No matter what you think about Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, you have to admit he has a remarkable talent for getting out of town one step ahead of the posse. Last week Calipari achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the first coach to have two Final Four appearances stricken from the record books when the NCAA announced that Memphis, his old school, would have to vacate its 2008 Final Four berth and NCAA-record 38 wins in the 2007--08 season. The NCAA determined that an unidentified player—most certainly Derrick Rose, the Tigers' star point guard that season—became eligible only after a former high school teammate took the SAT for him. (Memphis said it would appeal the decision.)
Calipari himself was not implicated in any wrongdoing, just as he wasn't when his previous Final Four, with UMass in 1996, was vacated after star player Marcus Camby was ruled ineligible for having accepted $28,000 as well as jewelry and prostitutes from agents. In both cases, in fact, Calipari had already landed a lucrative new job. In 1996 he signed a five-year, $15 million contract to become coach and vice president of basketball operations for the New Jersey Nets. And last March he announced he was signing an eight-year, $31.65 million contract with Kentucky.
For all the schadenfreude Kentucky fans have enjoyed over Rick Pitino's sex scandal at archrival Louisville (SI, Aug. 24), Calipari's history suggests that any championship he wins in Lexington will be accompanied by fears over how long the banner will last. Then again, Wildcats fans aren't complaining: Calipari's first Kentucky team, led by the nation's top recruit, point guard John Wall, will be ranked in everyone's preseason top 10. Such is the genius of Calipari. While Memphis starts over and UMass still struggles for relevance, he is the toast of Bluegrass country—and the highest-paid coach in college basketball.