Coaching Carousel Makes ‘March Madness’ Tougher For Smaller Schools

As University of Richmond athletic director Jim Miller was sitting on the plane flying home late Saturday night, he surveyed the scene. His men's basketball team had just beaten Morehead State. The Spiders were in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988. But amidst the raucous crowd that was filled with adrenaline, Miller couldn't help but think, how long could he keep his coach?


"These coaches become hot instantly," Miller said. "It's the nature of the beast. You can't blame the coaches, you just have to start thinking about putting together the right package to make them want to come back."

Richmond's coach Chris Mooney interviewed for the Boston College job last year. When he withdrew his name, he signed an extension with the school through the 2017 season. But contracts can be ripped up quickly and schools that boast a budget of more than three times Richmond's $20 million annual coffers, might be lurking to offer Mooney more than the $750,000, he'll make including bonuses this year.

"It's not all about the money," said Miller, whose team plays No. 1 seed Kansas on Friday night. "It's about the work environment and the incentives we offer him. We believe our university can compete on the national level and we're prepared to make sure we can keep Chris here by remaining competitive nationally on the pay scale."

VCU athletic director Norwood Teague knows he doesn't want to lose his up-and-coming coach, 32-year-old Shaka Smart, whose $350,000 contract will be closer to $400,000 when all the postseason bonuses are added up.

"It is what it is," said Teague, whose team plays Florida State for a spot in the Elite Eight on Friday night. "He's a great CEO, a game changer, and we're going to do what we can to keep him."

Teague knows what it's like to lose a coach. He lost Anthony Grant to Alabama after the 2008-09 season despite bringing his salary up to $800,000 in his final season at the school. Alabama more than doubled that annual pay and VCU simply couldn't compete.

Butler athletic director Barry Collier, who used to coach the Butler team, managed to keep Brad Stevens, now 33 years old, even after the team's amazing run to the championship game against Duke last year. Collier signed Stevens to a 12-year deal that bumped Stevens' salary up from the reported $750,000 he was making. A couple months ago, Collier extended the deal for another year, through the 2023 season. Yes, you heard that right.

"It's a lifetime deal," Collier said. "And that's my lifetime, not his. I don't expect to be alive by the end of his deal."

Despite the extension, Collier knows contracts are ripped up as frequently as they are inked. Will another big run make it more likely that Stevens bolts to a school after getting an offer he can't refuse?

"We don't really get into speculation about what other people or schools might be thinking," said Collier, whose Bulldogs play Wisconsin tomorrow night. "We're thinking about how we can make Butler better. We won't stand still. We're not happy that we didn't ultimately win it all last year. So we continue to want him to be our leader as he's obviously an incredibly valuable employee for us."

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