On Calipari and LeBron

Rick Bozich referred to “the extremely public Cal-LeBron friendship” in his Thursday column talking about the chatter about Calipari possibly leaving the University of Kentucky to coach LeBron James wherever he lands in free agency.

With James and the Cavaliers bowing out of the NBA playoffs in a bizarre and troubling manner, the talk is only going escalate.

“LeBron needs a friend,” Rick wrote, and I wholeheartedly agree.

What I question is the nature of the friendship between the two. The operative words were used, in fact, by Rick. “Extremely public.”

These two have had a public friendship, but I haven’t heard anything to the effect that they are particularly close apart from these public settings. The association, brokered, as the story goes, by William Wesley, has perhaps been mutually beneficial — certainly it has been for Calipari, who has been able to use it in recruiting and marketing. James has trekked to Lexington a time or two, and UK is the only college team wearing his new line of shoes.

But business buddies do not necessarily equate to “close friends.” I think a lot of people are making a leap that might not really be based in reality.

Calipari Tweeted today, “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!”

That’s pretty unequivocal. It does not leave wiggle room. Now if you deal with enough public people, you know such statements are subject to change if situations change. “It was true the day I said it,” is the pervasive mood in any of these statements. But it still is a definitive statement, and I’d say UK fans have every right to take him at his word — and hold him to it.

But I also have this strange feeling that all that Twitters is not gold.

It has been my assumption that the opportunity to coach LeBron James is one that not many men will be in position to pass up. In fact, I can’t think of any. Save one.

Calipari might be that exception.

Consider this. Cleveland lost in the NBA’s round of eight with, perhaps, the league’s most talented team, and it’s a travesty up there.

UK lost in the NCAA’s round of eight with, likely, college basketball’s most talented team, and they’re still high from the buzz of the season. It won’t be that way every year, but it is right now.

At UK, Calipari knows he’s going to lose his best player every year, and it’s his job to replace him. In the NBA, if you lose your best player, you start updating your resume.

Calipari is right. He does have the best job he can possibly have. He says it all the time, so maybe he actually realizes it.

But the same thing he told Memphis when he left, “You don’t have to offer me more money, it’s Kentucky,” he could just as easily say to UK in the right situation. “You don’t have to offer me more, it’s LeBron. It’s New York. It’s (insert city here).”

I still say there’s a far, far better chance that Calipari will begin next season in Lexington than wherever James is playing. I think the talk about Calipari being a slam-dunk choice as coach for wherever LeBron moves in free agency has been overplayed.

But still, I wouldn’t yet say that all the cards are on the table, no matter what Calipari says from his TweetDeck.

UPDATE: Two NBA sources have told SI.com that the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Mike Brown. Read the report.

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