Once again, John Calipari has come into Texas and secured the signature of a notable name, but this time around it isn’t a five-star McDonald’s All-American.
Rather, it’s Texas Longhorns assistant coach Jai Lucas, whose expected departure from the Texas Longhorns men’s basketball program is now official, as he’s headed to Lexington for an off-court role as special assistant to the head coach/recruiting coordinator.
The news of Lucas’ likely departure surfaced nearly two weeks ago.
“For our team to add a young but established and accomplished coach to our staff was an opportunity we were thrilled to have,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “I’ve known the Lucas family for 25 years and followed Jai’s career both as a player and as a coach. As our fans know, Jai was recruited here as a player and knows a lot about this program. I have always been impressed by the work he has done and the relationships he’s created. Jai is another guy who everyone has respect for because of his work ethic and his players-first approach. He will be a great addition.
“With the staff we have assembled and the people who are a part of our program, I’m really excited to get started with this group,” Calipari said. “I like my team.”
Texas head coach Shaka Smart also released a statement on the departure of his top recruiter.
“We are very appreciative of all Jai’s contributions over the last several years, as both a player and coach, at The University of Texas,” Smart said. “He will always be a member of our basketball family. We wish Jai and his family all of the best with this next chapter in his career.”
For obvious reasons, this news becoming official serves as a substantial loss for the Longhorns. Lucas, a former Texas point guard, served as a special assistant to former Texas coach Rick Barnes in 2013 and remained in Austin as the director of basketball operations when Shaka Smart was hired in 2014.
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 thanks to his father, John Lucas, and helped land elite talents such as Jarrett Allen, Mohamed Bamba, and Greg Brown.
Unsurprisingly, that’s the sweet spot in which John Calipari and Kentucky intend to utilize Lucas’ expertise, as Kentucky Sports Radio’s Tyler Thompson reported that Lucas will be taking on a “primary recruiting role.”
“Jai Lucas is a specialist, knows everyone in the country. Limitless resources,” a source told Kentucky Sports Radio. “Could be an assistant like he is now but more of a connections guy. Fits like a glove [at Kentucky].”
As for Smart, he’s now tasked with filling two assistant roles ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, as Luke Yaklich also departed from the program following the end of the shortened 2019-20 season to become the head coach at Illinois-Chicago.