John Tyson Guesses How Long John Calipari Stays at Arkansas

Hunter Yurachek, John Calipari, Arkansas basketball
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

John Calipari is starting to get comfortable in his new seat as the head basketball coach at Arkansas, and the commitments keep rolling in.

After starting completely from scratch, the addition of former Kentucky wing Adou Thiero brought the Hogs over the halfway mark and up to seven scholarship players, comprised of four transfers and three high school signees.

It’s been nearly a month since Calipari rocked the college basketball world with his cross-conference move from Kentucky to Arkansas. Reactions around the country ranged from anger out of the Bluegrass State to bewilderment at the national level.

That surprise has led folks to question the sight of Coach Cal in Razorback Red, with many casting doubt on how long he will stay in Fayetteville.

From being convinced that he “looks miserable” at his new job to using one of Calipari’s off-handed comments on the recruiting trail to throw dirt on Arkansas, not everyone is convinced.

John Tyson’s Take on Calipari at Arkansas

The now-famous “Chicken Man” John Tyson, the billionaire heir to the Tyson Foods empire, took to the defense of John Calipari and the Arkansas basketball program in an interview with Bo Mattingly on Hogs+, saying that he’s confident based on Cal’s track record that he’s here to stay in Fayetteville for the foreseeable future.

“If you think about Coach Cal, they say, ‘Well he’s not gonna stay,’” Tyson said. “He stayed nine years at Memphis. He stayed 15 years at Kentucky. The guy doesn’t move. He comes in to try to make a difference. Right now he’s on a five-year contract, and my guess is he’ll probably stay a little bit longer because he’s having fun. He enjoys teaching the young men.”

You can say what you want about Calipari, but loyalty has never really been a question mark on his resume. His shortest stint as a college head coach was the eight years he spent at UMass, so there’s nothing suggesting that he’ll be looking to get out of Fayetteville quickly.

Record193-71 (.731)252-69 (.785)410-123 (.769)

“I’ll be honest, when I thought about coming here and building this program and making it something special, it got me excited,” Calipari said at his introductory press conference.

It’s fair to question the motives of a 65-year-old coach but all signs seem to suggest that Coach Cal has plenty of gas left in the tank and is ready to take on a new challenge with a fresh start.

Calipari’s Player-First Model Never Changing

Much has been made of Kentucky’s recent shortcomings in March, as John Calipari’s freshman-first recruiting model has become a little outdated in the new era of college athletics. 

While it’s clear that he’ll never completely stop going after blue-chip high school recruits – as evidenced by Arkansas’ No. 6-ranked recruiting class for the upcoming season – his latest moves suggest a much-needed adaptation to the changing landscape of the sport.

With the addition of Adou Thiero, Arkansas now has the No. 1 transfer class in the nation, according to 247Sports. But whether Calipari is going after 18-year-olds or experienced transfers, his player-first model of coaching will always be at the front of his recruiting strategy.

Calipari has always said that the No. 1 thing in coaching that gives him joy is the chance to help young men achieve success. He’s done a great job at that throughout his career, as seen by the dozens of players that he’s turned into millionaires. Tyson touched on Calipari’s approach to coaching, and how playing the long game is what it’s all about.

“How do you have the conversation with the parents about what our goal is? Is the goal just to get a college education, to get a business degree, to go to work?” the 70-year-old Tyson said. “Sometimes in making people better you got to back up a little bit, you got to undo some things, you got to change some habits and go backwards to go forwards.

“A lot of times that’s hard because your children are already starting to peak. I mean, they’re already kind of in the top of the top conversation. But to look at a parent and say, ‘Look, next year’s gonna be a little rough because we’re going to undo things, we’re going to change things.’”

That has certainly been true in Calipari’s career, as his young Kentucky teams filled with five-star recruits would often have peaks and valleys early in the season as they learned to play together and improved before playing their best basketball later in the season.

“If I just kind of hold them together, I might win the championship but the person never got better,” Tyson added.

Chicken Man Reflects on Fame and Expectations

Luring John Calipari from Kentucky to Arkansas brought John Tyson into the national limelight and led to him receiving lots of love from the Razorback fanbase. Logging onto Twitter over the past few weeks, you can find plenty of folks showing their appreciation for the chicken juggernaut. Tyson reflected on the standing ovation that he received at Calipari’s introductory press conference.

“It was more than humbling, it was very kind of people,” Tyson said. “But I think it also said to me that this state wants to come together and rally around something.”

The addition of the Naismith Hall of Fame coach has put the weight of massive expectation on the shoulders of Calipari, with Tyson joking that Arkansas fans would cause a ruckus if the Razorbacks drop even one non-conference game next season.

“They’re gonna tar and feather me and fire him and throw Hunter [Yurachek] out the door!” Tyson said with a laugh.

Fortunately for Arkansas fans, Calipari is more than used to these responsibilities after spending 15 years at the pressure cooker that is the Kentucky basketball job.


See our latest on Arkansas basketball here:

Watch the full interview with Tyson and Bo Mattingly on Hogs Plus.


New Arkansas HC John Calipari Resume

  • 855-263 (.765) all-time record
  • Taken three different teams to the Final Four (UMass, Memphis and Kentucky)
  • Won the 2012 national championship at Kentucky
  • Took Kentucky to four Final Fours over a span of five years (2011-15)
  • Won six regular-season SEC titles and six SEC Tournament titles at Kentucky
  • Won five regular-season CUSA titles and four CUSA Tournament titles at Memphis
  • Won five regular-season A10 titles and five A10 Tournament titles at UMass
  • 3-time Naismith College Coach of the Year (1996, 2008 and 2015)
  • 4-time SEC Coach of the Year
  • 3-time CUSA Coach of the Year
  • 3-time A10 Coach of the Year
  • Member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

John Tyson Quick Facts

  • Born Sept. 5, 1953 (70 years old)
  • Grandson of John W. Tyson, the founder of Tyson Foods
  • Chairman of Tyson Foods since 1998, also served as CEO from 2000-06
  • Graduated from Springdale High School and then attended the University of Arkansas before transferring to USC and ultimately graduating from SMU
  • According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $2.8 billion


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