Sure, head coaches like the Heat's Pat Riley and the Celtics' Rick Pitino make the really big money, but they also have a lot of headaches. Thus, the best job in today's NBA might be that of the lead assistant. The money for top assistants has increased significantly, they often are delegated a fair amount of authority, and the TV exposure (the top aide usually sits next to the coach) is excellent. Here are the NBA's highest-paid assistants and their estimated salaries.
1. JIM O'BRIEN, CELTICS: $450,000.
O'Brien, also Pitino's top assistant at Kentucky, was often entrusted with leading team practices last summer while Pitino, who doubles as Boston's president, took care of other business.
2. BOB WEISS, SONICS: $380,000.
Coach George Karl is known for his volatility; the calmer Weiss is a nice counterbalance.
3. BILL BERTKA, LAKERS: $380,000.
Bertka, who has won five rings in his 23 years in L.A., commands respect, and players appreciate his authoritative manner.
4. DICK HARTER, PACERS: $375,000.
With Larry Bird a rookie coach, Harter, an expert on defense, has been invaluable in teaching Bird the X's and O's.
5. (TIE) DON CHANEY AND BRENDAN MALONE, KNICKS; PAUL SILAS, HORNETS: $350,000.
Chaney is the soothing player relations guy, while Malone is the dutiful details man. Players love the empathetic Silas. One of the top rebounders in NBA history, he is very effective at teaching big men.