The most eye-popping aspect of Tim Jankovich's decision to come to SMU wasn't that the head coach of a solid Missouri Valley Conference program would leave that gig to be the second-in-command under nomadic Larry Brown.
It was that SMU would pay him such a staggering sum to do it.
Jankovich reportedly will earn $700,000 per year to be SMU's associate head coach and coach-in-waiting, more than $100,000 more than what the Mustangs paid previous head coach Matt Doherty last season. The highest salary an assistant coach is known to have earned prior to this is the $420,000 per year Kansas State paid Dalonte Hill before he left for Maryland last year.
"Tim was highly recommended by Kansas coach Bill Self, and I am very excited to have him at SMU," Brown said in a statement released by SMU. "The number and quality of coaches interested in coming to SMU has been tremendous; and to get someone with his experience and success as a head coach is invaluable."
It's impossible to say with 100 percent certainty that Jankovich is college basketball's highest-paid assistant coach because private schools don't have to publicly reveal employee salaries, but $700,000 a year is far-and-away the highest reported income. Top assistant coaches at elite programs seldom receive more than $250,000 per year and most earn far less than that.
A school paying an assistant coach such an enormous salary normally would drive up the salaries other top assistants demand in the future, but industry sources do not believe that will happen in this case.
The consensus is SMU had no choice but to overspend because it wanted Jankovich to leave an established head coaching gig. The Mustangs needed a credible coach-in-waiting both as an insurance policy in case the 71-year-old Brown leaves in two or three years and to combat the perception among recruits that there's instability atop the program.
"This is specific to SMU getting its tail in a pinch," a Division I head coach said. "It won't have any effect on anyone but SMU in my opinion in the long run."
The decision for Jankovich was clearly a difficult one since it took him nearly a week to make it.
On the one hand, he had an Illinois State team returning that was capable of challenging Creighton and Wichita State next season after making the Valley title game and the NIT second round last season. On the other hand, he had the promise of a hefty raise and an opportunity to one day coach in the Big East after learning under a Hall of Fame coach for a few years.
In the end, that was apparently too much to pass up.
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