Kristi Toliver, an assistant with the Washington Wizards this season, is certainly not doing the job for the money. Toliver, who is also a guard for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, is being paid just $10,000 this year thanks to a strange rule the WNBA has about compensation of its players in off-season jobs, according to The New York Times.
Most NBA assistant coaches make upwards of $100,000 per year—and some as much as $1 million—and often have a pathway to a coveted head coaching job in the league.
The WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement puts a cap on what teams can pay their players for offseason work. Why does this matter? Because the Wizards and Mystics are owned by the same group: Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
Because of this, the NBA and WNBA decided that Toliver would have to be paid from the pool of $50,000 each team gets to pay players for off-season work. Since most of that money has already been allocated to Mystic’s superstar Elena Delle Donne, who does promotional work for during the offseason, Toliver is left with the remaining $10,000.
Toliver has played in the WNBA since 2009 after a successful college career at the University of Maryland where she won the 2006 National Championship. She spent seven seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks—winning a WNBA title in 2016 – and just finished her first season in D.C. when she was approached by Wizards head coach Scott Brooks about joining his staff instead of heading to Europe to play in the offseason.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Toliver said to the New York Times. “For me, I looked at the pros and the cons, the pros obviously being I get to rest my body, it being my first time in 10 years of not playing year-round, not going overseas.
“Obviously, there are financial burdens that come with that, but this is also a very exciting opportunity that I want to take advantage of, being home, still being around the game, around the best players in the world, around the best coaches in the world,” she added. Toliver and the Wizards fought hard to get her an exemption, but the league did not budge.
Leonsis tweeted about the matter in support of Toliver:
The league rules and collective bargaining agreements never contemplated having a WNBA player also working as an NBA coach. We’re glad to be the first and the rules need to change. Kristi is a critical member of our family at Monumental Sports. https://t.co/4g0wpnxRoi
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) January 1, 2019
The WNBA’s player opted out of this collective bargaining agreement and are set to negotiate a new one before the upcoming season. WNBA Player’s Association Executive Director Terri Jackson told The Times that the union does plan to address the obvious salary discrepancy.