As we just discussed on @SportsCenter, I’m told money details in Cavs’ pitch to John Calipari were closer to $80 million range over 10 years
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 9, 2014
Just yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that before signing an extension as head coach at the University of Kentucky (seven years, $52 million), he had been offered a seven-year contract worth in excess of $60 million by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The goal was to have Calipari take on the coaching duties in Cleveland while also overseeing all of basketball operations and retaining final say on all decisions.
Marc Stein also sent a tweet about the Cavaliers’ pursuit of Calipari, but according to his sources the amount offered was substantially different:
This deal was offered, and turned down by Calipari, less than one month after Cleveland hired David Griffin as general manager. Wojnarowski does indicate that Griffin would have willingly given up final decision making to Calipari if a deal had been struck.
Calipari was not a new dream for Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers. He had been on their wish list for several years, and was approached about a similar position before Cleveland finalized a deal with Mike Brown last summer. With the almost constant overtures towards Calipari, it is almost a certainty that this structure was the goal even when Griffin was hired.
Which raises a lot of interesting questions for the Cavaliers: Was Griffin aware of this plan when he was hired? How much confidence does Gilbert have in Griffin if he was already looking for a new decision maker? And, how much of a leash does Griffin have when it comes to team building?
With a history of success and player development at the collegiate level, and ties to players throughout the NBA, Calipari would have drastically changed the Cavaliers organization. His history in the NBA is spotty to say the least (some big successes and some large failures), but took place almost two decades ago.
But as much as Calipari’s record is checkered in regards to the NBA, it is his ties and connections that a team like the Cavaliers were after. In the last six years alone, Calipari has coached Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terence Jones, Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Tyreke Evans, and Derrick Rose … and remains a favorite and confidant to these players and many others.
The Cavaliers wanted to hire John Calipari the coach … but most of all they were wanting to hire John Calipari the recruiter; believing that he could bring an influx of talent that is sorely needed in Cleveland.
Most notably, Calipari is close to one player who the Cavaliers are willing to do almost anything to recruit … LeBron James. Despite never playing for Coach Cal, LeBron is friends with Calipari due to each of their connections with World Wide William Wesley.
And that’s exactly what this most recent attempt at signing Calipari is, a reminder that the Cavaliers will do whatever it takes to return the greatest player in the game today to the team that drafted him 11 years ago. Every decision that Gilbert and Griffin (side note: that sounds like a poor detective show) make, both now and in the future, will be shrouded by the question of whether it could bring LeBron closer to a return.
This proposition should both terrify and excite fans in Cleveland. The fact that the team has the lofty goal of signing the greatest player in the world should thrill everyone associated with the team, but that they are willing to do whatever it takes with only for a small chance for success should taper the excitement.
Is risking the long-term health of the franchise worth the small chance to sign LeBron? For example … trading the first overall pick for Kevin Love could bring LeBron back and form a dangerous lineup along with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Or, Kevin Love could leave next summer and LeBron could stay in Miami (or go somewhere else) … leaving Cleveland without a top draft pick and further behind than they have been since LeBron first left.
So … how much risk is worth it?