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Spoelstra extension sets bar for Steve Kerr deal

The Heat gave their head coach $120 million for eight years. Your move, Joe Lacob.

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Golden State Warriors v Miami Heat
Two championship coaches talk on the sidelines.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors didn’t reach an extension with Steve Kerr before the season. The explosion in head coach salaries may make them wish they had.

Head coach salaries aren’t always public, but Kerr was likely the NBA’s second-highest-paid coach last seaon, with a reported salary of $9.5 million. That came in just behind his old mentor, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Since then, two coaches have exceeded Kerr’s price tag, and Popovich got a big raise.

Coach Pop signed a five-year deal worth more than $80 million. Monty Williams got a reported $78 million for six years to coach the Detroit Pistons, not counting incentives. Now Erik Spoelstra got $120 million for eight years - less than Popovich on a per-year basis, but the biggest total money ever given an NBA head coach in one deal.

Kerr has a better recent resume than any of them. He’s won four titles and made the NBA Finals six times in nine-plus seasons with Golden State. Compare that to Pop, who has five titles but hasn’t won a playoff series since 2017, or won a championship since 2014. Spoelstra is clearly a great coach, with six Finals appearances of his own, but just two titles. Williams has one Finals appearance, though he essentially got his enormous deal to lure him to Detroit - the Phoenix Suns were already paying him $21 million dollars for the next three years on his old contract.

That means Kerr is due a raise on his next coaching contract, as his Warriors deal expires at the end of this season. Will that be with the Warriors? Kerr has maintained that he’s “comfortable” coaching on an expiring deal. Team president Bob Myers was on an expiring deal last season and he ended up leaving, though with Kerr, there haven’t been the same rumblings of discontent, or Joe Lacob’s unwillingness to meet his contract demands.

Still, Myers did leave. It might or might not have been over money. Jerry West also left, which was absolutely over money, when Lacob cut his pay. The Warriors have shown a willingness to spend lots and lots of money - but they’ve also shown they have their limits, even if staff salaries don’t count towards the luxury tax.

What’s clear is that Steve Kerr has a great deal of leverage right now, even with the Warriors in the midst of a nightmare season. Kerr has been criticized for his lineups, especially when it comes to playing time for young players like Jonathan Kuminga, but it’s hard to blame him for the team’s main problem: Draymond Green wouldn’t stop hitting people.

It’s also clear that the price for Kerr’s services next season could be quite high. Whether it’s in San Francisco or elsewhere.

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