John Calipari will return as Kentucky’s basketball coach
John Calipari will return as Kentucky’s basketball coach

Despite another early exit from the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari will return for his 16th season in 2024-25, according to athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

Calipari’s future looked cloudy after the Wildcats’ first-round loss to 14-seed Oakland in the NCAA tournament last week. This was the last problem in the program summary; two years ago, Kentucky was the No. 2 seed when it lost to 15th-seeded St. Peters in the first round of the 2022 tournament.

“As we typically do at the end of each season, Coach Calipari and I have had conversations regarding the direction of our men’s basketball program and I can confirm that he will be returning for his 16th season as our head coach,” Barnhart wrote Tuesday on X , formerly Twitter.

Calipari, speaking Monday on his end-of-season radio show, said he understands the standard at Kentucky — the winningest program in men’s college basketball history and an eight-time national champion — is to cut down the nets in the final game of the year, and acknowledged , that his team did not achieve that goal.

“Again, I talked about the standard … that I believe in, that I think we can do,” Calipari said. “But that standard of national titles is here from the coach [Adolph] Rupp, and the one thing I say to all of our fans is you know I’m going to work — I’m working at our state, I’m working on this program, this university. … That is my commitment. I’m not going to change, 24/7, let’s go — whether it’s recruiting, all the things we need to get done.”

Calipari has one national title (2012) and his last Final Four appearance was in 2015. The past few years have been tough for the Wildcats’ devoted fans as Kentucky finished 9-16 in 2020-21, the most the program’s worst record in 100 years and suffered early postseason exits in 2022 and 2023.

But the emergence of Reed Shepard and Rob Dillingham, projected top-10 picks in the NBA draft, and the return of veteran Antonio Reaves suggest this season could be different for the Wildcats. Then Oakland reserve Jack Gaulk hit 10 3-pointers in an 80-76 victory over Kentucky, a result that sparked buzz about Calipari’s future.

It seems clear to all that Calipari — who would be owed a $33 million buyout if the school chooses to fire him now — will face intense pressure to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament next season and rebuild a team that finished in 111th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.

Kentucky’s 2024 recruiting class features three of ESPN’s top 25 prospects, including four-star recruit Carter Knox and two five-star talents in Jaden Quintans and Jonwell Fland.

Calipari has been criticized for relying too much on youth when most teams age through the transfer window. But he said Monday on his radio show that he will continue to recruit freshman talent and balance his staff with portal veterans.

“It’s like wearing a coat: It never goes away,” Calipari said. “But I love him. That’s what I want. This is what I wanted. That’s why I never left. That’s it. Now let’s get together and do something. Let’s do something special. We did it. Let’s do it again.”

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