Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs made history when they signed Mike Babcock away from the Detroit Red Wings. The historic 8-year, $50 million contract doesn’t just make him one of the highest paid coaches in the NHL. It makes him one of the highest paid coaches in sports, period.
Today, in honor of Mike Babcock’s new (sisyphean) gig in Toronto, we’re going to go through and compare what top coaches make in various sports. And we’re not just going to stay in North America. We’re going to go around the world to see the big picture.
Unfortunately, some leagues just don’t disclose this kind of information, which means we have to rely on rumor and speculation in a few cases. But that still gives us ballpark estimates, and ballpark estimates are better than nothing. So come on in and take a look. This list will definitely put the price of good coaching in perspective.
It may be obscure to North Americans, but make no mistake—cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world. We don't have a lot of official figures for what coaches make, but right now everyone's best guess is that the highest paid club coach is South African Gary Kirsten.
After guiding India to the ICC Cricket World Cup Championship in 2011, Kirsten briefly coached the South African national squad (who paid him an annual salary of about $370,000) before signing a three-year deal with the Delhi Daredevils of the Indian Premier League in 2013. His $500,000 salary with the Daredevils is relatively small by North American standards. However, as the Indian economy continues to grow, cricket salaries of all kinds are going to soar.
15. Indian Premier League – Gary Kirsten – $500,000
Like cricket, rugby is a lot more popular in certain parts of the world than most North American sports fans probably realize. Also like cricket, it's very difficult to find actual figures for how much top coaches make.
That said, we did manage to piece some info together. And while New Zealand's Steve Hansen and Australia's Michael Cheika both have incentive-laden contracts that could pay at much at $775 million if they win the 2015 Rugby World Cup, England boss Stuart Lancaster seems to have the best guaranteed salary at about $541,000 per year.
14. International Rugby – Stuart Lancaster – $541,000
Are PGA caddies coaches? Technically, no. But effectively, yes.
Pro golfers pay their actual coaches (whom we'll get to soon enough) a lot of money to help them with their mechanics. However, pro golfers' actual coaches aren't out there on the course with them. Their caddies are. And a good caddy actually is part coach, part course expert, part strategist, and part cheerleader.
So how much did the top PGA caddy earn last year? Unfortunately, it's impossible to say for sure. Every caddy has his or her own personal arrangement with his or her employer, the specific terms are never disclosed.
However, thanks to Golf Digest, what we do know is the basic contractual framework used by most golfers and caddies: a base salary of $1,300-$1,800 per week, with results-based bonuses of 5% of winnings for a made cut, 7% of winnings for a top-10 finish, and 10% of winnings for a tournament win.
So let's assume this is the framework 2014 PGA earnings champ Rory McIlroy uses with his caddy, J.P. Fitzgerald. That would mean Fitzgerald earned $711,969 in bonuses last year.
That's not as much as the $1.27 million Tiger Woods' caddy, Steve Williams, pulled in back in 2007. But it certainly ain't bad.
13. PGA Caddies – J.P. Fitzgerald – $711,969
Tennis is another sport for which we don't have a glut of information. What we do know is that coaches do not get paid very much. The average pro coach salary is somewhere in the vicinity of $50,000, with bonuses climbing the rankings and major wins.
Obviously, coaches for the top players will get paid more than that. But not that much more. When the British Lawn Tennis Association paid Brad Gilbert $2 million to coach Andy Murray for two years, it was a huge, completely unprecedented deal.
Of course, it paid off. In 2013, Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years.
12. Tennis – Brad Gilbert – $1 million
No country in the world cares as much about cricket as India. It makes sense, then, that no country in the world pays the coach of its national cricket team as handsomely.
Their current coach? That would be Duncan Fletcher. After a successful stint as coach for England, the former Zimbabwean player agreed to coach India in 2011, and his current contract pays him a reported $1.237 million.
