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Calipari resigns from Memphis on the way to Lexington


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After nearly a full day of reflection and struggle, John Calipari decided today to accept the head coaching job at Kentucky and leave the University of Memphis after nine seasons, according to a source close to Calipari.

A news conference to introduce Calipari as the new Kentucky coach will take place Wednesday in Lexington, Ky.

The Louisville Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Calipari called former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall to discuss the program and its tradition.

Calipari leaves Memphis after nine seasons, the last four of which elevated the Tigers’ program to heights never before seen in school history, including an appearance in the 2008 NCAA championship game.

Calipari’s deal at Kentucky is expected to be in the range of $5 million per year. Despite those mega-numbers, which will make Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball by a wide margin, Memphis had indeed offered a better deal, according to sources close to the process.

On Monday afternoon, just when it appeared certain Calipari would accept Kentucky’s deal, he met with influential Memphians including William B. Dunavant, John Stokes and Paul Tudor Jones, according to a source. Later in the night, Fred Smith went to Calipari’s house for a meeting.

Their last-ditch efforts to get Calipari to stay included a lucrative retirement package and incentives that one Memphis booster described as unique.

Late into Monday evening, a source closely connected to Calipari described the situation as “intense” and said Calipari was divided about whether to leave. He showed up at Gibson’s Donuts in East Memphis on Tuesday morning and indicated he would make a decision in the afternoon.

The program will now move to its first coaching search since 2000, when the program was in deep turmoil following the departure of Tic Price. Among the names at the top of the list should be Missouri coach Mike Anderson, Southern California coach Tim Floyd and perhaps Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy.

There could also be massive fallout from the current recruiting class and roster.

“I could get out of my letter of intent if he wasn’t there for any reason,” top recruit Xavier Henry told reporters at the McDonald’s All-American game in Miami on Tuesday. “It re-opens my whole recruitment to everybody and anybody.”

Calipari by the numbers

445-140: Record in 20 years as coach at Massachusetts, New Jersey Nets, Memphis

252-69: Record in nine years at Memphis

130: Number of Memphis victories in nine previous years before Calipari

117-25: Conference USA record under Calipari

137: Number of victories under Calipari the past four years, an NCAA record

7: Number of Tigers taken in NBA Draft after coaching by Calipari (Dajuan Wagner, Antonio Burks, Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams, Derrick Rose, Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts)

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