Detroit Pistons will be paying Monty Williams much more than Nick Saban, John Calipari

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons waited nearly six weeks to settle on a new coach — but when they did, they went big, landing former Phoenix and New Orleans boss Monty Williams for a “historically lucrative” deal: $78.5 million over six seasons, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

That $13.1 million average annual value would make him the highest-paid coach in the NBA, and among the highest-paid in all of North American sports. With that in mind, here are the highest-paid coaches in each of the four major pro leagues, plus NCAA basketball and football (in order of yearly paycheck):

COLUMN: Pistons took historic swing to get Monty Williams’ grace, faith and resume

NFL: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

The contract: $20 million per year, reportedly.

Is it worth it? It’s tough to argue with the past performance: 262 regular-season wins for the Patriots over 23 seasons (an average of 11.4 wins per season), plus 30 playoff wins. That includes six Super Bowl titles (though none without QB Tom Brady) and three other AFC championships. Then again, Belichick is just 25-25 over the past three regular seasons, with no playoff wins, since Brady departed for Florida (and now retirement). How long will Pats owner Robert Kraft keep cutting those massive checks for Belichick? It’s tough to say, since no one outside the organization really knows how long the deal is for (or at least they aren’t saying). Belichick’s probably worth it, though, compared to the new No. 2 coach: Denver’s Sean Payton, who just signed a five-year deal for about $18 million per, despite averaging 10.2 regular-season wins with the  New Orleans Saints and winning just one Super Bowl (all the way back in 2009). Still, Belichick has come a long ways from when he was coaching Birmingham Detroit Country Day lacrosse as a side hustle during his stint as a Detroit Lions assistant.

THE DEAL: Pistons to hire Monty Williams as coach

THE REACTIONS: Tom Gores, Pistons get big applause for convincing Monty Williams to become coach

NBA: Monty Williams, Pistons

The contract: $13.1 million (average annual value) per year.

Is it worth it? If the Pistons win a title — or even a playoff series? — then maybe? Williams has five winning seasons in nine campaigns as a head coach, though two of those years over .500 were with New Orleans, which should get bonus points for difficulty. Williams led the Suns to a surprising Western Conference title in 2020-21, then a No. 1 seed in the West in 2021-22. But Phoenix couldn’t get over the hump, and its star-heavy retool on the fly this season with a trade deadline deal for the oft-injured Kevin Durant signaled the end under new team owner Mat Ishbia. Is winning games in difficult circumstances enough to leap Williams past Gregg Popovich’s mere $13 million a year (though that three-season deal technically expired after the 2022-23 season)? Timing is everything — in basketball and in coaching contracts, we guess.

College football: Nick Saban, Alabama

The contract: $11.7 million (average annual value) per year through 2029.

Is it worth it? After the NCAA arms race saw coaches who had never won even a division title, such as Penn State’s James Franklin and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, get big extensions, the pendulum finally swung back to the only active coach with seven national titles (including six at his current school, plus three title-game losses). In the eight years of the College Football Playoff, Saban’s squad has qualified for the semifinals six times, with the other two seasons featuring “disappointing” 11-2 finishes. Maybe last season, in which the Crimson Tide lost before November (on a last-second field goal on the road, by the way) for the first time in forever, is a harbinger of the decline of ‘Bama and Saban. Or maybe the AFLAC spokes-coach is just biding his time till the CFP expands to 12 teams in 2024 (or just 2023).

MITCH ALBOM: Mel Tucker’s huge Michigan State payday plenty risky, but how much reward?

TUCKER’S PAYDAY: Records: Ishbia, St. Andre paying $24 million toward $95 million salary

College basketball: John Calipari, Kentucky

The contact: $8.6 million per year, on a “lifetime” deal (though it drops to $1 million per year once Cal ditches the sidelines).

Is it worth it? One of just a few coaches to take three different schools — UMass, Memphis and Kentucky, regardless of the NCAA’s revisionist history — to the Final Four, Calipari certainly has the track record. And yet, he has just six Final Four appearances — and only one NCAA title, way back in 2012. Over the past five seasons, the Wildcats have just one regular-season title (in 2020, when COVID-19 canceled the NCAA tournament) and one appearance in the NCAA tourney’s second weekend over the past five years, and just one Final Four appearance at all since that national title. Compare that to say, MSU’s Tom Izzo — who’s making not quite $6 million a year on a deal designed to keep him at MSU for the rest of his coaching career — who has a Sweet 16 and a Final Four berth in just the past five seasons.

PAYDAY IN EAST LANSING: What Tom Izzo’s new contract means for Spartans

MLB: Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

The contract: $6.5 million per year through 2025.

Is it worth it? Not only has Roberts has never had a losing season in eight-plus seasons in L.A., his regular-season winning percentage has dipped below .600 just once. And that was 2018, when the Dodgers went 92-71 (.564) and still advanced to the World Series — where they lost to the Boston Red Sox, who were later punished by MLB for a cheating scheme. (A cheating scheme that was different than the 2017 Houston Astros’, who also beat the Dodgers in the Series.) Considering the Dodgers are perennially among MLB’s biggest spenders (and MLB’s biggest revenue generators — don’t cry for Magic Johnson’s ownership group), you could argue Roberts should have more than one World Series title. (They prevailed in 2020 after going a ridiculous 43-17 in the regular season.) But it’s baseball, and even an MLB-best 111 wins last season couldn’t prevent an NLDS upset by the 89-win rival San Diego Padres. (Who were then upset by the 87-win Philadelphia Phillies. Again: BASEBALL.)

NHL: Todd McLellan, Los Angeles Kings

The contract: $5 million through 2023-24.

Is it worth it? About the only folks who like discussing money publicly less than Belichick are NHL coaches; at least eight veteran head coaches are making unknown amounts per season, according to Cap Friendly. Considering Dallas hired perennial winner Peter DeBoer for $4.25 million a year before this past season, we’re going to guess there are a probably a few of them — including former Lansing Catholic Central coach Jon Cooper, who has taken the Tampa Bay Lightning to three Stanley Cup Finals (and won two of them) —making more than McLellan, the former Red Wings assistant and head coach in Edmonton and San Jose. Still, McLellan has taken the Kings from a rebuild to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons — including the franchise’s first 100-point season since 2015-16 this past campaign — though his squad has lost to the Oilers each time. Is that worth $5 million a year? It’s L.A., baby.

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