John Calipari - Men's Basketball - Arkansas Razorbacks

John Calipari

Naismith Hall of Fame coach John Calipari, who has led six teams to the Final Four, was named the 14th Razorback head men’s basketball coach on April 10, 2024.

Calipari has signed a five-year contract to lead the Razorbacks with a salary beginning at $7 million per season. The contract runs through April 30, 2029 with a maximum of two automatic rollover years for NCAA Tournament appearances that would extend the contract to 2031. The deal includes a $1 million signing bonus and features retention bonuses of $500,000 each year of the contract along with one-time bonuses for making the NCAA Tournament, reaching the second round, Sweet 16, Final Four and winning a national championship.

Calipari will be formally introduced on Wednesday (April 10) at 6 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. The event will be open to the public. Fans should enter the south entrance of Bud Walton Arena. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Public parking is available in Lots 46, 56, 56B and 60, with the exception of resident reserved parking spaces.

“By all accounts, John Calipari is one of the premier coaches in college basketball,” Yurachek said. “A national championship coach, a four-time national coach of the year and one of the nation’s top recruiters, Coach Cal has consistently demonstrated his ability to attract outstanding talent and build championship teams within the Southeastern Conference and position his programs among the best in the nation.

“As I visited with Coach Calipari during this process, he acknowledged the tremendous opportunity we have at the University of Arkansas to attract and retain top players and compete for championships. He understands the deep passion of the Razorback Nation and has experienced the tremendous home court advantage of Bud Walton Arena. I have no doubt that under Coach Calipari’s leadership and with the collective support of all those who love the Hogs, Razorback Basketball will continue to maintain its national prominence within college basketball.”

Calipari is one of the most successful and decorated coaches in college basketball history having been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. However, he takes the greatest pride in the success his players experience in college, in professional basketball and life after their playing days are over.

Calipari has coached 58 players to be selected in the NBA Draft – 41 first-round picks including 27 among the top 15 and four as the overall first pick – during his 32-year coaching career and had 28 players on NBA rosters this past season. His players have earned:

  • 4 National Players of the Year (3 UK, 1 UMass)
  • 2 National Freshmen of the Year (1 UK, 1 MEM)
  • 15 Conference Players of the Year (9 UK, 3 MEM, 3 UMass)
  • 20 Conference Freshman/Newcomers of the Year (12 UK, 6 MEM, 2 UMass)
  • 24 All-American Honors (14 UK, 7 MEM, 3 UMass)
  • 81 All-Conference Selections (36 UK, 22 MEM, 23 UMass)

He is the winningest active coach in men’s college basketball with a record of 855-262 (.765), including a 410-122 mark in 15 seasons at Kentucky (2009-24), 214-69 in nine seasons at Memphis (2000-09) and 189-71 in eight seasons at UMass (1988-96). In fact, Calipari became the fourth-fastest coach to 800 on-court wins ever at 1,037 games. Only Adolph Rupp (972 games), Roy Williams (1,012 games) and Dean Smith (1,029 games) did it faster.

Calipari also coached in the NBA for the New Jersey Nets for three seasons (1996-99) and internationally for the Dominican Republic national team (2011 and ’12) and the United States U-19 basketball team (2017).

Calipari has been named both the Naismith (1996, 2008, 2015) and NABC (1996, 2009, 2015) National Coach of the Year three times – once at each collegiate stop – and AP College Coach of the Year (2015). He has added SEC Coach of the Year honors four times (2010, 2012, 2015, 2020), C-USA Coach of the Year three times (2006, 2008, 2009) and Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year three times (1993, 1994, 1996).

Of the 31 NCAA Tournaments held during his collegiate coaching career, he has led 23 teams to the NCAA Tournament, including 15 trips to the Sweet 16, 12 appearances to the Elite 8, six Final Four births, three national title games and a national championship. (Note, in 2019-20, Kentucky was 25-6 and won the SEC with a 15-3 record but the NCAA cancelled the tournament due to COVID-19.)

Calipari is one of two coaches in NCAA history to take three different programs to the Final Four and one of just three coaches all-time to make four Final Fours in a five-year span. His teams have won an NCAA record 38 games three times – twice at UK (2012 and 2015) and once at Memphis (2008).

At Kentucky

Calipari made an immediate impact at Kentucky with his first three Wildcats teams dominating college basketball. His inaugural team (2009-10) posted a 35-3 record and reached the NCAA Elite 8. Later that spring, he saw five of his players selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, the first time a school had ever produced five first-round picks in a single draft. Among those picks was the first Wildcat ever taken as the No. 1 overall selection, John Wall.

