After interest from UCLA, John Calipari gets new 'lifetime' contract from Kentucky

Update: April 1 - 6:20 p.m. ET

Kentucky has confirmed that it has agreed to terms on a “long-term contract” with John Calipari that will allow the coach to “finish his career” at Kentucky.

Original story: April 1 - 3:45 p.m.

In an effort to fend off a serious overture from UCLA, Kentucky has reportedly offered John Calipari a “lifetime” contract to stay in Lexington.

According to Seth Davis of The Athletic, the “lifetime” extension would “include a 10-year term as coach plus a promise to serve as a paid ambassador for the school after his retirement.” Calipari would also be in line for a raise.

The 60-year-old Calipari, whose current deal extends through 2024, is already the highest-paid coach in the country, earning $9.2 million in 2019, according to the USA Today coaches salary database.

Calipari led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight before falling to Auburn on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The 77-71 loss spelled the end of Calipari’s 10th season at UK. During that span, Kentucky has a 305-71 overall record and has reached the Final Four three times, including the 2012 national championship.

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March Madness 2019: The best photos from the Elite Eight
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Nick Ward #44 and Kenny Goins #25 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrate their teams 68-67 win over the Duke Blue Devils in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, right, celebrates with teammates Matt McQuaid (20), Nick Ward (44) and Gabe Brown (13) after defeating Duke in an NCAA men's East Regional final college basketball game in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore, left, blocks a shot by Kentucky's PJ Washington during the second half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's College basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Brandon Clarke #15 and Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs compete for the ball against Norense Odiase #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Davide Moretti #25 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders fights for the ball against Josh Perkins #13 and Jeremy Jones #22 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Tariq Owens #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 30: De'Andre Hunter #12 of the Virginia Cavaliers battles for a loose ball with Grady Eifert #24 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 30, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 30: Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates after making a game-tying shot over Matt Haarms #32 of the Purdue Boilermakers to extend the game to overtime as time expires in the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 30, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: Ashton Hagans #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts during the first half against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats passes the ball against Austin Wiley #50 and Danjel Purifoy #3 of the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Auburn's Jared Harper, left, drives to the basket past Kentucky's Reid Travis during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore (24) and Kentucky's Reid Travis (22) reach for a rebound during the first half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett celebrates after defeating Purdue 80-75 in overtime of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Purdue's Trevion Williams (50) puts up a shot against Virginia's Jack Salt (33) during the second half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Virginia's De'Andre Hunter dribbles past Purdue's Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura scores against Texas Tech during the first half of a men's NCAA Tournament college basketball West Regional final game Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Texas Tech celebrates after the team scored against Gonzaga during the second half of the West Regional final in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Virginia's Mamadi Diakite, center, reacts with teammates Kyle Guy and Jack Salt (33) after hitting a shot to send the game into overtime in the men's NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game against Purdue, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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UCLA’s pursuit of Calipari

UCLA fired Steve Alford back on Dec. 31 and Calipari has been atop its list of potential replacements.

According to Davis, UCLA had a contract worth “approximately $48 million over six years” on the table for Calipari. The annual salary would have been a pay cut compared to what Calipari makes at Kentucky, which gave UCLA permission to speak with Calipari.

However, Calipari went public with his commitment to stay in Lexington on March 20, but talks between UCLA and Calipari’s representatives were “more extensive than previously reported,” per Davis.

When Kentucky officials “learned how serious UCLA’s offer was,” they moved to keep Calipari entrenched at UK for years to come. Calipari said in a March 20 tweet that his “plan and desire” is to retire at UK.

What’s next for UCLA?

With the dream of bringing in Calipari apparently off the table, the school has other candidates in mind. One will coach this weekend at the Final Four.

As Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported last week, UCLA has interest in Virginia’s Tony Bennett. Davis’ story reiterated that interest, saying Bennett has declined to speak to UCLA “until his team is through playing.” Virginia plays Auburn on Saturday night in Minneapolis.

Other names under consideration in Westwood include Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and Eric Musselman of Nevada, per Thamel. Ex-Ohio State coach Thad Matta spoke with UCLA officials but withdrew his name from consideration for the job, according to Davis.

UCLA went 17-16 this season. The Bruins played in four NCAA tournaments under Alford but failed to make it past the Sweet 16. The program also won just one Pac-12 title during Alford’s tenure.

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