College Hoops’ Top 10 Most Overpaid Coaches
December 17th, 2012| by Lost Lettermen
10. Herb Sendek (Arizona State): $1.2MM
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Plenty of college basketball coaches are not delivering the results that merit their high salaries. We rank the Top 10 Most Overpaid Coaches in the sport, based on school pay.
Perhaps no coach in college hoops is more used to being on the hot seat than Sendek. He spent most of his tenure at NC State on the hot seat — expected for an ACC coach that only leads his team to one Sweet Sixteen — and he’s back on it in Tempe.
Give Sendek credit for rebuilding the Sun Devils program and leading them to three straight 20-win seasons from 2007–2010. But ASU’s moribund 22–40 mark over the last two full years cannot be overlooked. Nor can Sendek’s recent penchant for alienating ASU’s players. Needless to say, $1.2 million is a crazy annual salary for one NCAA tournament appearance in six seasons.
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9. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss): $1.3MM
The seventh-year Ole Miss coach has the distinction of being one of four SEC coaches with 45 or more wins in his first two seasons and one of seven SEC coaches with 20+ wins in four of their first five seasons.
Alas, Kennedy’s 131 wins in Oxford obscure the fact that he has yet to take the Rebels to the Big Dance, where they’ve been absent every year since 2002.
The most telling aspect of Kennedy’s time at Ole Miss is not his overall record but his mark in conference play: A very mediocre 54–58. All the early-season wins in the world won’t save Kennedy’s job and his cushy salary if the Rebels don’t earn a tournament bid soon.
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8. Travis Ford (Oklahoma State): $1.8MM
Of the 68 coaches in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, 18 made $1.8MM or more. Travis Ford also has a $1.8MM annual salary from the Pokes, but his team didn’t qualify for any postseason tournament last year, finishing 15–18.
The Cowboys ponied up an awful lot of money for a coach whose previous job at UMass was highlighted by a berth in the 2008 NIT Championship Game. Since arriving in Stillwater, Ford has yet to exceed 23 wins for a season or better than a fourth-place finish in Big 12 play.
Ford’s higher-than-deserved salary will be scrutinized even more should the Cowboys fail to earn an invite to the Big Dance for a third consecutive year. The Cowboys are off to a good start this year (8-1), which is good news for Ford’s future – and bank account.
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7. Bruce Weber (Kansas State): $1.5MM
The biggest elephant in the room during Weber’s tenure at Illinois is that he rode the coattails of Illini predecessor Bill Self and his stud recruits (namely Dee Brown and Deron Williams) to his most successful years.
That theory gained momentum in the seasons after Williams and Brown left, as Weber failed to find success with his own recruits. Considering the school’s natural (one would think) in to the bevy of great players in Chicago, it was rather inexcusable on Weber’s part not to continue Self’s success. Thus Weber was fired last season after a woeful 17-15 year.
Yet somehow Kansas State is confident that Weber can lure recruits to the Little Apple. Confident enough that they’re already paying Weber more than they paid former coach Frank Martin ($1.3MM), even though Martin is widely considered a better coach and recruiter.
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6. Trent Johnson (TCU): $1.5MM
To put Johnson’s starting salary in perspective, Horned Frogs football coach Gary Patterson was making only $300,000 more before his 2009 contract extension – by which time he had already won 85 games and was preparing to lead TCU into its first BCS bowl.
What makes Johnson’s salary even more puzzling is his up-and-down performance as a coach throughout his career. He can only boast one better-than-average season each at Nevada, Stanford and LSU. At the lattermost stop, he was on the hot seat before agreeing to take the TCU job.
We don’t question TCU’s hiring of Johnson considering the Horned Frogs’ recent history on the hardwood. What we question is paying someone that kind of money for Johnson’s results.
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5. Ben Howland (UCLA): $2MM
Is Howland a much better coach than others on this list? Absolutely. But they aren’t making a whopping $2MM per season.
At this point in 2007, Howland was en route to leading the Bruins to their third straight Final Four and seemed like a solid bet to become the second most successful coach in UCLA history behind John Wooden.
Instead, when you fast-forward to this year, you read about why “Howland ball is ugly and unwatchable” and the Bruins starting the season a disappointing 7-3 – including a loss to Cal Poly – after missing the tournament two of the last three seasons.
It was in 2007 when Howland’s annual salary was bumped to its current $2 million. In retrospect, Bruins AD Dan Guerrero probably wishes he had an actual fast-forward button back then to foresee that the Howland pay raise wouldn’t pay off.
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4. Tony Barbee (Auburn): $1.5MM
Auburn’s intent upon hiring Barbee was to have him turn the Tigers program around in the same manner he did at UTEP, where the Miners went from winning 14 games in 2006–2007 to winning 26 in 2009–2010 and making the NCAA tournament.
Thus far, Barbee’s tenure on The Plains has been forgettable. The Tigers went 26–36 in Barbee’s first two seasons and are 4-5 this year, including consecutive losses to non-heavyweights Dayton, Boston College and Rhode Island.
And a sub-par record isn’t the only troubling development. Just two years after opening, Auburn Arena is only drawing an average of 5,182 fans for every home game (it seats 9,121).
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3. Mark Fox (Georgia): $1.7MM
Fox was a worthy successor to Trent Johnson at mid-major darling Nevada, but he hasn’t been able to recapture that magic in Athens.
Fox has taken the Bulldogs to one NCAA tournament, in 2011, from which they were promptly eliminated. And after a rocky 15–17 campaign in 2011–2012, this season is shaping up to be even worse.
Georgia (2-7) has exceeded 68 points only once in its first nine games and has endured ugly losses at the hands of Youngstown State and Southern Miss. What’s worse, local interest in the team is at a nadir. The Bulldogs are averaging less than 5,000 fans per home game. And yet somehow Fox is making essentially as much as North Carolina’s Roy Williams. Something doesn’t add up.
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2. Rick Barnes (Texas): $2.4MM
Everything is bigger in Texas – including the contracts given out to Longhorns coaches.
Let’s give Barnes some credit before discussing his shortcomings. He rescued a Longhorns program that was in disarray in the late 1990s and has led Texas to three regular season Big 12 titles, two Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights and the 2003 Final Four (only the third in its history).
But major college sports is all about “what have you done for me lately.” And all of Barnes’ aforementioned accomplishments came prior to 2008. It’s not what you’d expect from a coach whose consistently rakes in Top 10 recruiting classes.
As of November, Barnes was making more than Indiana’s Tom Crean ($2.2MM) despite not making it to the NCAA tournament’s second weekend since 2008. A 6-4 start to this season just makes those paychecks harder to swallow.
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1. Oliver Purnell (DePaul): $1.8MM
This wasn’t even close. For $1.8 million a year, Purnell has guided the Blue Demons to a paltry four Big East wins in his first two full seasons. Combined.
For his coaching career, Purnell has never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament and left Clemson in 2010 after his March failures landed him on the hot seat there.
DePaul is 7-3 so far this season, but two of those losses are to Gardner-Webb and Western Kentucky. Needless to say, the Blue Demons look like they will be road kill once again when Big East play rolls around. And it will be costing them in more way than one, as Purnell makes more than Roy Williams ($1.7MM) and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim ($1.5MM).
We hope Purnell has invested all that money wisely.
Photo Credit: Rob Grabowski/USA Today Sports