Given John Calipari’s longtime ties to the Creative Artists Agency, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach became the subject of NBA rumors immediately upon news that CAA’s Leon Rose is expected to be hired by the New York Knicks as their next president of basketball operations.
Rose will reportedly bring longtime CAA consultant William Wesley, aka World Wide Wes, aboard the Knicks in some capacity. The three work in lockstep. Working the AAU circuit as a man who knows how to get things, Wesley has steered star players to Calipari’s programs for roughly two decades, and together they steer them to Rose, whose list of clients includes former Kentucky stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker. It is only natural that Calipari would be linked to the Knicks.
Calipari shot down those rumors with reporters on Friday, via The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker.
Here's the full transcript of what John Calipari said about Leon Rose and the New York Knicks. The last sentence is the one that matters. pic.twitter.com/SGW2fABefI— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 7, 2020
“I haven’t talked to Leon, so I don’t know if it’s done, if he’s doing it,” Calipari said. “I have no idea. But let me tell you about him: I’ve known him for 25 years, dear friend. In a rough-and-tumble business — really, that business he was in was a sport, too, like body-to-body contact, it is — and I’ve never heard in 25 years anybody say a bad word about Leon Rose. Not one. In a rough-and-tumble sport that he’s in. He’s a gatherer. He’s a culture-builder. I understand why they would do it — if they do that. Because I’m so close, I’d help him in any way I could, being a resource. You want to call and ask me about college players, my own players, I’m here. It just wouldn’t be to coach.”
The Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale in December, and then-president Steve Mills replaced him with interim coach Mike Miller. The Knicks then fired Mills this week, and the expectation is that Rose will hire somebody with whom he has a working relationship to replace Miller at season’s end.
Calipari has used dalliances with potential suitors to leverage a salary bump from Kentucky before. Just last year, he publicly confirmed reports that he spoke to UCLA about their vacant coaching position, and turned that into an $86 million lifetime contract from Kentucky, courtesy of CAA. It would be hard to imagine the university handing over another raise so soon after this latest bump.
Then again, Calipari is nothing if not a salesman, and he has been linked to the Knicks job since at least 2013, when the joke was that CAA was running the front office. That joke is very much reality.
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