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The 20 Highest Paid GMs in All of Sports (Updated 2023)

The highest-paid GMs in sports typically make millions of dollars to take their teams to the next level. Often, they’re more than worth the money paid by the owners. In some circumstances, they’re a bust, and a team is left holding the bill. The following 20 coaches and general managers are highly paid.

In fact, all make well over $8 million per year and come from the NFL, NBA, and NCAA. Some of the names will be obvious; others might surprise you! Note that this list has been updated with more recent data from our previous list, so names might jump around a little bit between them.

Our Methodology 

When creating our in-depth lists, we always do a lot of research. It’s important to us that we provide you with accurate information that reflects the latest in finance news. As a result, we take a comprehensive and detailed approach that includes a myriad of steps. We:

  1. Examine our previous list to find useful names. 
  2. Research salary lists and other sites to help create a definitive collection 
  3. Check our data from last year to this year to ensure accuracy 
  4. Update the listing based on earnings changes
  5. Continually tweak the list, as needed, for better results

The 20 Highest-Paid GMs in Sports 

Are all of the coaches on this list worth the money their teams pay them? That probably depends on a few factors. We will get into that more in each write-up below. Most of them have won at least a few championships and typically keep a team consistently competitive and engaging. They come from almost every professional sport, so don’t be surprised to see your favorite up there!

20 tie. Erik Spoelstra, NBA: $8.5 million

It’s interesting to start our list with a tie between Erik Spoelstra and another NBA coach. Both are among the highest-paid in their industry, though there are a few others higher (you’ll see them soon enough). Both are also among the most respected in their industry. 

Spoelstra has been with the Miami Heat since 1995, starting his career there as a video coordinator. He amazingly worked his way up to head coach by 2008 and led the Heat to back-to-back championships led by the amazing skills of LeBron James.

While Spoelstra hasn't won a championship since losing James, he has continued to keep the Heat competitive. He is known for his ability to juggle multiple player egos and fit them into dynamic schemes that help his teams win. It’s the consistency that’s helped him make such a big paycheck.

20 tie. Doc Rivers, NBA: $8.5 million

Doc Rivers is another former NBA player who became a successful coach. His career has been a fascinating one. Rivers won an NBA Championship coaching Boston in 2008 but has since moved on to other teams. He’s known as something of a franchise whisperer.

In fact, he has helped transform struggling teams like the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers into better franchises. His abilities earned him "Coach of the Year" honors in 2000 with the Magic. He then joined Rivers, joined the underperforming Philadelphia 76ers, and has helped keep them consistent after many years of struggle. 

While they aren't quite hitting the peak that many predicted, Rivers' intelligent and passionate coaching has kept them in the game and engaging to watch. With his abilities, it’s likely that Philly will eventually join the league of Top Teams again very soon. 

18. John Calipari, NCAA Basketball: Uncertain: At Least $8.9 Million

Calipari's lengthy coaching career started in 1988 with the University of Massachusetts and has included time in the NBA and even as the coach of the Dominican Republic National Team. However, his reputation comes with his decade-long association with Kentucky.

Since joining the team, Calipari has led the team to the Final Four four times, though he hasn't made an appearance since 2015. Calipari has twenty-seven 20-win seasons, eleven 30-win seasons, five 35-win seasons, and one national championship.

Though Capilari’s somewhat controversial approach to building NCAA teams has been criticized, it has produced results. His most recently known salary was $8.9 million, though recent extensions (that haven’t been revealed) could be earning him closer to $13 million.

17. David Shaw, NCAA Football: $8.925 million

David Shaw joined Stanford and produced five double-digit win seasons from 2011-2016 and kept this team surprisingly successful for many years. However, his team has struggled in the last few years, and he hasn't had a winning season in a few years.

In spite of that, he earned good money coaching the Cardinals. In fact, his nearly $9 million contract received some criticism at the time, especially since he didn’t produce great results. Shaw eventually resigned, though he still earns pretty good money. 