Unfortunately, that sizeable salary did not bag India a Cricket World Cup championship. They lost to eventual champs Australia in the semifinals.
11. International Cricket – Duncan Fletcher – $1.237 million
Dave Pelz ranks 24th on Golf Digest's list of the 50 best golf coaches. However, at $20,000 per day, nobody commands greater fees.
Obviously, that's only what Pelz says he charges. We have no idea how many $20,000 days he actually works a year. But even if it's only 50, that means he's still pulling in $1 million.
By comparison, the $1000/hour people pay Butch Harmon, supposedly the world's No. 1 golf coach, looks like a bargain.
10. Golf Instructors – Dave Pelz – $20,000/day
European basketball is getting better and better every year, with club teams regularly producing NBA-level talent. So who is the best Euroleague coach, and how much does he get paid?
The answer is Serbia's Zeljko Obradovic. Currently with Turkish club Fenerahce, formerly with Greek club Panathinaikos, Obradovic's résumé boasts 11 Greek League championships and eight Euroleague championships, plus two Euroleague Coach of the Year awards.
That's why he get's paid $2.2 million per year.
9. Euroleague – Zeljko Obradovic – $2.2 million
Mike Sciocia has one World Series ring. Joe Maddon has zero. However, with annual salaries of $5 million, they are the highest-paid managers in Major League Baseball...that we know of.
Chances are, after winning three of the last five World Series, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy is making at least $5 million a year. But the terms of his current deal and his three year extension (2017-19) have not been disclosed.
8. MLB – Tie: Mike Sciocia & Joe Maddon – $5 million
In terms of straigh salary, the top earner in college basketball this year was Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. However, according to USA Today, when you factor in bonuses and "other pay" (whatever that is), Kentucky's John Calipari edges Coach K by just a little more than $300,000, while Coach K in turn edge's Louisville's Rick Pitino by just $40,000.
7. NCAA Basketball – John Calipari – $6.357 million
Mike Babcock's eight-year, $50 million with the Leafs is front-loaded, meaning he'll actually make $8 million in his first year. However, for our purposes here, quoting the average annual value of $6.5 million makes more sense. Even that more than doubles the $2.75 million salary of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, the second-highest paid coach in the NHL.
6. NHL – Mike Babcock – $6.5 million
Of course, even the best coach working for the most valuable team in hockey isn't worth as much as Nick Saban is worth to Alabama football. According to USA Today's figures, Saban pulled in $7.16 million this year, while no one else in the Top 10 cracked $6 million.
But wait, somebody please tell me again how paying college athletes would tarnish the purity of college athletics?
5. NCAA Football – Nick Saban – $7.16 million
In no other sport are coaches more directly responsible for the outcomes of games than football. Thus, given that the NFL is the single-most valuable and profitable sports league on the planet, you would think an NFL coach would be at the top of this list. But no. The two highest-paid NFL coaches "only" make $8 million per year.
4. NFL – Tie: Sean Payton & Pete Carroll – $8 million
Last summer, after he led the San Antonio Spurs to their fifth NBA title in 16 seasons, the team made Gregg Popovich the highest paid coach in the game.
Our take? He's worth every penny just for the press conferences.
3. NBA – Gregg Popovich — $11 million
It should come as no surprise that soccer coaches are the highest-paid coaches in sports. While the NFL is the single-most profitable sports league in the world, if you combine the profits of the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1, their revenue surpasses that of the NFL by $3 billion.
In any case, for this list we've separated soccer coaches into two categories: club managers and national team managers. And right now, the highest-paid national team manager in the world is former Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, and England manger Fabio Capello. According to Forbes, The Russian federation is paying him $13 million per year.
2. International Soccer – Fabio Capello – $13 million
In May 2014, Forbes said Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiolo was making $24 million per year. However, in March 2015 France Football listed it at $18.5 million. And that means, at $19.5 million per year, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
Good thing they won the Premier League title this year, huh?