's basketball coach. The official said Smart has not signed a contract, but an announcement is planned for tomorrow . . . Missouri men's coach Mike Anderson passed up a sizable raise offered by Georgia to instead sign a new seven-year contract with the school he helped lead to the brink of the Final Four. The university said financial details of the deal will be announced later.

Mark Blaudschun of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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