There is every reason to believe that money should not be a hindrance for Georgia to get a quality basketball coach. The school and the athletic department have the money. And basketball salaries are not like football salaries.
But it’s still not cheap.
Mark Fox was earning $2.15 million per year, making him the third-lowest paid coach in the SEC this season among the 13 public universities. He was being paid more than only Mississippi State’s Ben Howland ($2.1 million) and Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy ($2.05 million), with the salary of Vanderbilt’s Bryce Drew unavailable because it’s a private school.
But the salary scale in the SEC was relatively tight. John Calipari was getting just less than $8 million per year, but otherwise every coach was earning between $2 to $3 million. Alabama’s Avery Johnson was the second-highest paid at $2.9 million. (according to USA Today, which compiled and ranked coaching salaries through public records).
Nationally, Calipari is the nation’s second-highest paid coach, after Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Johnson, as the second-highest paid SEC coach, comes in 15th nationally, while most SEC coaches ranked in the top 30. So once you get past the top 15 – mostly the traditional basketball powers – SEC schools were fairly competitive. Fox’s salary ranked 42nd nationally.
So what will Georgia have to pay to attract a top-name coach? It likely would have to go higher than what Alabama is paying Johnson.
Let’s say Georgia wanted to pry Gregg Marshall away from Wichita State. First off, plenty of high-major programs have tried and failed to get Marshall, and there’s a reason. He’s well-paid, at $3 million annually.
What about Chris Mack, the coach at Xavier? He’s “only” being paid $1.7 million annually. But Xavier is also in line to be a No. 1 seed in the tournament, so Mack will be in line for a raise.
Mack is also set to be pursued by Louisville, so whoever tries to get him will have to open the wallet.
Schools like Wichita State, Xavier and other mid-majors can afford to pay their coaches more because they don’t have football programs. Other mid-major basketball programs do have football but play at a lower level and thus don’t have those costs. So it’s easier said than done for a school like Georgia to pry away a successful coach at a basketball mid-major.
What about the two names most often mentioned with the Georgia job?
Thad Matta was earning more than $3 million when he was fired by Ohio State last year. But he was also due a buyout of $9 million. That could make him more willing to take a discount at his next job.
Tom Crean was earning $3.1 million when he was let go by Indiana last year. He’s also in the process of getting a hefty buyout, $4 million covering three years.
Fox, meanwhile, is owed a buyout of $1.2 million. Georgia also will be paying a search firm an undetermined amount – usually around $75,000 – and will have other associated costs with a coaching change.
But considering the continued cash flow of the SEC Network, and UGA’s large athletics reserves, it seems as though money should not be a hurdle. If it wants to throw a lot of money at a coaching candidate, it can do just that.
But basketball is not a big moneymaker. Last year at UGA, it barely was in the black overall, and that was with not paying Fox a comparably high salary.
Georgia does seem likely to pay more for its coach than it has. But it remains to be seen just how much more, and that almost certainly depends on who it hires.