The 20 Highest-Paid Coaches In American Sports

Jon Gruden spent nine years in the Monday Night Football booth captivating audiences with blunt coach-speak: “You never stay the same. You either get better or worse.” It came with the authority of a Super Bowl winner, which he achieved in 2003 when he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the title.

Gruden’s name was bandied about annually for nearly every job opening, as speculation swirled about when the youngest coach to ever win the game’s top trophy would return to the sidelines. When Oakland Raiders owner Marc Davis finally wooed him back in 2018, he crowed at the press conference to announce the hiring: “This is a big f’ing deal Raiders Nation!” Davis said he “chased” Gruden for six years.

Gruden used the leverage of that enthusiasm to sign a historic ten-year, $100 million contract, a record total for any U.S. coach. A fleecing for a franchise that Forbes values at $2.9 billion? Hardly.

“I believe Marc Davis got a bargain,” says Marc Ganis, president of consultancy Sportscorp, who calls the hiring a “brilliant” move. “Hiring Gruden will have permanent financial benefits for the franchise. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That holds very true in sports when you relocate a team and build a new stadium. The Raiders are doing both.”

The Raiders’ last sustained success occurred under Gruden’s original four-year tenure, which ended in 2003 when he was traded to the Bucs for four draft picks and $8 million in cash. Gruden led the Bucs over the Raiders in the Super Bowl during his first season in Tampa.

The next 15 years for Oakland included only a single winning season and playoff appearance, and a revolving door of coaches—not an ideal sales climate ahead of the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas next season. Ganis figures the move, with a new stadium set to open in 2020, has boosted the value of the franchise by $1 billion thanks to the sale of luxury suites and sponsorships in the team’s new home. The stadium naming rights deal alone, signed with Allegiant Air in August, is worth an average of $20 million annually for 30 years.

Behind Gruden’s deal is the NFL powerbroker they call the kingmaker and godfather, Bob Lamonte, who currently represents ten NFL coaches. When Lamonte started representing coaches in the late 1980s, beginning with Mike Holmgren who would go on to win a Super Bowl in Green Bay, the average NFL head coach’s salary was $295,000. Today, head coaches pull in more than $6 million a year on average. And because there are no league limits on coaching salaries like there are with players, their cut of the action has gone from below the league-average player salary when Lamonte started to more than twice as much.

“Al Davis told me I was an idiot to represent coaches and that they were a dime a dozen,” recalls Lamonte of a conversation with the longtime owner of the Raiders, who passed the team to his son Marc when he died in 2011. “Teams wouldn’t negotiate with agents for coaches. That was how the system worked. Coaches were part of management.”


After a brutal 4-12 record in his first year back—when he also jettisoned a pair of All-Pros, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, in trades for draft picks—Gruden has the Silver and Black at a respectable 6-6 with a shot at the playoffs.

The 20 highest-paid coaches in U.S. pro and college sports all earn at least $7.7 million annually on average under their current deals. (There were a half-dozen soccer managers in Europe who reportedly made at least $20 million last season.) The NFL dominates the U.S. action with ten, followed by five from the NBA and five from colleges, including three football coaches and a pair from basketball. The group has collectively won 38 titles, and the five coaches on the list without a title on their résumé all were runners-up in the Super Bowl.

Hockey and baseball were both shut out. The widespread use of analytics has diminished the impact of MLB managers, and salaries have followed suit.

Joe Maddon is baseball’s best-paid skipper and expected to make roughly $4.5 million in 2020 after being hired by the Los Angeles Angels last month. Salaries peak at $5 million for current NHL coaches, as revenues don’t support paying NFL and NBA rates.

Longtime New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick holds the No. 1 spot with $12 million, according to multiple sources. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks) and Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) follow at $11 million a year.

Belichick’s 20 years in New England include six wins in nine Super Bowl trips, with the Pats again one of the favorites to return to the Big Game this season. The franchise’s first Super Bowl title during the 2001 season came seven months ahead of the opening of what became Gillette Stadium, and helped grease the wheels on sales of season tickets, suites and sponsorships at sky-high prices. The value of the franchise has soared from $460 million to $4.1 billion since Belichick’s hiring.

Creating value is not limited to the pros. Success on the college level in football and basketball often leads to increased applicants and alumni donations. Alabama and Clemson have split the last four college football national championships. Their coaches, Nick Saban and Dabo Sweeney, are brand names in college football and more important than the players the way the system is set up.

Saban was originally hired in 2007 under an eight-year, $32 million deal. Forbes named him the “Most Powerful Coach in Sports” in a 2008 cover story. He’ll earn $75 million over eight years under his current contract. Former Alabama chancellor Robert Witt articulated Saban’s benefit in a 2013 60 Minutes profile on the coach: “Nick Saban is the best financial investment that this university has ever made.”

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20 | Jim Harbaugh

Michigan Wolverines

Average Contract Value: $7.73 million

Career Win Percentage: .667

Michigan lured 1986 grad Harbaugh back to his alma mater in December 2015 with one of the richest contracts in the sport. He has a chance to reach a fourth ten-win season in five years, but fans harp on the five straight losses to rival Ohio State since he arrived.

19 | Ron Rivera

Carolina Panthers

Average Contract Value: $7.75 million

Career Win Percentage: .546

Riverboat Ron, who was hired in 2011, was the seventh-longest-tenured coach in the NFL before he was fired on Tuesday. Rivera is owed one more year on the contract extension he signed in January 2018.

15 (tie) | Andy Reid

Kansas City Chiefs

Average Contract Value: $8 million

Career Win Percentage: .613

Reid gets ripped for a lack of playoff success, with only a pair of wins in seven postseason appearances over the past ten years, but his regular season work is top notch. He’s posted only three losing seasons in 21 years as an NFL head coach.