For example, he moved on to the NFL Network Crew and has appeared on their shows over the years. The money he earned with Stanford, even after resigning, still puts him in a high-earning position, which helps him stay on this list in spite of not coaching!

16. Jimbo Fisher: $9 million

Jimbo Fisher was the coach of Texas A&M for years after resigning from Florida State. In 2020, he led the Aggies to a 9-1 record with an 8-1 SEC showing that just saw them missing the college playoff. He was one of the only coaches in NCAA history to beat Urban Meyer by beating the Crimson Tide in 2021.

While the Aggies haven't done as well in 2021 and 2022 as was expected, Fisher remains one of the highest-paid GMs in sports. Yes, he was let go, but Fisher earned a massive $76 million payout to go, which means he earned $9 million and then some for his departure!

As a result, we think it’s fair to include him on this list because he made more money than most people will ever make, even in failure. It’s a reminder of the kind of power that football holds on the general public and the kind of cash that goes with even NCAA careers.

15 tie. Ryan Day, NCAA Football: $9.5 million

After Urban Meyer abandoned Ohio State for a disastrous season in the NFL, Ryan Day stepped into his shoes. The expectations were high, but Day has overachieved. He has a 34-4 record with the team and had a championship appearance in 2020 to earn $9.5 million a year.

Since then, Day has kept the team consistently in the top section of the league, including a strong 2022 season where the team rarely left the top three. However, the University of Michigan has beaten them for three straight years and kept them out of the playoffs. 

Regardless of that, Day was obviously a smart investment and has kept the team competitive for all his time with them. It’s clear that Ohio State has the recruiting ability and talent to succeed, and Day provides a steady and intelligent support system for the team.

15 tie. Mel Tucker, NCAA Football: $9.5 million

The Mel Tucker saga has been an unfortunate reminder of the dangers of overpaying a coach based on one season. After all, Michigan State surprised many people by hiring Mel Tucker to help their team bounce back from losing long-time coach Mark Dantonio. 

After a rough 2-5 season in the short 2020 COVID-19 season, Tucker led the Spartans to a double-digit season in 2021 and earned a $9.5 million paycheck. At the time, it seemed like a great deal because he clearly knew what he was doing.

Since that season, Michigan State has looked confused and unable to win. They lost four games in October for the first time in years and even experienced a major controversy when several players attacked a University of Michigan player after a loss in 2022. 

Even worse, Tucker was fired after a sexual harassment controversy. We keep him here because Michigan State may still have to pay him in spite of their attempts to avoid it. 

15 tie. Steve Kerr, NBA: $9.5 million

Steve Kerr is that rarest of beats in the NBA: a great player who turned into an even better coach. With the Golden State Warriors, he has earned four NBA championships and was named the Coach of the Year in 2016 for his fantastic season. He makes $9.5 million for his hard work with the Warriors.

While Kerr's success has been spurred by the amazing play of GOAT shooter Stephen Curry and other great players, Kerr has successfully navigated team injuries and other hardships to keep his team successful and perpetually competing for championships.

His fast-paced coaching method has kept The Warriors among the top teams in the league for almost a decade. It’s particularly impressive because Golden State had mostly been a haphazard and poorly managed team for decades, and his work has turned them onto the right path toward success.

12 tie. Brian Kelly, NCAA Football: $9.975 million

Brian Kelly surprised many by defecting from Notre Dame to join the LSU Tigers. Amazingly, he makes $9.975 million per year on a 10-year contract. This means that he could make $100 million or more, depending on how well the team succeeds in the playoffs.

Kelly comes to the Tigers with a 113-40 record at Notre Dame and five consecutive double-digit winning seasons. LSU is looking to transform its struggling team and is willing to pay Kelly a lot of money to take them to the next level.

While LSU did not compete at the level most expected in 2023, Kelly still has a head coaching gig. Whether he should or not has been heavily debated, especially as he’s more than happy enough to start firing everybody else around him to save his career.

