Arkansas to hire John Calipari as head basketball coach

AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar

They didn’t make the tournament, but Arkansas still somehow managed to send shockwaves though the basketball world in the middle of the Final Four this year. According to multiple reports on the Sunday night before Monday’s National Championship game, the Razorbacks are finalizing a deal to hire Kentucky’s John Calipari as head coach of the men’s basketball team.

Rumors that the two sides were in serious talks surfaced on Sunday, and things intensified as the night went on. According to ESPN reporter Pete Thamel, the UA and Calipiari reached an agreement on Sunday on a five-year deal to bring Calipari on as head basketball coach at Arkansas. Thamel said he expects the deal to be finalized in the next 24 hours.

Calipari will replace Eric Musselman, who announced he was taking the head coaching job at USC on Thursday after five years as the head Hog.

In 15 seasons with the Wildcats, Calipari compiled a 410-123 record, with one National Championship and three other final four appearances at Kentucky. He also won 12 total SEC titles during his time in Lexington.

Some Kentucky fans had soured on Calipari in recent years, due in part to some early exits from the NCAA tournament to lower seeded teams. The Wildcats lost to No. 14 seeded Oakland in this year’s tournament. Despite the early exits, Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart recently announced that he expected Calipari would return for his 16th season as Wildcat head coach.

Calipari will have his work cut out for him when he gets to Fayetteville. As of Sunday night, only forward Trevon Brazille is listed as a returning player on the Razorbacks roster, though others that had declared for the transfer portal could be persuaded to return to the roster.

Calipari could also bring with him some of the recruits that had pledged to play for him at Kentucky, where he had assembled the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, including four five-star rated players.

According to reports, Calipari has also been promised more than $5 million in NIL money to help with his roster-building efforts.

ESPN is reporting that Arkansas booster John Tyson, who is reportedly a longtime friend of Calipari, helped make the deal come together.

Cal was the second highest paid coach in the country at $8.5 million per year at Kentucky. According to reports, he’s also set to make in the $8 million range at Arkansas.