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Thread: The Highest-Paid Coaches

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    Red face The Highest-Paid Coaches

    Despite the recession, life is good for many head coaches--especially in the NBA.

    A recession in sports? Not for NBA coaches, who continue to rake in the biggest bucks--about $4 million annually, on average--for drawing up X's and O's for the world's top basketball players.
    The ranks of the highest-paid coaches in sports are dominated by those prowling the sidelines in the NBA and, to a lesser extent, the NFL. That those two leagues would dominate the coaching pay scale is understandable: The big businesses of college football and basketball create genuine wage competition for head coaches. That's something minor league baseball doesn't do for the wallets of big league managers. There aren't many fans filling out brackets for the Triple-A playoffs. The Dodgers' Joe Torre, baseball's highest-paid manager at $4.3 million a year, is the third highest-paid head man in Los Angeles, behind the NBA Lakers' Phil Jackson and (barely) USC football coach Pete Carroll.
    But why does the NBA stand above the NFL (whose coaches rake in an average of about $3 million)?
    "Calipari and Pitino, they leveraged the numbers way up," says Bernie Mullin, an industry consultant with the Aspire Group in Atlanta, speaking of John Calipari and Rick Pitino. Both were hot college coaches in the 1990s who got big money to move to the NBA (Pitino from the University of Kentucky to the Boston Celtics, Calipari from the University of Massachusetts to the New Jersey Nets). As it turned out, both coaches were NBA flops. They're now back making hefty salaries in the college game--Calipari recently signing at Kentucky for $4 million a season, Pitino pulling in more than $2 million at rival Louisville.
    Another reason for the disparity between the NBA and NFL: fewer players and coaches per team. Mullin notes that many clubs, in order to give their coaches proper authority, want to pay them at least what the average player makes (if not the superstar player). In the NBA, that takes more.
    Leading the pack by a wide margin is the Lakers' Jackson, who got $10.3 million this year to lead the team's quest for a second consecutive NBA Finals appearance (the Lakers are currently battling the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals). Jackson's stature makes sense: When you've got nine rings, a big market, the most lucrative arena in sports, a reputation as a Zen master and you're dating the boss' daughter, the money is going to be good.
    Veteran NBA coaches Larry Brown, Mike D'Antoni and Don Nelson (all over $6 million annually) fall in behind Jackson, with Boston's Glen "Doc" Rivers pulling in $5.5 million.

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