College basketball has always been one of the most popular sports in the United States. With its high level of competition and passionate fan base, it’s no surprise that NCAA basketball has become a multi-billion dollar industry. In this article, we will be looking at the top ten highest-paid college basketball coaches.
The key figure in any program is the head coach of the team.
These coaches are responsible for leading their teams to victory, recruiting top talent, and managing the day-to-day operations of the program. However, being a college basketball coach is not just about the love of the game.
In fact, it’s a highly lucrative profession that can earn coaches millions of dollars each year.
These coaches have not only achieved incredible success on the court, but they have also negotiated some of the most lucrative contracts in college sports. From legendary coaches with decades of experience to up-and-coming coaches making a name for themselves, this list includes some of the most successful and well-compensated coaches in the business.
So, let’s see who makes the list as we break down the top ten highest-paid coaches in college basketball.
Top-10 Highest-Paid College Basketball Coaches in May, 2023
Let’s take a closer look at these high-earners and their coaching careers.
Click to jump to a head coach on the top-10 list:
- John Calipari, Kentucky — $8.1 Million
- Bill Self, Kansas — $6 Million
- Tom Izzo, Michigan State — $5.7 Million
- Rick Barnes, Tennessee — $5.45 Million
- Bruce Pearl, Auburn — $5.4 Million
- Tony Bennett, Virginia — $4.83 Million
- Brad Underwood, Illinois — $4.6 Million
- Bob Huggins, West Virginia — $4.2 Million
- Mick Cronin, UCLA — $4.1 Million
- Buzz Williams, Texas A&M — $4.1 Million
John Calipari is the highest-paid coach in college basketball in 2023. The Hall of Famer’s salary of over $8 million per year means he earns over $2 million more than his nearest coaching colleague.
Calipari is the top-paid coach in college basketball for good reason. He was hired by the Kentucky Wildcats in 2009, and since then has won a national championship, and has four Final Four appearances to his name. However, the last one came way back in 2015. Kentucky fans will be eager for more success in the NCAA tournament over the next few years.
Calipari joined the Wildcats from Memphis where he guided the program to three consecutive Elite Eights, and a national championship game. However, Memphis was forced to vacate its national championship appearance. That wasn’t the first time NCAA violations caught up with Coach Cal. He also had to vacate a Final Four appearance in his first head coaching gig at Massachusetts.
With that being said, Calipari’s tournament record is superb and it shows in his contract. Calipari’s success in the NCAA Tournament has helped him establish himself as one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history.
Coming in as the second-highest-paid coach in college basketball is Bill Self of Kansas. Self’s current contract is a rolling five-year deal that automatically adds an extra year to the agreement after each season. He signed this contract on March 31, 2021, after completing his 18th season as head coach.
Self has had extraordinary success in his time with the Jayhawks. He has won two national championships, in 2008 and 2022. Additionally, he has helped Kansas reach the NCAA tournament in every year of his tenure. Included in that are ten Elite Eight and four Final Four appearances.
Self was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 and is currently ranked 18th for most wins by a Division I college basketball coach.
Tom Izzo is now the longest-serving active coach on the same team in Division I men’s college basketball. Izzo has been the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans since 1995, and during his tenure, he has led the Spartans to eight Final Four appearances and one national championship.
Izzo has also led the Spartans to six Big Ten Tournament championships and ten Big Ten regular season championships. His success in conference play has helped cement Michigan State’s status as one of the top programs in the country and has made Izzo one of the most respected coaches in college basketball.
Izzo’s success at Michigan State has made him one of the most respected and accomplished coaches in college basketball, and his longevity with the Spartans is a testament to his dedication and success with the program.
Rick Barnes joined Tennessee in 2015 after previously coaching at Texas and Clemson. In 2022, Barnes signed a contract extension that will keep him at Tennessee through the 2026-2027 season. In the 2022-23 season, he was the highest-paid state employee in Tennessee with a salary of $5.45 million.
Under Barnes’ leadership, Tennessee has made four NCAA Tournament appearances. Their best run came in 2019 when the team reached the Sweet Sixteen. Barnes has also led the Volunteers to a regular-season SEC championship in 2018 and an SEC tournament championship in 2022.
Overall, Barnes’ success throughout his career has made him a respected coach in the college basketball community and his time at Tennessee has helped elevate the profile of the Volunteers program.
Bruce Pearl joined Auburn in 2014 after previously coaching at Tennessee and Milwaukee. In 2022, he signed an eight-year deal worth over $50 million. Pearl’s $5.4 million salary in the 2022-23 season is enough to place him fifth in the top-ten highest-paid college basketball coaches.
Under Pearl’s leadership, the Tigers have made several NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four appearance in 2019.
In addition to his success in the NCAA Tournament, Pearl has also led Auburn to several regular-season championships in the SEC. In 2022, the Tigers won the SEC Conference regular season championship for the second time under Pearl’s leadership, with a 24-6 overall record and a 14-4 record in conference play.
Pearl is known for his high-energy coaching style and his ability to connect with his players, which has helped him build successful programs at multiple universities.
Bruce Pearl’s success at Auburn has cemented his legacy as one of the top coaches in college basketball, and his leadership has helped position the Tigers as a consistent contender in the SEC and on the national stage.
Tony Bennett has been with UVA since 2009. During his tenure at Virginia, Bennett has established himself as one of the most respected coaches in college basketball, known for his defensive-minded approach to the game and his emphasis on teamwork and character.
Under Bennett’s leadership, the Cavaliers have become one of the top programs in college basketball, with numerous NCAA Tournament appearances and a national championship in 2019. Bennett signed his seven-year deal with the Cavaliers the same year and rejected a raise after the team won the national championship.
Bennett’s success at Virginia has earned him numerous accolades, including several ACC Coach of the Year awards and the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2018 and 2019.
Brad Underwood has quickly made his mark at Illinois, leading the team to several successful seasons and earning accolades such as the 2021 Big Ten Coach of the Year award after joining the program in 2017.
Underwood has already led the Illini to a Big Ten tournament win. Additionally, he has won the Big Ten regular season championship in his first six seasons with the program. He will be keen to make a bigger impression in future NCAA tournaments, having only reached the round of 32 twice so far.
He will have plenty of time to do so, having recently signed an extension that runs through the 2027/28 season.
Bob Huggins has had a long and successful coaching career, with over 900 career wins and several NCAA Tournament appearances, including two Final Four appearances in 1992 and 2010.
Huggins had successful spells at Akron, Kansas State, and Cincinnati before heading to WVU in 2007. During his time at Cincinnati, Huggins led the Bearcats to 14 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a Final Four appearance in 1992. He also won nine conference championships during his tenure at Cincinnati.
During his time at West Virginia, Huggins has led the Mountaineers to multiple NCAA Tournament appearances and one Final Four run in 2010. Additionally, Huggins has won multiple conference championships, including four regular-season titles and three conference tournament titles during his tenure at West Virginia.
Huggins is known for his ability to get the most out of his players. He is also one of the most colorful coaches in college basketball, known for his unique fashion sense.
His current contract with the Mountaineers runs through the end of the 2024 season.
Mick Cronin has been with the UCLA Bruins since 2019. Prior to joining UCLA, Cronin coached at Cincinnati for 13 seasons, where he led the Bearcats to nine NCAA Tournament appearances and won four conference championships.
Cronin’s emphasis on defense has helped him develop successful teams at both Cincinnati and UCLA, and his ability to connect with his players and motivate them to play at their best has made him one of the most respected coaches in college basketball.
Under Cronin’s leadership, UCLA has quickly become a competitive program in the Pac-12 conference, making several deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, including a Final Four appearance in 2021.
The Bruins look set for another deep run in this year’s March Madness tournament after winning the Pac-12 conference regular season championship. Top US sportsbooks believe they are among the favorites to win the national championship.
At 50 years old, Buzz Williams is the youngest head coach on our list of the top-ten highest-paid college basketball coaches. He has been at the Texas A&M Aggies since 2019. Prior to joining Texas A&M, Williams coached at Virginia Tech for five seasons, where he led the Hokies to three NCAA Tournament appearances and one Sweet Sixteen run.
Williams is another coach known for his intense coaching style and energy on the sidelines. Under Williams’ leadership, Texas A&M has quickly become a competitive program in the SEC, making strides toward becoming a consistent contender in the conference.
They will enter this year’s NCAA tournament with an impressive 25-8 record and will be looking to make a deep run.
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