12 tie. Kyle Shanahan, NFL: $10 million

When the San Francisco 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan to coach, there were grumbles from many in the league. Son of former coach Mike Shanahan, many were uncertain if Kyle deserved the job. However, he helped return the flailing 49ers to relevancy and took the team to multiple Super Bowl appearances.

Shanahan has been praised for his intelligent offense, one that works around a questionable quarterback by limiting his passes and using him in only specific situations. That helps the 49ers make surprisingly strong appearances against teams with far superior quarterbacks to make $10 million

In fact, many predict them to win the Super Bowl in 2023 due to the rising skills of Brock Purdy and the team’s continued defensive dominance. While they have had some bad games and sloppy play, they run almost like a machine at their best and are a little scary to watch. 

10. Lincoln Riley, NCAA Football: $10-11 million

Though Riley's salary isn't certain because his school, USC, is private, he likely makes about $10-11 million per year. Riley was brought to USC to turn the struggling program around and turn it into a major powerhouse in the league instead of a minor afterthought.

If anyone can do it, Riley might be the one. As one of the younger head coaches in the league, Riley thrived as a quarterback at Texas Tech. He is known as a quarterback whisperer and has produced strong competitors like Baker Mayfield, Jalen Hurts, and Kyler Murray.

It made him one of the highest-paid GMs in sports and one of the highest-paid general managers in college sports. It will be interesting to see if USC continues to pay him at this rate, considering that their private nature means they’re not required to meet his demands. 

9. Bill Self, NCAA Basketball: $10.5 million

Bill Self is one of the longest-tenured NCAA basketball coaches and one of the most successful. He has taken the Kansas Jayhawks to four NCAA Final Four Appearances, the 2008 NCAA Championship, and the 2022 NCAA Championship, and earned 14 consecutive Big 12 championships.

Self has an amazing 292-16 record with Kansas and has recruited several unlikely players who went on to become NBA greats. Amazingly, his team has only lost two games in a row twice and never three in a row. That’s the kind of consistency you pay $10.5 million to achieve in sports. 

While it’s true that he hasn’t won dozens of NCAA Championships, Kansas isn’t likely to get a better coach, and Self is likely to stay there his whole career. After all, March Madness is notoriously wild, and winning it all is often a big challenge, even for the best coach.

8. Dabo Swinney, NCAA Football: $10.84 Million

Dabo Swinney may lack the instant name recognition that comes with Nick Saban or Urban Meyer. However, he helped lead Clemson to the College Football Player for six straight seasons and won two national championships during that time.

Since those championship wins, Swinney has struggled. In 2021 and 2022, the Tigers haven't been nearly as competitive and, while still good, aren't living up to expectations. Swinney still seems to have the support of the college and the fan base, but only time will tell if it stays that way.

That said, he’s still one of the highest paid general managers in sports, making just under $11 million a year. That’s actually a slight decrease from his previous earnings, so he’s dropped a little here. Whether he’ll fall off our list of the highest paid GMs in sports altogether remains to be seen.

7. Pete Carroll, NFL: $11 million

Until Sean McVay's sudden leap into the leading position, Pete Carroll comfortably sat as one of the highest-paid GMs in sports. Like Belichick, his salary dipped slightly over the years, particularly from 2021 to 2022. However, Carroll is still making good money.

Carroll is earning every single one of those dollars in Seattle. After taking the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls and winning one, he has won over 100 games in the league. Furthermore, he helped keep the team afloat after star quarterback Russell Wilson left. 

In fact, it’s arguable that he has made his team better and has resurrected the promising career of Geno Smith, who many experts believed had already reached his peak. Consistent competitiveness is critical in sports, and Carroll clearly brings a lot of drive and competitiveness to Seattle.

