Kentucky had everything to offer P.J. Carlesimo: money, a tradition-rich basketball program, a 23,000-seat arena and television and radio exposure unimagined by a college basketball coach in the New York metropolitan area.
All Seton Hall could offer in return was loyalty. That was more than enough for Carlesimo.Carlesimo, 39, completed days of soul-searching Monday by ending talks with the University of Kentucky and deciding to remain as the head basketball coach at Seton Hall, the school he took to the brink of a national championship just one year after students asked that he be fired.
Carlesimo said that neither money nor anticipated NCAA sanctions against Kentucky played a part in his decision.
"The factor was Seton Hall," Carlesimo said in an impromptu news conference as he walked to his car. "I really like it here. I've been treated well. Kentucky is the kind of a situation you have to look at. It never got as far as people speculated it did."
Both Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton and Carlesimo said the job was never offered to Carlesimo last week when he visited Lexington.
Carlesimo had been mulling a possible move to Kentucky since visiting the Lexington campus April 24 for more than a day of interviews.
The Associated Press initially quoted two unidentified sources that day as saying Carlesimo would accept the Kentucky job, but not until he talked to Seton Hall officials.
On Friday, however, one of the sources quoted in the original report said Carlesimo seemed to be having second thoughts about the job.
The same source said Carlesimo never definitely accepted the job and it was never formally offered.
"I'm sure it's a tough decision for him to turn it down," Newton said in London, Ky., where he was attending an alumni gathering. "I admire him and I'm very appreciative that he didn't string us along. I think he had, and probably still does have, a very strong interest in Kentucky. But he's made his decision to stay."
Carlesimo announced his decision after a locker room meeting with six returning players that lasted for three minutes.
"He sat down and evaluated his priorities and I guess his priorities are here," said Anthony Avent, who should be the Pirates' starting center next season. "All the money in the world can't make you happy."
The Kentucky job reportedly carries a $600,000 salary, more than twice the amount Carlesimo made at Seton Hall last season. The Wildcats' home court also is about 10 times bigger than the Pirates' Walsh Arena on the South Orange campus. Kentucky is the big game in town, as opposed to Seton Hall, which needed to go to the Final Four to get the total attention of the New York media.
Kentucky is trying to replace Eddie Sutton, who resigned under pressure in the wake of an NCAA investigation.