Lute Olson last coached in the 2006-07 season, but his former Arizona Wildcats are still taking their basketball talents all the way to the bank.
Follow the money: Lute’s recruits at Arizona have raked in nearly $1.1 billion dollars in NBA salary.
That’s the mind-bending, all-time figure for the Sons of Lute, and those bags of cash keeping piling up. Of the 12 Arizona alums on opening-night rosters, six were recruited by Olson and his staff.
Guys like Jason Terry and Richard Jefferson are near the end, but the other four Olson guys — Jerryd Bayless, Channing Frye, Andre Iguodala and Jordan Hill — are still owed about a combined $57 million on their current contract. Iguodala jumped from sixth on the UA salary list (see below) to second after last season.
Keep in mind, that this is just NBA salary. It doesn’t included all the many millions former Wildcats made playing basketball overseas … or playoff bonuses … or appearance fees … or endorsements … or from basketball clinics … or from coaching … or from announcing … or savings in having access to free gear … you get the idea.
But Lute’s legacy isn’t just about the money. The rings have been plentiful, too.
Jefferson and Frye won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, becoming the eighth and ninth Lute recruits to win as a player. They joined this list:
—Steve Kerr (Bulls: 1996, ’97 and ’98; Spurs: ’99, ’03)
—Jud Buechler (Bulls: 1996, ’97 and ’98)
—Luke Walton (Lakers: 2009,’10)
—Bison Dele (Bulls: 1997)
—Sean Elliott (Spurs: 1999)
—Jason Terry (Mavericks: 2011)
—Andre Iguodala (Warriors: 2015)
So, that’s 16 total titles for nine players. And there has been more as coaches: Kerr, Walton, Bruce Fraser with the Warriors in 2015, and Bret Brielmaier with the Cavs last season.
To be somewhat exact, the NBA salary figure for Lute’s recruits is $1,087,256,336.
I have tracked the salary information for several years from various databases and media reports, although basketball-reference.com has made the research mush easier these days. My figures in the chart below and their figures don’t always match exactly, but it’s very close.
One exception is with salary leader Gilbert Arenas. I include the $62 million that the Orlando Magic owed him when the team waived him in December 2011 under the NBA’s amnesty clause, so that he wouldn’t count against their salary cap.
A new legacy is emerging under Arizona coach Sean Miller. His UA recruits have earned $45,689,729 in NBA salary, a figure that should accelerate quickly once more players start signing their second and third pro contracts.
Here, then, is the NBA salary breakdown for players under Olson and Miller: