Busting Brackets

Kentucky Basketball: 8 potential candidates to become next HC if John Calipari leaves

Mar 21, 2024; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts to a play in
Mar 21, 2024; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts to a play in / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Rumors are abundant in Lexington and it’s easy to see why. John Calipari has had a very successful 15-year stint as head coach at Kentucky, but the Wildcats have really slowed down in recent seasons.

We won’t dive too deeply into his background, but most know about Calipari’s success before Kentucky. At the college level, he took both Massachusetts (1996) and Memphis (2008) to Final Four runs that were later vacated before taking the Kentucky job in 2009. He also had a decent stint in the NBA helming the New Jersey Nets in the late 90’s.

His first six seasons in Lexington were one of the finest half-decade stretches we’ve seen in recent memory. Immediately elevating the Wildcats’ recruiting game, Calipari built several strong teams with Blue Chip prospects. The Wildcats advanced to four Final Fours in those first six years, cutting down the nets as national champions in 2012 and reaching the Final Four with an unbeaten record in 2015.

Calipari led Kentucky to the Elite Eight in 2017, Sweet Sixteen in 2018, and Elite Eight again in 2019, but hasn’t had these Wildcats back in the Final Four in nine years. That alone isn’t reason for concern, but the program’s performance since the pandemic has people in Lexington on edge.

A 9-16 record in the season after the pandemic was forgivable, but the Wildcats have had little NCAA Tournament success in the following three seasons. Kentucky was upended by a good Kansas State team last season, but it’s the other two trips that draw attention, losing in the first round to 15-seed Saint Peter’s in 2022 and 14-seed Oakland last week.

Kentucky has just a single win in the NCAA Tournament in the last five years, and the list of schools that have the same or more postseason success is quite large at this point. Calipari continues to bring great talent to Lexington, but the college game is changing with the dependency on the Transfer Portal and NIL. Does Calipari have what it takes to keep up in this ever-changing game?

Nothing formal has come from Lexington, but we’re facing the possibility that Calipari has coached his last game with the Wildcats. The endings in these recent seasons has been bad and a fresh start might be the best for the program; it’s at least what a vocal majority of the fan base seems to favor. Calipari’s hire fifteen years ago was their last coaching search and a program like Kentucky would obviously attract favorable candidates.

With that in mind, we’ll be looking at a number of potential candidates that the Wildcats could target if they decide to move on from Calipari. First and foremost, we’re not including a few big-name coaches who spurned other jobs or signed extensions in recent weeks, namely Scott Drew and Nate Oats. We also aren’t seriously considering any mid-major head coaches, as the most prominent name (Dusty May) is off to Michigan. Those two prominent coaches and a plethora of mid-major names could be considered, but let’s dive into the ones we’re seriously considering.