The next season, Calipari took the program to the next level, reaching the Final Four before falling to eventual national champion UConn. Despite losing three players from the 2011 runner-up team, the progression reached the pinnacle of college basketball in year three. Led by the #1 recruiting class in the nation – featuring National Player of the Year Anthony Davis and All-American Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Kentucky won the 2012 national championship, going 38-2 overall and 16-1 in the SEC. The 38 wins tied the NCAA record for most victories in a season (matching his own mark set at Memphis in 2007-08). The 2011-12 team was later tabbed the team of the decade by the AP.

Kentucky’s 21-win season in Calipari’s fourth season was not enough to receive an NCAA bid. However, the following year, the 2013-14 Wildcats were NCAA runners-up, beating three teams in the NCAA Tournament that were in the Final Four the previous year. Kentucky rode that momentum the following year. With the core of the 2014 team returning and adding one of the top recruiting classes, the Cats used a two-platoon system to win its first 38 games of 2014-15, marking the third time Calipari matched his own NCAA record for wins in a season, before losing in the Final Four. For that historic 2014-15 season, he earned National Coach of the Year from the AP, Naismith and NABC.

Over the next four seasons, Kentucky played in four NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 three times including two Elite 8s. In 2019-20, the Wildcats were on their way to another NCAA Tournament, posting a 25-6 record and winning the SEC regular-season crown, before the SEC and NCAA Tournaments were cancelled due to COVID-19.

The remnants of COVID carried over to 2020-21 and Kentucky did not reach the postseason. However, in each of his last three years with the Wildcats, Kentucky went 71-30 (.703), finishing among the SEC’s top three teams each year and earning NCAA Tournament berths each year.

At Memphis

After his NBA tenure, Calipari returned to the college game in 2000 at Memphis, where he led the Tigers to the 2008 NCAA title game. Memphis’ 38 wins in 2007-08 set the NCAA record for most wins in a single season (a number he tied twice at UK). As a result, Calipari was named the Naismith National Coach of the Year for a second time in his career.

Calipari, the 2009 Sports Illustrated National Coach of the Year, led the Tigers to nine straight 20-win campaigns and nine consecutive postseason appearances, the only Memphis coach to do that. He posted 252 wins — 28.0 wins per season — as the Tigers’ head coach, making him the winningest coach in school history.

He was named C-USA Coach of the Year three times and his 2006 and 2008 Tigers were #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Over his last five seasons at Memphis, the Tigers won 30 games each year and posted a 61-1 C-USA record.

NBA Experience

From 1996–99, Calipari served as the head coach and executive VP of basketball operations for the New Jersey Nets. The 1997-98 Nets reached the NBA playoffs before losing to the eventual NBA champion Chicago Bulls in the first round. He additionally served as an assistant coach under Larry Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers for the 1999-2000 season. That squad reached the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

At UMass

Calipari started his head-coaching career at UMass in 1988-89, guiding a struggling program to the top of college basketball, capped off by a Final Four appearance in 1996.

At 29, when he was named head coach, Calipari’s first two Minutemen teams went 27-32. In year three (1992), UMass won its first Atlantic 10 championship with a 30-5 overall record, including a 13-3 mark in league play. The ’92 campaign was highlighted with a 77-71 overtime win over Syracuse in an East Regional second-round game to lead UMass to its first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.

Including that 1992 season, UMass won five-straight A10 titles while compiling a 66-12 league record over the span and made five straight NCAA Tournaments including three Sweet 16s.

Calipari’s 1995-96 team posted a 35-2 record and reached the Final Four. He was named the 1996 Naismith National Coach of the Year and The Sporting News National Coach of the Year. He was also named the A10 Coach of the Year for the third time in four years.

In addition to his Naismith National Coach of the Year honors in 1996, Calipari was a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist in 1994 and 1995. He was the USBWA District I Coach of the Year in 1993.

Born: February 10, 1959
Hometown: Moon Township, Pa. (Moon Area HS, 1978)
Collegiate Career: UNC Wilmington (1978-80); Clarion (1980-82)
Alma Mater: Clarion, 1982 (Marketing)
Family: Wife: Ellen; Children: Erin, Megan, Brad

1982–85       Kansas (Associate Assistant Coach)
1985–88       Pittsburgh (Assistant Coach)
1988-96        UMass (Head Coach)
1986–99       New Jersey Nets (Head Coach and Executive VP of Basketball Operations)
1999–00       Philadelphia 76ers (Assistant Coach)
2000–09       Memphis (Head Coach)
2009–24       Kentucky (Head Coach)
2024–pres.   Arkansas (Head Coach)