March Madness is fast approaching as fans eagerly wait to find out which powerhouse programs and which underdog teams will make the tournament and face off for a chance at a championship.
One powerhouse college basketball program that's sure to return to the NCAA tournament is the University of Kentucky. Since 2009, the Wildcats men's basketball team has been coached by John Calipari. In that time, Calipari has brought Kentucky a national championship, brought them to one other finals appearance and made two other Final Four appearances.
Calipari is one of the most successful college basketball coaches of his era - though, due to controversies and rules violations, not all of his wins are recognized by the NCAA. It has been a lengthy career for Calipari. How much is he worth?
John Calipari's Net Worth
John Calipari is estimated by Celebrity Net Worth to be worth $45 million after his long, still ongoing career. It is a staggering amount of money, particularly in a world where the players aren't even paid, but it is hardly a surprise. Calipari has long been one of the highest-paid college basketball coaches.
John Calipari's Career
Calipari's actual playing "career" in basketball didn't last very long. After bouncing around at UNC Wilmington and Clarion University of Pennsylvania as a point guard, Calipari started working his way through the coaching ranks quickly. He was a young assistant at the University of Kansas in 1982, and by 1985 was an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh at just age 26.
In 1988, not yet 30 years old, Calipari got a chance at his first head coaching job when he was hired at the University of Massachusetts.
Calipari would coach at UMass from 1988-1996. Prior to his tenure, the Minutemen had not had a winning season since 1978. Though his first season was more of the same for UMass with a 10-18 record, Calipari was soon able to turn the program around. The 1989-90 season saw UMass improve to 17-14 and get an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The season after that saw them go 20-13 and get another NIT slot, this time advancing all the way to the semifinals.
1991-92 was a transformative year for Calipari's Minutemen team as they would win the Atlantic 10 conference and get invited to their first NCAA Division I tournament since 1962, and started the tournament as a No. 3 seed in the Eastern region. After beating Fordham and Syracuse in the first two respective rounds they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, where they fell to No. 2 seed Kentucky.
In the next two seasons they again won the Atlantic 10, but each year stalled out in the second round of the NCAA tournament, losing to Virginia in 1993 and Maryland in 1994.
However, UMass was able to make a lot more noise in the 1995 tournament. A 26-4 record netted them the No. 2 seed in the Eastern region, and they returned to the Sweet Sixteen after handily defeating Saint Mary's in the first round and Stanford in the second, and cruised to a win against Tulsa to advance to the Elite Eight. There they would fall to Oklahoma State, but it remained the furthest the school had ever gotten in the tournament.
They got further the next year, though it ended up not being recognized by the NCAA. Led by star Marcus Camby, UMass went 31-1 and got the No. 1 seed in the East. They made it back to the Elite Eight to face No. 2 seed Georgetown, and this time advanced with an 86-62 victory. In the Final Four, they fell to eventual 1996 champion Kentucky. But ultimately, UMass' entire run in that tournament was vacated by the NCAA after it was discovered that Camby had accepted $28,000 worth of items from two sports agents.
Still, having turned the program around and won five consecutive Atlantic 10 conferences, Calipari left for the NBA that season after agreeing to become the head coach of the then-New Jersey Nets.
Calipari and the Nets
Much like his first season with UMass, Calipari's first season with the Nets was one to forget. The Nets never quite got off the ground, going just 26-56.
His second season, 1997-98, was much more successful. A draft day trade netted them rookie Keith Van Horn, and his impressive play in his first season helped improve the Nets' record to 43-39, good enough for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. They lost in the first round, getting swept by the eventual champion Bulls, but the future looked bright for Calipari as Nets head coach.
That outlook did not last. A lockout led to a shortened season in 1998-99, and after the Nets limped to a 3-17 start, the team decided to fire Calipari.
Calipari and Memphis
After a brief stint as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, Calipari returned to college basketball to become the head coach at the University of Memphis in 2000. He turned the program around quickly; in his second season as Tigers coach, they won the NIT.
