It was a big surprise to see John Calipari leave the Kentucky basketball program earlier this month. Calipari had been the head coach of the Wildcats for 15 years, and after losing to 14 seed Oakland in the NCAA Tournament, he decided to leave to be the new head coach at Arkansas. Not many people expected Calipari to leave on his own, and former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins and former NBA player Matt Barnes think that politics played a role into his departure.

There are obviously a lot of politics that go into college basketball, but DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes are suggesting that real, American politics played into John Calipari's Kentucky basketball departure. Here is their exchange on the All The Smoke podcast.

Matt Barnes: “I actually read an article last night about some political infiltration in the Kentucky system and how they wanted Cal (John Calipari) to get on that political train and he wasn't having none of it.”

DeMarcus Cousins: “You kind of hit it on the head with that, it is what it is. There is a lot of politics behind the scenes going on that the average fan will never know about, and for the most part, players don’t really know about, unless they’re able to get that information from the horse's mouth.”

Matt Barnes: “When we say politics, normally there's politics, college basketball politics, we're talking real politics.”

DeMarcus Cousins: “Real politics.”

When Kentucky lost against Oakland, there were a lot of Wildcats fans that wanted Calipari fired, but not many people thought that he would leave on his own to take another job. It was surprising to see, but DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes seem to have an idea of why it happened.

The article Matt Barnes might've been referencing

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari yells to the team during their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks
© Clare Grant / Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

A story did surface recently about John Calipari deciding not to endorse someone's run for governor, and now people are wondering if that had something to do with him leaving to take the Arkansas job.

“There is a lot of money being funneled to UK,” An article from Express Sky read. “A former gubernatorial candidate with deep pockets who allegedly asked Calipari for an endorsement for her bid for governor, which he declined, may have something to do with his departure.”

That's real politics right there, and that could certainly be what Cousins and Barnes were discussing on the podcast.

“Like we're talking real politics, like they wanted Cal to jump on this Trump train and support someone who's in his cabinet, who was running for governor,” Cousins said. “So there was a lot of hands in the pot, and to me, from what I read, Cal wanted to protect his players at all cost. He wouldn't allow his players to be involved in it and he didn't want himself involved in it. And once they kind of put his foot down with that as powerful as these outside entities are, as great as Cal is, that was almost kind of like the sign of okay something's got to change here.”

Who knows what really into John Calipari's decision to leave the Kentucky basketball team, but DeMarcus Cousins certainly has some good connections with the program. He played his college basketball for the Wildcats under Calipari, and he was a star there.

Now, Calipari is the head coach at Arkansas, and a new era of Kentucky basketball is beginning as Mark Pope is now there to be Calipari's replacement.