15 (tie) | Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks

Average Contract Value: $8 million

Career Win Percentage: .547

Carlisle is considered one of the NBA’s top coaches and has the Mavericks back to winning behind Luka Doncic after three straight losing campaigns. The contract for the 2011 NBA Finals winner runs through the 2022-2023 season.

15 (tie) | Mike Tomlin

Pittsburgh Steelers

Average Contract Value: $8 million

Career Win Percentage: .650

Only Belichick and Sean Payton have been with their current teams longer than Tomlin, who was hired by the Steelers in 2007 and two years later became the youngest Super Bowl-winning head coach in NFL history at the age of 36. Tomlin has never had a losing season with the Steelers and has missed the playoffs in only four years.

15 (tie) | Dan Quinn

Atlanta Falcons

Average Contract Value: $8 million

Career Win Percentage: .513

Quinn received a lucrative three-year contract extension in July 2018 after a 29-19 start to his coaching career with the Falcons as well as a Super Bowl appearance. The club has struggled ever since, losing two thirds of its games.

13 (tie) | Erik Spoelstra

Miami Heat

Average Contract Value: $8.5 million

Career Win Percentage: .594

Spoelstra worked his way up from video coordinator with the Heat in 1995 to its head coach in 2008. The NBA’s first Asian-American head coach and two-time champion signed a four-year contract extension ahead of the current season.

13 (tie) | Sean McVay

Los Angeles Rams

Average Contract Value: $8.5 million

Career Win Percentage: .705

The Rams ripped up McVay’s existing deal this summer and rewarded him with a five-year extension at the highest average rate for any coach who has not won a title in their sport. McVay became the youngest coach in modern NFL history when he was hired in 2017 at age 30.

12 | John Calipari

Kentucky Wildcats

Average Contract Value: $8.6 million

Career Win Percentage: .781

The University of Kentucky rewarded Calipari with a “lifetime” contract last summer that is worth $86 million over 10 years. Under Calipari, his Wildcats have won more games than any other college basketball team in the nation over the past decade.

10 (tie) | Mike Krzyzewski

Duke Blue Devils

Average Contract Value: $9 million

Career Win Percentage: .768

Coach K has nearly 200 more career wins than any other men’s Division I basketball coach, and his five titles are second-most behind John Wooden. Krzyzewski has received a handful of lucrative NBA coaching offers during his four decades at Duke but has always returned to Durham.

10 (tie) | John Harbaugh

Baltimore Ravens

Average Contract Value: $9 million

Career Win Percentage: .606

The younger Harbaugh holds bragging rights over older brother Jim from when their teams collided in Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013. John also now has the upper hand with his paycheck following a four-year contract extension in January. The Ravens are Super Bowl favorites behind dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.

9 | Dabo Swinney

Clemson Tigers

Average Contract Value: $9.3 million

Career Win Percentage: .810

The two-time national champion signed the largest contract in college football history in April, worth $93 million over ten years. Swinney is on the verge of leading Clemson to a fifth straight trip to the college football playoff if it defeats Virginia on Saturday. His career winning percentage is the highest among active coaches.

8 | Nick Saban

Alabama Crimson Tide

Average Contract Value: $9.4 million

Career Win Percentage: .791

Alabama will pay $75 million over eight years to Saban, including $800,000 targeted for the coach’s foundation. His six national championships are tied with Bear Bryant for the most among college football coaches.

7 | Steve Kerr

Golden State Warriors

Average Contract Value: $9.5 million

Career Win Percentage: .755

Kerr owned the highest career winning percentage of any NBA coach entering this season at .785 but is learning about how the other half lives with stars Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry sidelined most of the season with injuries. The Warriors current 4-18 record stands as the worst in the NBA.

6 | Sean Payton

New Orleans Saints

Average Contract Value: $9.75 million

Career Win Percentage: .627

The Saints longtime coach signed a five-year contract extension in September. The Saints became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth this season with their 26-18 Thanksgiving Day win over the Falcons. It is Payton’s eighth postseason berth in 13 seasons in New Orleans.

4 (tie) | Jon Gruden

Oakland Raiders

Average Contract Value: $10 million

Career Win Percentage: .515

Gruden feigned ignorance on his contract at his Raiders introductory press conference. “I don’t really know the terms,” he offered with a smile. It was going to take a huge offer to pry Gruden away from ESPN, where he reportedly was its highest-paid employee, for his role on Monday Night Football.

4 (tie) | Doc Rivers

Los Angeles Clippers

Average Contract Value: $10 million

Career Win Percentage: .578

Rivers broke the bank when Clippers owner Steve Ballmer lured the former Boston and Orlando coach to Los Angeles in 2013. Rivers’ hefty eight-figure salary was worth it for the former Microsoft CEO. The Clippers have six straight winning seasons under Rivers, more than the total from the prior 37 years.

2 (tie) | Pete Carroll

Seattle Seahawks

Average Contract Value: $11 million

Career Win Percentage: .602

Carroll, 68, is the NFL’s oldest head coach but signed a three-year extension at the end of 2018 that bumped his salary ahead of Gruden. The exuberant Carroll is one of only three coaches to win both a Super Bowl and college football national championship.

2 (tie) | Gregg Popovich

San Antonio Spurs

Average Contract Value: $11 million

Career Win Percentage: .680

Pop took over coaching the Spurs one quarter into the 1996-97 season and then ripped off 22 straight winning campaigns starting in 1997, including five NBA titles. Popovich, 70, signed a three-year contract extension in 2019.

1 | Bill Belichick

New England Patriots

Average Contract Value: $12 million

Career Win Percentage: .684

The highest-paid coach in U.S. sports might be the biggest bargain. This season marks 17 straight years with at least ten wins. The next longest streak: four years by the Kansas City Chiefs.


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