Major sports leagues will never have salary caps for coaches
On Thursday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the possibility of a salary cap for coaches, after the Detroit Pistons signed coach Monty Williams to a 10-year, $78.5 million deal. Silver, via Tom Friend of Sports Business Journal, dismissed the idea.
“I pay attention to it, but it’s a marketplace,” Silver said in a press conference before the start of the 2023 NBA Finals. “We’re able to negotiate collectively with the players because they choose to negotiate as a union. The coaches don’t -- haven’t made that election. They could form a union and come and negotiate their agreements collectively, but in the marketplace for coaches, we compete -- our teams compete individually, and it’s where the marketplace takes us.”
Silver needs to tread lightly with the union talk. The NBA’s owners like not having a unionized group of coaches, and they would prefer to have non-unionized players. Salary cap or not, it’s always harder and more expensive to operate in an environment where players pool their power and use it.
Without a union, a salary cap would create an antirust violation. The better play, as the NFL has demonstrated over the years, is to quietly collude, holding down the salaries of head coaches through winks and nods while enjoying cocktails and cigars on the deck of Scrooge McDuck’s superyacht.
The marketplace for NFL coaches has not increased at the same rate as the salary cap or player contracts. But a great coach has so much value to the pursuit of a championship in the NFL.
Maybe, someday, someone will file an antitrust lawsuit. No one thought any coach would sue the league for race discrimination, due to concerns that it would end the coach’s career. Brian Flores and Steve Wilks proved that’s not the case.
A collusion case could strike a little closer to the big-money bone for the owners, however. If someone could get access to full-blown discovery regarding the harrumphs and guffaws over the question of paying coaches like quarterbacks, it could be a lot easier to prove collusion than anyone would ever believe. And the consequences could be colossal.