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John Calipari says he was not close to going to Cleveland. LeBron or not.

Aug 18, 2014, 7:02 AM EDT

John Calipari John Calipari

John Calipari’s agent is very good at keeping his name in the mix as a potential NBA coach for every major NBA opening, while the feeling around the league on actually bringing him in is lukewarm in a lot of corners.

This summer the buzz at one point was that the Cavaliers were going hard at Calipari, offering him $60 million. At least, it may have been more and with team president kind of power. All of that with the idea then being that Calipari would help lure LeBron James back — Calipari’s agent is World Wide Wes, who has great ties to LeBron.

Now that LeBron is in Cleveland, David Blatt is the coach and Calipari is still in Kentucky, Calipari says he was never that close to going to Ohio even if LeBron was to return, he told the Courier-Journal in Lexington.

Despite reports that he was in serious talks with Cleveland – and ultimately turned down the Cavs earlier this summer – Calipari was “not as (close) as everybody thought” to leaving for the NBA. But James, who Calipari has said he’d love to coach, had not made his decision at that point. Would that have made a difference?

“No. No. I don’t think so. Because he and I have a great relationship, but it’s not based on me coaching him,” Calipari said. “We’ve got a relationship. I’ve known him for years and years. We’ve always been friends. But it was never based on that. I’ve said that. I’ve had a chance to coach Derrick Rose, John Wall and DeMarcus (Cousins), Anthony Davis and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist).… Well, LeBron is also that kind of player and that kind of person. But again, leaving guys who made decisions based on what’s right for their career was something I couldn’t have gotten by anyway.”

Calipari is the master of saying what his core market wants to hear — in Lexington they want to hear how he couldn’t leave those great players coming back to Kentucky. Is that true? Well, I’m sure there was a part of his decision based on those guys coming back. How much of a part? Good question.

The fact is Calipari is locked and loaded at Kentucky and for him to leave it will come down to one of two things. First, things start to go sideways at Kentucky and he gets out while he can (call it the Pete Carroll system, and I know he says that’s not why he left but… sure). The other is an offer he can’t refuse… and if he can refuse big money while coaching LeBron, I’m not sure what that offer is.

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