Three Replacements For John Calipari at Kentucky

John Calipari
John Calipari / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

John Calipari's reign at Kentucky has ended after yet another early, disappointing NCAA tournament exit. Which was not necessarily unexpected, even if it is bizarre to imagine anyone other than Calipari on the Wildcats' sideline after 15 years. However, no one really expected the news that broke on Sunday night. ESPN's Pete Thamel reported just before midnight Calipari was leaving of his own volition, and he was doing so in order to take a job with ... Arkansas.

Well, alright then. That's that, I guess. Calipari, the former king of the one-and-done, will now head to Little Rock and attempt to elevate the Razorbacks to the heights his Kentucky programs used to reach on an annual basis. The ramifications of this move are going to be widespread and not felt in their entirety for months or years yet. It is, in many ways, the signal of an end of a college basketball era and the birth of another.

But we'll save that thinkpiece for another time. In the immediate, Kentucky needs a new head coach for the first time since 2009. The college world will watch the school's search in fascination. It is a prestigious job, to be sure, and will come with plentiful resources along with a talented roster in place. But it has been six years since Kentucky made it past the second round of the tournament. Plus, who knows how many players will hit the transfer portal with Coach Cal leaving town?

There will be much to consider. For now, here's an early look at a couple of replacements for Calipari at Kentucky.

Nate Oats

Oats should probably be considered the leader in the clubhouse, and for good reason. He has done tremendous work at Alabama over the last five years, leading the Crimson Tide to three deep tournament runs. Thjs past year may have been Oats' best in Tuscaloosa, with his team losing to UConn in the Final Four over the weekend. He's a rapidly-rising star in the coaching ranks and it's only a matter of time before he gets snatched up by a true blue blood program. Why not Kentucky?

Oats is only 49 years old with a career record of 213-97 in nine years total at the University of Buffalo and Alabama. He is a pretty well-known name already despite coaching at a football school first and foremost. All of it is impressive. Kentucky would be thrilled to land Oats.

Scott Drew

Drew has famously been holding down the fort at Baylor for over two decades and the college basketball world has watched in admiration as the 53-year-old revived a dying program. Even more, Drew has turned the Bears into a March Madness regular. He's long been tabbed as a candidate to take over a major program when the opportunity arises. And it has arisen.

Drew's resume includes a 466-255 career record and a national title. Baylor has appeared in nine of the last 10 NCAA tournaments. If Kentucky can convince him to leave the program he painstakingly built himself since 2002, he'd be an excellent hire.

Billy Donovan

Donovan has been away from the college game for a long time now and may not want to dip his toes back into these waters given how much has changed since he led Florida to a pair of titles. But it does seem like there would be a chance for both sides to win here. Donovan hasn't proven to be quite as great an NBA coach as he was an NCAA coach, currently in the midst of a fourth straight mediocre season with the Chicago Bulls. They're a bad team in the present and have no future as the front office seems content to finish eighth in the East and lose in the first round of the playoffs every year. There is not exactly a lot keeping Donovan there. It would make sense if he'd want to leave.

The two-time national champion left Florida with a 467-186 record over nearly 20 years. Donovan's nine years in the NBA hasn't been as successful but the memories of his dominant college career are still pretty fresh. Donovan got his start at Kentucky in 1989. The pieces are all there for this to be a perfect match.