Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari has reached out to the New York Knicks through intermediaries to express interest in the team’s vacancy in their president of operations role, sources said Thursday.
The Knicks, who parted ways with Phil Jackson on Wednesday, do not have interest in Calipari at the moment, sources said.
Kentucky said in March it had signed Calipari to a two-year extension, making his deal valid through March 2024. He is set to make $7.75 million next season and $8 million per season thereafter.
Calipari’s deal also stipulates he would be paid $5 million for each year if Kentucky was to terminate the contract.
ESPN reported in 2014 that the Cleveland Cavaliers offered Calipari a 10-year contract worth nearly $80 million to be coach and team president. Shortly afterward, Kentucky signed Calipari to a new seven-year deal worth $52.5 million. The Cavs ended up hiring David Blatt as coach.
Knicks general manager Steve Mills is handling the club’s day-to-day operations and is expected to lead them through free agency.
Calipari, one of the most accomplished basketball coaches in NCAA history, coached the then New Jersey Nets for parts of three seasons and has been linked to several NBA openings in the past.
New York’s focus over the next few weeks will be on free agency, and not on a replacement for Jackson, league sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
The Knicks have been linked to Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri as a possible Jackson replacement.
But with Ujiri in the midst of a recently signed five-year contract, league sources said it would be difficult for the Knicks to pry him away. New York has been reluctant to part with draft picks in recent years as it tries to build around young center Kristaps Porzingis. Because of this, league sources indicated that the Knicks will consider several candidates to replace Jackson.
Any discussion with Ujiri — who is facing a potential rebuild of his own, should the Raptors lose free agents Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker and Patrick Patterson — would first require permission and then steep compensation (such as draft picks), which league sources said was unlikely for the Knicks, given their current roster construction.
Another name that has been mentioned internally as a candidate is Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, sources told ESPN. The Knicks would likely need to offer compensation to the Thunder for Presti, who is currently under contract.
A league source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that Jerry West, who once tried to hire ex-Cavaliers GM David Griffin in Memphis, planned to reach out to the Oak View Group’s Tim Leiweke to endorse Griffin as a candidate to replace Jackson. Leiweke, like West, has former ties to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Griffin has long coveted a big job like the Knicks and considers all of his experience in two-plus decades in the league as an apprenticeship for such a challenge. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Knicks had not reached out to Griffin’s agent, Mark Carmony. However, a member of the Knicks organization has begun gathering background information on Griffin, including making a call to an executive on the Cavs’ business side, a league source told ESPN.
In addition, reports linked ex-Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas to the Knicks’ presidency on Thursday but Thomas wrote on Twitter that he was not interested in the position.
I’m not interested in joining @nyknicks. I’m happy with the @nyliberty & NBATV. I wish the best for the Knicks and @PhilJackson11
— Isiah Thomas (@iamisiahthomas) June 29, 2017
New York and Jackson announced Wednesday morning they had mutually agreed to part ways. Sources said conversations between Jackson and owner James Dolan about what was best for the team’s future accelerated this week, when the franchise decided it would not buy out embattled forward Carmelo Anthony.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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