In his third season they made the 2003 NCAA tournament, their first since 1996. They fell in the first round, and fell in the second round in the 2004 tournament. In the 2004-05 season, though, they failed to make the tournament, settling for the NIT again. Still, the team won at least 21 games in each of his first five seasons, and were primed for a breakout.
That breakout happened in the 2005-06 season, as the team went 30-3 en route to being named the No. 1 seed in the Oakland region. They easily handled Oral Roberts, Bucknell and Bradley to advance to the Elite Eight, but lost a close game to UCLA 50-45, finishing the year 33-4.
After going 30-3 again, Memphis was named the No. 2 seed in the South region for the 2007 tournament, once again making it to the Elite Eight but falling to top-seeded Ohio State.
The 2008 tournament was supposed to be one to remember for Calipari's Tigers. A dominant 33-1 regular season got them the top seed in the South region. This time the Elite Eight was no match for Memphis, as they easily defeated Texas to advance to the Final Four. There, they defeated UCLA to not only make the National Championship game, but become the first college team to ever win 38 games in one season.
But that magical season was marred by both heartbreak and controversy. They fell to Kansas in overtime in the National Championship, and after the season the NCAA investigated the team; the Educational Testing Service (ETS) invalidated the SAT of Memphis star Derrick Rose. This led to the NCAA deeming Rose as ineligible, vacating the entire 38-2 record.
Despite all this controversy, Memphis again had a great season en route to a No. 2 seed in the 2009 NCAA tournament. But here they stalled out in the Sweet Sixteen and lost to Missouri.
Almost immediately after that loss, Calipari left Memphis and signed a long-term contract to become the new Kentucky coach.
Unlike with his other head coaching jobs, Calipari wasted no time seeing success with Kentucky. The team failed to make the NCAA tournament in 2009; in Calipari's first season they were a top seed in the 2010 tournament. After blowout victories against East Tennessee State, Wake Forest and Cornell, they fell to West Virginia in the Elite Eight round.
Though they had a worse record in 2010-11 and worse seeding (fourth seed in the Eastern region), they managed to make it further in the 2011 tournament. The Wildcats upset top-seeded Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen and No. 2 seed UNC in the Elite Eight to be the last East team standing. In the Final Four, they lost to the eventual champion UConn Huskies.
The 2011-12 season was where Calipari and Kentucky put it all together. Having gone 32-2, the Wildcats were the top seed of the South region and promptly steamrolled Western Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana and Baylor to return to the Final Four. There, they defeated Lousville as Calipari returned to the National Championship Game - this time for one the NCAA would not vacate. Facing Kansas for the championship, Kentucky got out to an early lead and held it in a 67-59 victory for Calipari's first NCAA championship. In doing so, they became the second college basketball team to win 38 games in a season, the other one also being coached by Calipari.
Kentucky regressed considerably after their championship years, failing to even make the NCAA tournament. But they returned in 2014. Though just an eighth seed in the Midwest region, they made considerable noise, upsetting top-seeded Wichita State in the second round. They carried that momentum all the way back to the National Championship Game, where they fell to UConn 60-54.
Though Kentucky has not made it back to the National Championship Game since, they are a regular contender for the title and consistently one of the best teams in college basketball. They went undefeated (34-0) prior to the 2015 NCAA tournament, and while they were upset in the Final Four by Wisconsin, that 38-1 record made it the third time Calipari reached 38 wins in one season.
Kentucky was bounced out of the 2016 tournament in the second round, they've made the Elite Eight in two of the past three seasons, sandwiching a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
John Calipari's Contract: How Much Does He Make?
Currently, Calipari is the second highest-paid coach in college basketball. And with his success at Kentucky, that won't change anytime soon.
In April of 2019, Kentucky announced that they had signed Calipari to a "lifetime" contract extension. The details came out that this was a long-term, 10-year contract worth $86 million guaranteed for Calipari.