NCAA basketball: Top 25 highest-paid college basketball coaches for 2020

Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils talks with John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils talks with John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /
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college basketball highest-paid coaches
College basketball (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

It pays to win in college basketball and these are the 25 highest-paid head coaches in the country as of the 2019-2020 season.

To put it in the simplest terms, it’s almost always one of two ways in which a college basketball ends up earning a huge salary. The first is obvious in that the head coach arrives at a blueblood or big-money program and has success, thus leading to the athletic department writing the check to keep him around. The other is to lure a highly successful coach away from a smaller program to a bigger program by putting a big dollar amount in front of them.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule throughout the landscape of college basketball but the vast majority of the highest-paid head coaches in the country fall into these criteria. More importantly, though, that also means that some of those head coaches are more deserving than others when it comes to making the big bucks.

It should be noted that the highest-paid college basketball coaches don’t quite stack up against the highest-paid college football coaches. Not only do the two highest-paid football coaches make more money per year than the highest-paid basketball coach but the No. 25 coach in football makes roughly the same salary as the Nos. 8 and 9 coaches in basketball.

Even still, the best coaches in hoops aren’t hurting by any stretch of the imagination. Using the figures from the 2020 season from USA Today, let’s dive into the highest-paid college basketball coaches and what they’ve done to deserve that payday — or to not deserve it.

25. Dana Altman, Oregon

Salary: $3.1 million | Buyout: $22,091,667

At the start of Dana Altman’s head coaching career in college basketball, it would’ve been hard to guess that he would end up as one of the highest-paid coaches in the sport. In his one season with the Marshall Thundering Herd, Altman went just 15-13, though he did finish second in the SOCON. Furthermore, he reached 20 wins just once in four years at Kansas State.

That’s when Altman took over at Creighton for the 1994-95 season and the Bluejays were not in a good place. They went 7-19 in his first season, 14-15 in his second year and 15-15 in his third year. By his fourth year, however, things had turned around as he went 18-10 and finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference.

In 11 of the next 12 seasons at Creighton, Altman led the team to at least 20 wins on 11 different occasions and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. The Bluejays also finished first (or tied-first) in the conference in three seasons as well. That earned him the job with the Oregon Ducks prior to the 2010-11 season.

It’s been nothing but good times for the Ducks with Altman at the helm. They’ve won at least 20 games in every season since he arrived, have won the Pac-12 regular-season title or a share in three seasons and have reached four Sweet 16s, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. With the way Altman has recruited and coached in Eugene, he’s looking like a bargain even at this price.