March Madness — time for the nation’s big-time college basketball coaches to strut their stuff.
Dressed to kill, stalking the sideline and working the refs during the game, smiling for the cameras before and after. For some, their next big job depends on how they do in the tourney. Players’ league? That’s the NBA. The NCAA is a coach’s game, centered around the guy who builds and runs the program as players roll through, some after one year. Mention Duke basketball and who springs to mind? It isn’t center Mason Plumlee. It’s Mike Krzyzewski.
College coaches are paid accordingly. According to data compiled by USA Today, there are 35 coaches whose salaries cross the million-dollar threshold, of which 14 pull in more than $2 million. Generally speaking, those making the bigger bucks are worth it. The average seven-figure coach has notched 17 years of service time, taken his schools to the NCAA tournament in 10 of them, while winning 69% of his games overall (average annual record: 22-10). Altogether, the group boasts 51 Final Four appearances and 13 national titles.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some individuals living at the far end of the scale whose pay, relatively speaking, outshines their performance. Kentucky coach John Calipari has long fit this mold. An ace recruiter with a .767 winning percentage over 21 seasons and four appearances in the Final Four with three different schools, Calipari is Lexington’s biggest rock star and clearly one of the nation’s top coaches. Yet, with a salary that tops $5 million this year, significantly more than Tom Izzo (.712 winning pct.; six Final Fours; one title) and Roy Williams (.797; seven Final Fours; two titles), Calipari is clearly overpaid as well.