Kentucky gives Calipari 7-year, $52.5 million deal

GARY B. GRAVES AP Sports Writer Published:

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky gave coach John Calipari a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension that will pay a base package of $6.5 million next season and $8 million over each of the final three seasons.

Already one of college basketball's highest-paid coaches, Calipari led the Wildcats to the 2012 NCAA championship and is coming off his third Final Four appearance in five years with Kentucky, a 60-54 title-game loss to Connecticut in April. He has often been rumored as a potential candidate for NBA coaching openings, most recently this spring with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Calipari quickly reiterated his happiness with Kentucky, later using social media to state his commitment after Los Angeles fired coach Mike D'Antoni. He continued that theme with his new contract that pays more than most pro coaches.

"I've said over and over that I have the best job in the country," Calipari said in a release Thursday night. "With the continued support from our administration and the greatest, craziest, fans in college basketball, we have accomplished a lot in our five quick years, but we still have lofty goals for the future.

Besides building a 152-37 record at Kentucky, Calipari has established himself as a master recruiter in landing top-three freshman classes annually. That includes next year's group which figures to make the Wildcats a title contender again, and with this contract the school appears to have locked him in for the long term.

• Basketball

Wolves rehire Saunders: Two people with knowledge of the decision tell The Associated Press that Flip Saunders is moving out of the front office to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Saunders was hired last season as president of basketball operations. After the team's search to replace the retired Rick Adelman was snagged by Kevin Love's uncertain future in Minnesota, it was determined that Saunders should step in to coach the team. The people requested anonymity Thursday because the team has not officially announced the move.

Bickerstaff honored: Bernie Bickerstaff was honored Thursday as the winner of the National Basketball Coaches Association's Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was a head coach in Seattle, Denver, Washington and Charlotte and interim head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, and also has worked for Chicago, Portland and the Cavaliers.

• Golf

Crane fires 63: Ben Crane shot a 7-under 63 at TPC at Southwind to take the lead in the suspended first round of the St. Jude Classic.

Crane took advantage of a 3 1/2-hour delay that left nearly perfect scoring conditions with no wind and rain-softened greens. He had five of his seven birdies on his final nine, the last a few minutes before play was suspended because of darkness.

Sixty players were unable to finish the round.

Wie, Park share lead: Michelle Wie and defending champion Hee Young Park shared the first-round lead at 6-under 65 in the Manulife Financial Classic at windswept Grey Silo.

Wie, the winner in Hawaii in April, birdied three of the last four holes in her morning round. She's seeking her second victory in Canada after winning the 2010 Canadian Women's Open in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

• Elsewhere

Three straight finals: Maria Sharapova made it back into the French Open final for the third straight year, beating Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 Thursday.

The seventh-seeded Russian lost the first set for the third straight match, but again managed to turn things around. Sharapova has now won 19 straight three-set matches on clay.

In the other semifinal match, fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania will face 28th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany.

Cleveland signs rookie: The Browns have agreed to contract terms with rookie inside linebacker Chris Kirksey.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder is expected to compete with Craig Robertson for a starting spot alongside Karlos Dansby.

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