For all the talk of a united front and a hands-off ownership group, Dan Gilbert still appears to be doing things his way with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Gilbert offered John Calipari a deal ranging between seven and 10 years that would’ve given him full control of the franchise for between $60 million and $80 million, according to multiple national reports. Yahoo Sports reported Calipari ultimately rejected the deal late last week and agreed instead to a seven-year, $52 million deal to stay at Kentucky.
Calipari would’ve been given the title of president and coach and had final say on all decisions over General Manager David Griffin, according to the report.
It’s the latest twist in a wide-ranging coaching search that has included young assistants seeking their first head coaching gig, veterans near the end of their careers and high-profile college coaches.
Monday’s news came as a surprise to various members of the organization who insisted they were unaware of any ongoing negotiations between the Cavs and Calipari.
Gilbert reached out to Calipari at least once before Griffin’s interim GM tag was removed on May 12, one team source said Monday, with the understanding Calipari was not coming and the discussions were over. ESPN reported on Monday, however, the monster offer to Calipari was made within the past two weeks.
Historically, Gilbert has been notorious for acting on his own. One Cavs source said Gilbert expects the front office to keep him informed of every step in the process, then will talk to any big name he wants and not tell his executives.
Sources briefed on the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitive nature of coaching searches, said there are conflicting forces at work.
Griffin’s candidate list includes young coaches like Tyronn Lue and Adrian Griffin, along with familiar faces from his past such as Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins and Alvin Gentry.
Gilbert, meanwhile, continues to be infatuated with big names. He was rejected by Tom Izzo four years ago and pursued the Michigan State coach again a few months ago, offering full control of the organization. Izzo again declined.
The Cavs have also pursued Florida’s Billy Donovan, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie. Griffin has made all of those calls and even called Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, one team source said.
One Cavs source involved in the search disputed the idea that Gilbert has been meddling in the process and was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly the first round went.
Gilbert did not meet with the candidates during the first round of interviews, but is expected to be present for the second round. The Cavs are expected to bring back at least three candidates for second interviews.
Lue and Gentry are both expected to receive second interviews, one source said, estimating the Cavs will have contacted a total of about 11 candidates to replace Mike Brown.