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'He's worth every penny.' Calipari's new deal seen as right move by Kentucky.

Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- When John Calipari became University of Kentucky basketball coach, he asked one of his predecessors a pointed question: How long could a coach expect to endure and prosper in such a high-pressured job? Joe B. Hall, who lasted 13 seasons as UK's coach, told Calipari that it was a 10-year job.

Ten seasons later came Thursday's announcement that Calipari and UK had agreed to a new 10-year contract.

That prompted an obvious question: Can Calipari be Kentucky's basketball coach for 20 years?

"Well, he's a very active young man," Hall said Friday. "I think he'll last another 10. Or maybe even beyond that if he wishes. I don't think there's any doubt if he can be very effective for 10 more (seasons), if that's what he chooses to do."

Reaction to Calipari's new 10-year, $86 million contract suggested it is an ideal match of coach and program. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, a friend of Calipari's for decades, likened it to a happy marriage.

"Kentucky fans want to be able to love their coach, and John gives them a lot of reasons to do that," Fraschilla said. "And John does not mind being appreciated and loved.

 

"This has been a good marriage from the start. And I don't see it getting any worse."

In Calipari's first 10 seasons as coach, Kentucky has won a national championship, advanced to three other Final Fours and won more games than any other Division I program. Fraschilla also likened Kentucky basketball under Calipari's leadership to the standard for college football excellence. A contract extension was a "no-brainer" for UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart.

"If you're Alabama and you can get Nick Saban locked up, or you're Kentucky and you can get John Calipari locked up as long as he wants to coach, there's a good chance he's going to continue to have the same type of success," Fraschilla said.

Gary Parrish, a sportswriter who covered Calipari's teams at Memphis, echoed the sentiment. "John Calipari is to Kentucky what Nick Saban is to Alabama," he said. "I honestly don't think you could pay him too much."

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