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Could Coach K Become the NBA's Highest Paid Coach?

Apr 5, 2010 – 8:49 AM
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Tom Ziller

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We've been down this road before: the Nets look to have a big summer under presumptive new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and a big part of that quest comes in finding a head coach with juice. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University's long-time leader, has been a rumored target before, and Coach K didn't exactly respond to the rumors warmly, telling boosters his answer to the Nets would be "Nyet," riffing on Prokhorov's Russian fortune.

But Al Iannazzone of the Bergen Record has a rumor in today's paper which Coach K might want to listen to closely. Iannazzone cites an unnamed source who believes Prokhorov will offer Krzyzewski a $12-15 million annual salary to be the Nets' coach and potentially general manager. Kiki Vandeweghe serves in both roles now, albeit as an interim in the coach's seat. Vandeweghe's contract expires this summer.

Would an eight-figure salary convince Krzyzewski to jump to the NBA? Thirty current NBA head coaches would be shocked if it didn't. Phil Jackson is the NBA's highest paid coach right now, at $12 million. He's an anomaly, too -- nearly all head coaches earn less than $5 million a year, with the lowest-paid full-timer -- Sacramento's Paul Westphal -- making just $1 million a year.

The pull of Coach K doesn't come with just his coaching acumen and basketball mind, but with the fact he coaches Team USA basketball, which means he's coached LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade for three years. All Team USA's players have reported enjoying time spent under Krzyzewski; that might change in the long haul of an NBA regular season, but you'd have to believe Coach K would have an advantage over coaches like Jeff Van Gundy or Avery Johnson.

Coach K's Duke squad will play for the national championship tonight in Indianapolis. If the Blue Devils win, in a season overshadowed by monster recruiting classes at Kentucky and Kansas, in a season in which Roy Williams's UNC couldn't survive to post-championship aftermath, would that give Krzyzewski extra motivation to leave? We'll see -- you have to believe money will be a factor; Coach K makes less than $5 million a season not including outside endorsements or his USA Basketball work.

Update: When asked about the Nets' rumored interest, Coach K once again dismissed the notion, flatly stating, "I wouldn't have any interest in the job." Of course, any coach on the eve of the most important game of the season would say the same thing; the real test will be whether his answer changes if/when Prokhorov puts the hard sell on this summer.
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