- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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LeBron James will become a free agent on July 1. Speculation has run rampant that if James remains in Cleveland, or opts to play elsewhere, he would handpick Kentucky's John Calipari as his next coach.
Calipari tried to deflect the assumption Friday on his Twitter page, tweeting: "I've said many times that I've got the best job in the country. Still the speculation runs wild and I can't stop that. I want to address this with the Big Blue Nation one last time, I will be coaching at Kentucky next year. Now let's finish what we started!"
Calipari took the Kentucky job a year ago, and hauled in the spring recruiting period's top freshman class that produced four likely NBA first-round draft picks -- he signed three of them -- including likely No. 1 pick John Wall.
The coach's contract with Kentucky pays him between $3.5 million and $4 million when all incentives are included. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart has said publicly following the Wildcats' 35-3 season that ended in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight that he might restructure the deal.
Calipari's relationship with James is no secret. It has blossomed recently with a mutual friend, William Wesley, as well. James has attended Kentucky games and Calipari has been to Cavs games, including last week's playoff game against Boston. Calipari said earlier this week he was there with fans who won an auction item during Kentucky's "Hoops for Haiti" charity event during the season.
According to multiple sources, James has never said he wants or needs Calipari to be his coach. There has been no contact from any NBA team toward Calipari, who coached the New Jersey Nets for two seasons in the late 1990s.
According to sources, Calipari would need to be offered between $5 million and $8 million annually and have some sort of player personnel control, to re-enter the NBA.
Calipari has said in the past that it took him 20 years to reach a mainstream program like Kentucky's. He fell short in trying to get the Wildcats to the Final Four, and as he stated, his work is unfinished.
For now, Calipari has put speculation to rest, at least until James signs his free-agent contract in the summer and that franchise -- the Bulls (where Derrick Rose, who played for Calipari at Memphis, is the point guard), Nets or Clippers -- still needs to hire a new coach.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.