Report: Calipari considered huge Cavs offer before new UK deal

Ed-O'Bannon-FTR-060914-AP

John Calipari landed a new seven-year, $52.5 million extension last week, but did so after considering a seven-year, $60 million-plus deal, according to Yahoo. Calipari acknowledged he was approached by multiple NBA teams after leading the Wildcats to the 2014 NCAA Championship game, but he insisted his commitment to UK is reflected in his ultimate decision.

“It was significantly more money for me to leave than to stay,” Calipari told Kentucky Sports Radio guest host Gregg Doyel. “It kind of tells you where my mind is."

Calipari agreed last week to a restructured contract that removes nearly all performance incentives and replaces them with a retention bonus payable each July 31 — after the traditional hiring window for NBA teams.

Monday, Yahoo reported Calipari had been approached by the Cleveland Cavaliers and offered dual roles of team president and coach, with full personnel authority, on a contract that would pay him $60 million over seven years. The presence of a star guard in Kyrie Irving as well as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft might have been alluring.

Calipari told Sporting News in a recent conversation his restructured contract with Kentucky was in place in April. He said he wanted the performance incentives to be removed but the administration preferred to keep in place the $50,000 bonus for a successful Academic Progress Rate score.

He acknowledged the timing of the retention bonus is designed to mitigate speculation about any interest in the NBA. If he were to leave for any job before August next year, he would forfeit a bonus of $1.6 million, and that figure escalates annually.

In his interview with Doyel, Calipari declined to say which teams approached him about coaching positions, but said some pursued him “in a hard way.”

According to the Yahoo report, the Cavaliers have also met with Alvin Gentry, Tyronn Lue, Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro. They have also "pursued" Billy Donovan and Tom Izzo.

Meanwhile, Calipari expects to remain at Kentucky, which he has led to three Final Fours and one NCAA championship in five seasons on the job. His 2014-15 team, which returns seven regulars from the NCAA runners-up and adds another elite recruiting class, will be projected as the nation’s preseason No. 1 by many media outlets. The Wildcats are No. 2 in Sporting News' preseason Top 25.

“I’m only concerned about one thing now,” he said: “Getting this team right.”

O'BANNON: I MASQUERADED AS UCLA STUDENT

The battle to give top football and basketball players a cut of the billions of dollars flowing into college athletics began in earnest Monday with former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon taking the stand in federal court to describe how he spent long hours working on his game and as few as possible on his grades.

The lead plaintiff in a landmark antitrust suit against the NCAA said his goal at UCLA wasn't to get a degree, but to get two years of college experience before being drafted into the NBA.

"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," O'Bannon said. "I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play."

O'Bannon portrayed himself as a dedicated athlete who would stay after games to work on his shot if he played poorly, but an indifferent student at best. His job at UCLA, he said, was to play basketball and took up so much time that just making it to class a few hours a day was difficult.

O'Bannon, who led UCLA to a national championship in 1995, said he spent 40 to 45 hours a week either preparing for games or playing them, and only about 12 hours a week on his studies. He changed his major from communications to U.S. history after an academic adviser suggested it would be the easiest fit for his basketball schedule.

"There were classes I took that were not easy classes but they fit my basketball schedule so I could make it to basketball practice," O'Bannon said.

The testimony came as a trial that could upend the way college sports are regulated opened, five years after the suit was filed. O'Bannon and 19 other plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken for an injunction that would allow athletes to sell the rights to their own images in television broadcasts and rebroadcasts.

If successful, the plaintiffs in the class-action case — who are not asking for individual damages — could pave the way for a system that uses some of the huge money flowing into television contracts to pay athletes for their play once they are done with their college careers.

MSU SALVAGES RECRUITING CLASS 

Eron Harris averaged 17.2 points per game as a West Virginia sophomore. That’s a lot of points, which were the result of a lot of playing time and a lot of shots. And he left the Mountaineers, anyway. But that decision became a bonus for the Michigan State Spartans.

A disappointing recruiting year now ends with a flourish as Harris will transfer in to join the Spartans. Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Harris is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound shooting guard, who shot 42 percent from 3-point range with 89 makes.

Harris’s father, Eric, told Scout.com Eron chose to join the Spartans. At the time Eron decided to transfer, he announced it was because of a desire to be closer to home. East Lansing is roughly a four-hour drive from Indy.

Eric Harris said of MSU coach Tom Izzo, “He was very down to earth and approachable. He showed a great amount of interest in Eron and our entire family as people. On the visit, we all loved it.

“We just felt very comfortable that coach Izzo had plan and that it was the right place for Eron.”

Michigan State reached the Elite Eight after winning the Big Ten Tournament title, then lost key starters Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. Aware of those impending losses, Michigan State pursued several high-profile targets in the 2014 recruiting class but missed out on players such as Kevon Looney of Milwaukee and Cliff Alexander of Chicago. The Spartans also lost point guard target Tyler Ulis of Chicago to Kentucky but recovered nicely with the addition of Kansas City-area prospect Lourawls Nairn.

Eron Harris will provide the Spartans with an effective perimeter scoring option in the future.

ContributorsChris Littman, Mike DeCourcy, The Associated Press

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Sporting News editorial team