6. Kirby Smart, NCAA Football: $11.25 million

Kirby Smart spent much of his career as Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at Alabama, where he led the stiffing defense that made the Tide great. He jumped to Georgia in 2016 as head coach and, after a rough first season, has transformed the Bulldogs into a powerhouse and earned a big paycheck.

Smart uses a fast-paced offense and his stout defensive skills to limit opponents' scoring opportunities. His national championship against Alabama included a three-touchdown fourth quarter. There are some in the league who see Smart and Georgia as the next Crimson Tide.

Though Georgia shockingly lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game and will miss the playoffs as a result in 2023, Smart is clearly not done with it yet. Georgia is likely to remain a powerhouse for many years behind his intelligent and savvy coaching style. He's likely to stay one of the highest-paid general managers in sports for a long time.

5. Nick Saban, NCAA Football: $11.4 million

Nick Saban is by far the highest-paid college coach in the world right now at $11.4 million. There's a reason for that. Since joining the Alabama Crimson Tide as head coach, Saban has gone 183-25 and has won six national championships.

Saban is known for focusing heavily on the running game and powerful defenses. His Crimson Tide rarely gives up many points and, at most, loses one game per year. Saban has never had a losing season since joining the Tide and is unlikely to have one in the foreseeable future.

That said, he’s dipped slightly in earnings since last year, when he made $11.7 million. Obviously, this slight change isn’t going to hurt his bank account too much. However, it is indicative of a slight decline in Alabama’s dominance, even though they snuck into the playoffs with a shocking win over Georgia.

4. John Harbaugh, NFL: $12 million

John Harbaugh joined the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 and has stayed with them ever since. He has continually pushed the Ravens to great success and has won a Super Bowl with the team in 2012. Harbaugh has just two losing seasons with the team.

Harbaugh is known as both a defensive and offensive guru and won his Super Bowl ring in a unique situation. He faced his brother Jim Harbaugh, who coached the 49ers at the time, in the big game and came out the champ.

In a recent contract move, Harbaugh earned a $12 million salary, which jumped him from 15th to third on this list. Does he deserve that kind of pay? Absolutely. Through good and bad teams, Harbaugh has continually kept the Ravens respectable and competitive.

3. Sean McVay, NFL: $14 Million

Sean McVay was not only the youngest head coach in NFL history in 2017 at just 30, but was also the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl in 2022 when his Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals. Currently, he is making $14 million per year working with the team.

Unfortunately for the Rams, the Super Bowl Blues hit them hard in 2022. They have not only had a hard time getting wins but Matthew Stafford has been injured several times. That’s perhaps why his salary dropped from last year’s $15-18 million that we reported then. 

2. Gregg Popovich, NBA: $16 million

Gregg Popovich is a legend in the NBA and one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. "Pop" is the first NBA coach in history to earn 1,200 career wins with one team and has kept the Spurs competitive for decades.

He has won five NBA titles, three Coach of the Year awards, and 22 consecutive playoff berths. Sure, Pop was helped heavily by great players like future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, one of the top five best players of all time. They brought great competitiveness to his already strong style.

However, Pop's brilliant coaching style and confident appearance continually kept the Spurs innovative and engaging. Perhaps that’s why, in spite of not winning a championship for several years, he still earned a $16 million paycheck in recent contract negotiations, jumping to a rarified earnings level among coaches.

1. Bill Belichick, NFL: $20 million

Bill Belichick is a coach who likely needs no introduction from football fans. Belichick is arguably the greatest NFL coach of all time. For many years, he was also the highest-paid coach. While his salary took a hit in 2022, it bounced back to $20 million in 2023

That initial hit occurred because the Patriots have struggled to find a groove without long-time quarterback Tom Brady. That said, Belichick isn't exactly suffering financially. After some initial promise with Mac Jones, his 2023 year has been his worst ever with the Patriots. 

In fact, there are some saying that Belichick may be fired or asked politely to resign or move on to another team. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots without their grim coaching savior and GM, but it’s a real possibility, especially if he asks for more money.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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