July 19, 2024

Video: John Calipari Talks Kentucky Exit, Says He Had Chance to Join Arkansas in 2007 | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS - APRIL 10: New head coach John Calipari of the Arkansas Razorbacks is introduced to the fans and the media at Bud Walton Arena on April 10, 2024 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Arkansas men’s basketball head coach John Calipari said he had previously been pursued by the Razorbacks when he was coaching Memphis to the Final Four in 2007.

“At that time, Dan, if I left, I left players,” Calipari told Dan Patrick Wednesday on the Dan Patrick Show (3:25 mark.) “Like, they were there. And if my assistant wasn’t going to get the job, I wasn’t comfortable just leaving.”

A conversation with Houston men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson made Calipari realize the outlook for leaving Kentucky after 15 seasons would be different.

Calipari said he told Sampson this spring that he was “having a hard time, because I’m going to end up leaving players.”

“Kelvin went crazy,” Calipari recalled. “‘What? If you leave, they can leave. They can go where they want. They can go with you. They can go pro. What are you talking about? This isn’t 10 years ago.’

“Then he said the one that got me: ‘And if you stay, they can leave. They can go somewhere else. They can go pro. This is different.’ And you know what? That got me to thinking a different way. And within 36 hours, I said, ‘You know what? I want this new challenge… I want to bring something to that state, and that program, that explodes this state.'”

Calipari was named the new head coach at Arkansas in April.

Since then, three four-star members of Kentucky’s 2024 recruiting class in Billy Richmond, Karter Knox and Boogie Fland switched their commitments to Arkansas. Zvonimir Ivišić, who played his freshman season at Kentucky, also decided to follow Calipari to join the Razorbacks

Calipari will now hope to build a roster, likely centered on the players who followed him to Fayetteville, that can take Arkansas back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out on a bid this year.