Kentucky basketball: John Calipari addresses NIL, transfer portal, gives latest on Oscar Tshiebwe NBA decision (2024)

The Kentucky coach went in-depth on a number of topics impacting the Wildcats program

Sam Marsdale

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari ended the 2022-23 season having not advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the third-consecutive season, as the Wildcats lost to Kansas State in the Round of 32. The heat turned up on Calipari throughout the season. The 64-year-old addressed the outside noise concerning his position at Kentucky as well as the changing landscape with NIL and the transfer portal. He also provided an update on the status of All-American big man Oscar Tshiebwe, who's mulling an NBA Draft decision.

“At one school — at this point — I don’t believe that will ever happen again,” Calipari said on The Dan Patrick Showabout whether he sees a coach being in one place for 30 or 40 years again in this new era. “But for me — I’m not in it — I’m trying to make sure whatever I’m doing, whatever makes me happy is seeing these kids improve and get better and coming together and competing at the highest level, competing for national titles and winning national titles. But the whole point of it is, ‘Am I able to help kids?’ And if I’m not — because of the transfer portal or NIL — that may change things.

“But right now — again, we’ve got a great class coming in of young people, we’ve got some vets coming back. I’m good with this.”

Get the latest football and basketball transfer portal news from 247Sports.

Below are highlights of what Calipari said during his interview with Patrick.


"No. No. You know — here’s my thing — again. What we’ve got going — we’ve been so at a high level. If we win 47-48 games in two years, two NCAA Tournaments — in a normal place — that’s ‘Wow, we’ve got this growing. At Kentucky, there’s something different about ‘Kentucky good.’ And ‘Kentucky good’ — we’ve been there. The (2019-20) season ended with (Tyrese) Maxey, (Immanuel) Quickley, Ashton (Haggans), Nick (Richards) — the guys we had in that group where we could have won a national title that year. We won the league by three (games) — that was only a few years ago. Then you have the COVID year, then the last two years.

“But you know what? We’ve got a good group coming in. The landscape has changed. This transfer stuff has changed stuff. The Name, Image and Likeness has changed stuff. But no, I think we’re on a good path. I want to do some special things here. We have six years left here to do some really good stuff. And I think we’re doing some staff things…”


“Well, I’ve got six years on a contract. And I’m saying ‘Let’s make this run. Let’s do some things. Let’s get this back where we were.’ Two years ago, we were the fifth overall seed (in the NCAA Tournament). You know what I mean? And a couple of us lost to Saint Peter’s. I was just somewhere last night — I was at the Knicks game and somebody came up — a Saint Peter’s graduate — said ‘Thank you. You made us.’ I said ‘Yeah, you were really happy. I wasn’t really happy.’ And the other schools that lost to them after we lost to them. How about — they could have been in the Final Four. So, but anyway, you know me. I don’t have a rearview mirror. My stuff is always looking ahead — what’s next, how are we first at it.

“You talk about Name, Image and Likeness. I don’t like to get into that with players because you don’t come to Kentucky — I call that tripping over nickels to try to get to an NBA max contract. We probably have 12 or 13 guys in the league that have max deals. It may be 15, 16 in another year or two. But, our kids make more than anybody. You saw Jacob Toppin on an AT&T commercial. Lil Wayne is in my office saying, ‘Where is Jacob Toppin? I saw him on that AT&T commercial.’ You’ve got Morgan & Morgan — national stuff — because we’re at Kentucky. Our TV — even last year — rated higher than anybody.”


“And they will, but I don’t want to go in and the first thing I talk about is Name, Image and Likeness. That’s not why you come to Kentucky — that isn’t. Yet, you are going to do better than anywhere else you go, but why talk about that? Literally, you’re coming here — I’ve had many players say their first year in the NBA was at Kentucky — all that we did, how we practiced, how we competed. And that’s what’s happening. Looking right now at lottery picks from last year — that’s what we talk about. Winning at the highest level — knowing every game is someone’s Super Bowl, knowing you can’t hide, you’re going to be on someone’s television.

“And Dan, why do you think people want to watch Kentucky so much — because they want to see us win? No, and when we’re up 20 — they turn the TV off. I understand what our team does. But all that you do by coming here — the competitive practices — you can’t hide. And now you’re prepared for what’s ahead. Watching Julius (Randle), watching Bam (Adebayo), watching Immanuel Quickley, seeing what Maxey did.

"I’m trying to go out West and see the Lakers and see those guys and see Anthony (Davis) and Jared (Vanderbilt) and Wenyen (Gabriel) and seeing both (Denver Nuggets’) Jamal (Murray) and (Phoenix Suns’) Devin (Booker) and go out West. I missed Sacramento. I’m so mad because I thought they could advance and I’d have time, but D-Fox (De’Aaron Fox) and Malik (Monk) and Trey Lyles. These kids are all competing. Someone said how — they’re getting older! They’re 24 and 25 — that’s when they’re coming into their prime.”


“Well, every player that comes here thinks he’s one-and-done, and they’re not all one-and-done. And I tell them, ‘Don’t come here thinking you’re staying for one year. Talk about two and three years and after one — if you’re able to go — I’ll be the first one (to tell you).’ Now, I’m dealing with — when the season is in-season — it’s all about team. I’m not worried about individuals at that point, but when the year ends, it’s always about the individual player and what’s best. That now — not only the NBA — it’s grown into the transfer portal.”


“So, like with Oscar (Tshiebwe) — he was in my office yesterday. And I was talking to NBA teams — I talked to one owner about Oscar because he’s going to do some more workouts. And my thing — right now — is to do everything I can to help Oscar get in that league because I believe he’ll stay. …No one knew who he was. He comes to Kentucky and all of a sudden this kid explodes. And I’m telling you — the greatest kid. Do I want to coach Oscar another year? Yes! What am I stupid? Yes! I want to coach him another year, but if I’m doing right by him, I’ve got to give him every opportunity to run this out and see where he is.


“But I’ve also had to have kids walk in and say, ‘Coach, I think it's better that I leave.’ I was with CJ Fredrick and walked him through that situation and tried to help him and told him, ‘I’m disappointed you’re leaving, but I understand and I’ll help you.’ I’ll walk you through it. I’m not mad — ‘I’m mad that you’re leaving, or you should never.’"


“My opinion — transfer portal — in the past before they could leave without penalty, I would help a kid try to play right away — I would. I didn’t care about kids sitting out, but you should be able to transfer once without penalty because maybe the coach lied to you. Maybe you picked the wrong place. Maybe you overestimated who you were, so you can leave. If you graduate from the other school — you can leave again — that’s two (transfers).

"If for some reason the coach gets fired or leaves — you should have that option. Short of that? Anything should be added. If you get a waiver for injury — it gives you another year. If you get a waiver for mental health — you need to step back. You’re having issues — step back — get yourself right and then we’ll add a year at the end. That way — you’re having kids transfer three or four times. It’s not sustainable and it’s not good for young people to just say, ‘I’m doing this and I’m going to get this.’

“What we’ve been able to do is worth through stuff, and that’s kind of being taken away. So when you add that all together — it’s a little bit of a cluster right now — and it all falls on coaches. It’s not falling on college presidents, it’s not falling on ADs, it’s falling on coaches. I just talked to a women’s coach and he said one of his girls left and got money to go to the other program. So, it’s happening in women’s basketball.”

Kentucky basketball: John Calipari addresses NIL, transfer portal, gives latest on Oscar Tshiebwe NBA decision (2024)
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