Mystics point guard and Wizards assistant coach Kristi Toliver has a unique position. She is the first active WNBA player to be an NBA team assistant coach at the same time. It’s a great opportunity.
Her salary to coach the Wizards however is just $10,000 according to Howard Megdal of The New York Times. Megdal is also the Editor-in-Chief of High Post Hoops.
In fact, the Wizards are technically not paying a penny of Toliver’s salary. That money is coming from the Mystics’ Time-Off Bonus pool which is a total of just $50,000 per team.
The Time-Off Bonus is a discretionary fund for each WNBA team, incentivizing players who do not play overseas during the winter. According to Megdal, Elena Delle Donne receives most of this budget where she does promotional work for the Mystics and Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
Megdal also noted that most NBA teams pay assistant coaches about $100,000 a year. And Megdal’s article indicated that the Wizards intended to pay Toliver a salary commensurate with her peers on NBA sidelines but the WNBA pushed back because the Wizards and Mystics are both owned by Ted Leonsis.
The WNBA would also be worried about this type of an arrangement because they don’t want the WNBA teams with NBA owners and great ownership like the Mystics to take advantage of WNBA teams that don’t have an NBA team owner in the same city (The Atlanta Dream and Hawks don’t share the same owners) or teams without an NBA team in the same city like the Seattle Storm.
In theory, Monumental Sports & Entertainment could pay Toliver a ton of money by taking advantage of the teams in its portfolio. Perhaps Toliver could earn a lot more than $100,000 as a coach (like $300,000) and the Mystics could lower her player salary to the minimum. So the Wizards may overpay Toliver from an accounting perspective but the Mystics would also get more salary cap space to sign free agents. This is how a team like Washington can get an advantage over teams like Atlanta and Seattle.
Toliver and the Wizards/Mystics lost this internal battle with the WNBA. The best situation for Toliver financially as a Wizards assistant was to take a $10,000 Time-Off Bonus from ... the Mystics’ budget. But that isn’t fair. Toliver will not be promoting the Mystics like Delle Donne would be given her duties. And after mulling her options, Toliver took that offer though she also acknowledged the cons of not getting a salary she rightfully deserved.
Before you worry too much about WNBA players in markets without NBA teams, they are getting their fair share of opportunities from NBA teams. Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird is now a Basketball Operations Associate for the Nuggets. Since the Nuggets and Storm don’t share the same ownership, is Bird getting a fair salary there? I hope so.
The WNBA Players Association is opting out of the next CBA because the players want better salaries, travel opportunities, and promotion. When it comes to job opportunities like this, the league needs to wake up and realize that some of the policies they have are hurting its image moreso than helping like this. There is no reason why the Mystics should be putting up the bill and getting penalized for Toliver being a full-time assistant coach for the Wizards, even if they are both owned by the same group.