NBA

The 3 Highest-Paid Coaches in the NBA

Rick Carlisle is one of the highest-paid NBA coaches.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers chose to fire head coach David Blatt 41 games into the 2015–16 season, most were surprised. Despite the team going 31-10 in that span, we saw the merit in the decision. The Cavs had gone as far as they could go with Blatt at the helm, and the team desperately needed a fresh voice capable of providing a cohesive message.

Enter Tyronn Lue: Cleveland’s associate head coach and the highest-paid assistant in the NBA. He took over at a difficult time, kept the team moving forward, and showed his toughness by holding players like LeBron James accountable. Confident in his abilities, Lue chose not to sign a new deal when he was promoted to head coach. After remaining calm in the face of a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, eventually steering the Cavs to an improbable comeback, his decision to remain patient paid off.

Lue and the Cavs agreed on a five-year deal worth $35 million. However, Cleveland fired Lue early in the 2018-19 season after an 0-6 start. There’s a chance he reunites with LeBron James as the new coach of the Lakers, and if he signs a similar deal he’ll be one of the highest-paid NBA coaches. Of the head coaches who lasted the season, these five were the highest paid.

3. Dwane Casey, Detroit Pistons (TIE)

Average annual salary: $7 million

The Toronto Raptors canned Casey after he won NBA Coach of the Year following a 59-23 season  in 2017-18, but he landed on his feet. He just moved a little bit to the southwest to lead the Detroit Pistons. His 41-41 record in his first season in Detroit was Casey’s worst record since going 34-48 with the Raptors in 2012-13, but he guided the Pistons into the playoffs and was among the highest-paid NBA coaches at $7 million.

3. Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks (TIE)

Average annual salary: $7 million

The last few seasons in Dallas haven’t been much to write home about, but Rick Carlisle remains one of the best coaches in the NBA. He has a career .545 regular season winning percentage, and he’s one of the winningest active coaches, too. That helps explain his $7 million salary despite spotty results recently. However, the Mavericks might have two of the best NBA players under 25 years old on the same floor next year, and Carlisle has a good chance to add to his win total.

3. Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards (TIE)

Average annual salary: $7 million

Casual fans might not think of Scott Brooks as one of the best coaches in the game, but the results prove he is. Sure, the Wizards’ dismal 32-50 campaign in 2018-19 was forgettable, but that was Brooks’ first losing season as a coach since his first one, in 2008-09 with the Thunder. Plus, trades and injuries sabotaged Washington’s season from the get-go. If there’s one thing Brooks has proven, it’s that he knows how to coach a talent-laden roster, and that’s why he’s one of the highest-paid NBA coaches in 2019.

2. Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers

Average annual salary: $10 million

Although Doc Rivers has yet to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to an NBA title, he’s still been quite successful in his three seasons in Hollywood. He’s compiled a mark of 166-80 (.675 winning percentage), kept the Clips competitive in the Western Conference, and continuously has this group on the verge of breaking through. Which is a good thing — because he’s being paid quite a pretty penny to do so. As the Clippers’ head coach and president, Rivers is earning more than $50 million over a five-year deal that runs through the 2018–19 season. With a contract that pays him over $10 million a year, it’s safe to say that expectations for Rivers in Los Angeles are high.

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

Gregg Popovich is one of the highest-paid NBA coaches
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is No. 1 | J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Average annual salary: $11 million

In Gregg Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs have arguably the top head coach in the NBA and one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. The numbers more than reflect that fact.

In his first 20 seasons on the bench, Pop compiled a record of 1,089-485 (.692 winning percentage), led the Spurs to five NBA titles, and was named Coach of the Year three times (2002–03, 2011–12, and 2013–14). Is it any wonder the organization pays him in the range of $11 million per year? If you ask us, they’re getting a bargain.

Jason Alsher contributed to this report.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference, ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and OtherLeague.