A critical piece of Shaka Smart’s coaching staff may soon be headed to the Bluegrass.
According to multiple reports, John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats are looking to lure Texas Longhorns assistant coach Jai Lucas away from Austin to serve in an off-court role Kentucky is creating. The news was first reported by Kentucky Sports Radio founder Matt Jones.
Rumors swirling that John Calipari is considering adding Jai Lucas....yes that Jai Lucas to the UK staff— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) August 18, 2020
Life comes full circle
Kentucky’s interest comes in the wake of longtime assistant Kenny Payne, who was earning $900,000 per year, recently leaving the program to become an associate head coach for the New York Knicks. Kentucky filled that void with Indiana assistant Bruiser Flint, so it’s quite possible that Kentucky will utilize the Payne’s previous salary to hire Flint and provide a raise to Lucas, who has a reported salary of $217,500.
Per Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, Lucas is still with the Longhorns as of late Tuesday afternoon. That said, the Kentucky Sports Radio report indicates that Texas is bracing for Lucas’ departure from the program.
“Sources tell KSR that Texas is already searching for a replacement for Lucas, with Baylor’s Alvin Brooks being seen as an early favorite.”
For obvious reasons, if the move comes to fruition, it would serve as a substantial loss for the Longhorns. Lucas, a former Longhorns point guard, served as a special assistant to former Texas coach Rick Barnes in 2013 and remained in Austin as the served as director of basketball operations when Shaka Smart was hired.
Lucas was soon thereafter promoted to his current role as an assistant coach in 2016, where his impact has been most notably felt on the recruiting trail, as he’s a prominent name in the Houston hoops recruiting scene and helped land elite talents such as Jarrett Allen, Mohamed Bamba, and Greg Brown.
If Smart loses Lucas to Kentucky, he’ll be tasked with filling two assistant roles ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, as Luke Yaklich departed from the program following the end of the shortened 2019-20 season to become the head coach at Illinois-Chicago.