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Jai Lucas Likely Heading to Kentucky

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 05 Northern Colorado at Texas Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shaka Smart now has two assistant coaching spots to fill, thanks to Kentucky and John Calipari appearing to poach Jai Lucas from Texas for a kinda-sorta-not-technically assistant coaching role:

Matt Jones was the first person (I know of) to report on this possibility, so hat tip to him for the scoop. Kentucky is dumping a truckload of cash at Lucas’ feet for this ‘demotion’, though it seems like it’s a temporary holding spot as I’m guessing one of the current Kentucky assistants is headed to greener pastures after this season. If Lucas leveraged them for a big pay raise - think 40-50% above his current salary - and the promise of an AC gig in a year, this move makes a lot of sense; being a top recruiter at Kentucky opens more doors than being a top recruiter at Texas. Kentucky is one of a handful of programs who can match or beat any Texas job offer, so if they really want one of your coaches it’s probably a wrap. It’s “possible” this falls apart and Lucas stays in town, but basically every Kentucky outlet you can find says this is a done deal. Good luck to Jai, I’m sure he’ll do well there.

In the meantime, Texas is 80 days from their nonconference opener and they’re running at half-staff (/Beavis). Shaka may not have felt much urgency (for whatever reason) to fill the Yaklich-sized hole in his staff, but he better be making some calls today because he’s about to have to get some GAs on the floor to run drills. For those who have asked if Shaka’s job security played into this, it’s probably worth considering that Shaka’s job is pretty safe for the same reason it was pretty safe in March: who is going to fund that buyout in this economy? CDC isn’t likely to be in a position to pay for it with the football revenue shortage incoming for a season with at most 25% fans in attendance, not to mention fewer home games, and the oil & gas people who tend to be the first call for cutting a coaching buyout check are also getting hammered. My guess - and it is bar napkin math so I could be wrong - is that a 10-game or less football season with 25% or no fans means football goes far enough in the red Shaka’s here for a couple more years at least. Maybe the wheels completely fall off and the math changes, time will tell.

So no, I don’t think Shaka’s job security played much of a role. I think Kentucky backed a dump truck full of money to Lucas’ door and he took it. Good for him, go get that paper.