Coaches Reap Rewards
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com
The coaching carousel certainly had plenty of stops, but the most significant moves this spring were the deals that some of the traditional powers handed down, as well as a mid-major monster stepping up and keeping its head coach.
Louisville, Memphis, Texas, North Carolina and, of course, Florida bumped up their head coaches' salaries as they become more entrenched at their respective schools. Rick Pitino is determined to build Louisville into a perennial Big East and national power. Rick Barnes is doing the same for Texas in the Big 12. Roy Williams went home to North Carolina and likely will retire in Chapel Hill. John Calipari clearly has made Memphis one of the top jobs in the country, and the Tigers' administration doesn't want him to leave for anywhere, even for the NBA.
Washington State's decision to make a major commitment to Tony Bennett and double his salary was a complete change of philosophy in Pullman. The Cougars haven't taken basketball as seriously from a contractual perspective. But the decision to keep Bennett and to pay him much more of a market value showed that the Cougars want to stay near the top of the Pac-10. Bennett deserved the raise after earning coach of the year honors in just his first season as head coach and getting to the NCAA Tournament's second round. He easily could have pursued other options, especially in the Big Ten, if Washington State had refused to raise his salary.
As for the mid-major front, Southern Illinois' decision to bump up Chris Lowery may have been the most significant move among the extension/salary increases this spring. SIU athletic director Mario Moccia told ESPN.com throughout the postseason and spring that the intent was to keep Lowery in Carbondale and that the school could increase the salary. Lowery's salary was more than doubled. The school made it a clear that the Salukis are in the business of staying at a high level. Lowery likely would have looked elsewhere if SIU refused to compete with Wichita State and Creighton atop the league. SIU has been the most successful program the past five years but the Salukis had lagged in salary.
And now, it appears that Billy Donovan will become the richest college basketball coach in the country once his contract is finalized, which should quiet the NBA chatter. The only reason he would need to go to the NBA would be to challenge himself rather than for any financial reasons.
Here is a breakdown of some of the salary increases:
John Calipari, Memphis
Last season: 33-4 (16-0 Conference USA), NCAA regional finals
Extension: Through 2011-12
Salary: $1.816 million per year
Comment: Calipari got paid handsomely after overtures (at least in the media) that he should be a choice at Kentucky and then after a real overture from Arkansas. Memphis has a shot to win the national title and AD R.C. Johnson isn't about to let Calipari walk away from this cash cow. The only move Calipari may make at this juncture is back to the NBA one day.