1. John Calipari, Kentucky
Salary: $8.158 million | Buyout: $60.3 million
Everywhere that John Calipari has gone throughout his career as a college basketball head coach, he’s been able to rack up wins. He led UMass to unprecedented program success, including a 35-2 season and a trip to the Final Four in the 1995-96 season. Then heading to Memphis, his time there ended with four consecutive seasons with at least 33 wins. And his success has continued with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Often “credited” with taking advantage of the one-and-done era better than any other head coach, Calipari has kept the fans in Lexington happy since he arrived at the 2009-10 season. In his 11 seasons at the helm of the program, the Wildcats have finished worse than second in the SEC just once, have captured six regular-season conference titles, have made it to seven Elite Eights, four Final Fours and, of course, captured the 2011-12 National Championship — and that’s with the 2020 NCAA Tournament being canceled.
Calipari’s record at Kentucky can’t be argued with, even beyond all of the tournament trips and hardware the team has brought to the trophy case. The Wildcats are an impressive 330-77 in the 11 seasons with the head coach at the helm, an incredible level of sustained winning — which is good as that’s what fans of Big Blue Nation expect.
Some may question Calipari as an X’s and O’s man or even bring up his previous NCAA violations at UMass and Memphis. And while there is merit to some of those talking points, it’s also impossible to argue him being the highest-paid coach in the sport. He has the wins and pedigree at every level to show he’s earned every cent.
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