- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

These are the days of economic bust. Of recession and unemployment. Of down-and-out stockbrokers and dot-commers on the dole.But don't tell that to Brady Anderson.Recently released by Baltimore, the veteran outfielder still stands to collect nearly $4 million in salary from the Orioles next season.
Even though he'll be playing for Cleveland.
"We are very excited," said Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, whose cost-conscious club is responsible for just $200,000 of Anderson's 2002 tab. "With our budget constraints, Brady was without a doubt the best fit for us."
And the source of Shapiro's bargain-basement bliss? Of Anderson's lottery-like good luck?
None other than the sweetest deal in sports: The locked-down, fool-proof, 100-percent guaranteed contract.
Forget about passing Go. Just take the $200.
"That will always surprise me, that a team can eat a salary for nothing in return," Anderson said recently in a local newspaper. "Especially when you hear of the financial concerns teams have."
Never mind those. Thanks to the magic of guaranteed money, the only financial concern facing most canned coaches and ex-players is finding an overstuffed mattress to cover the cash:
Dumped just two weeks into the current season, former Washington quarterback Jeff George departed D.C. with a 34.6 passer rating, a 1-6 mark as the Redskins' starter and $3.75 million in guaranteed loot.
After a pair of disappointing, injury-riddled years with the Washington Wizards, aging guard Mitch Richmond accepted a $10 million contract buyout this summer; sufficiently chastened, he promptly signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Former George Washington men's basketball coach Tom Penders presided over a series of fistfights, a telephone-calling card scandal, the Attila Cosby mess and a 49-42 record before resigning in June; nevertheless, the school reportedly will honor the remaining three years on his contract, worth between $300,000 and $400,000 annually.
"I'm more than pleased with what they have decided to do for me," Penders told the media afterward.

Cashing Out
Penders' isn't the only one alive with pleasure. If the very rich are different from you and me, then the very, very rich world of sports is different still, a charmed realm where:
1. Abject failure is rewarded as handsomely as success.
2. You can be paid for doing, well, nothing.
"I don't think [guaranteed money] exists anywhere but in sports," said former Wizards guard Tim Legler. "Maybe the entertainment industry."
The comparison is apt. Just as has-been Hollywood hambones like Sylvester Stallone clock $20 million a picture to grace dreck such as "Judge Dredd" and "Get Carter," so too do sports stars cash in regardless of performance.
Take former Wizards coach Bernie Bickerstaff. Fired after a 13-19 start to the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Bickerstaff walked away with the total remaining sum on a reported three-year, $4.5 million deal.
"The Wizards stayed on my contract," said Bickerstaff, now a coaching consultant with the Harlem Globetrotters. "They have been very honorable in terms of taking care of their obligations."
Have they ever. With six head coaches in the last three years, Washington may have set an unofficial league record for former playcallers on the payroll:
Bickerstaff (fired April 1999).
Jim Brovelli (let go after 1999 season, terms undisclosed).
Gar Heard (fired January 2000, two years remaining at $1.2 million per).
Darrell Walker (moved to front office following 2000 season, terms undisclosed).
Leonard Hamilton ("resigned" April 2001, forfeiting three more years at $2 million per. Possible buyout in return).
"If you're fired now, there's some pretty heavy compensation," Bickerstaff said. "That helps ease the pain."
More pain easing: When Wizards forward Loy Vaught retired on Nov. 7, the team agreed to buy out the remaining two years of his contract. The price? Roughly $11 million.
Three years removed from lower back surgery in which his vertebrae were fused with titanium rods, the oft-hobbled Vaught barely made a ripple in Washington, playing in just 14 games following his arrival in the Juwan Howard swap.
Nevertheless, he stands to make more over the next two seasons than current Wizards Tyronn Lue (two years, $3.56 million) and Hubert Davis (three years, $7.9 million) both of whom figure to be, well, in uniform.
"Loy always loved playing basketball," said Diron O'Hanion, Vaught's agent. "But he also liked making money."
Joining Vaught on the Wizards' gone-but-not-financially-forgotten list are Richmond, Rod Strickland ($2.5 million buyout), Michael Smith (one year, $250,000) and Lorenzo Williams ($3.9 million over two years).
Add it all up, and the Wizards are shelling out more than $20 million this season for coaches and players who are no longer with the club. Remarkably, Richmond (Los Angeles) and Strickland (Miami) are actually being paid to play for other teams.
In a Nov. 30 loss to the Wizards, Strickland notched seven points, four rebounds and seven assists for the Heat. The cost to Washington? Approximately $30,487 ($2.5 million divided by 82 games).
"It's completely not unusual," said O'Hanion. "Everybody has those problems. You'd think the league would devise a perfect system to protect the owners. But they can't."

Paying Up
True enough. And on the other side of the ledger that is, the side signing the checks guaranteed contracts are seldom easy to swallow.
When Ohio State bought out the final three years of football coach John Cooper's contract in January, the school's athletic department announced that the $1.8 million settlement would nearly wipe out its financial reserves.
Similarly, Notre Dame fired football coach Bob Davie on Dec. 2, then said it would honor the remaining four years on his contract.
(Adding cheap irony to cost, the school promptly spent an additional $1.5 million for the right to hire Davie's replacement, George O'Leary, who had a buyout clause for that amount at Georgia Tech).
"We had to eat a couple of contracts [in Denver], and regardless of what we say, it's about the bottom line," said Bickerstaff, a former general manager with the NBA's Nuggets. "When you put out that kind of money, and you're wrong about it, it's tough."
In the salary-capped realms of the NFL and NBA, guaranteed deals gone sour can be doubly damaging. Set payroll ceilings mean that every dollar wasted on a non-productive player (like Strickland) is a dollar not spent on someone who can help the team (like a free agent point guard).
In 1999, the San Francisco 49ers went 4-12 while dishing out more than $10 million to 11 players that weren't on their roster. Last summer, the cap-strapped Wizards were unable to pursue any free agents of consequence.
Then there's the Dallas Cowboys. After years of doling out megabuck signing bonuses, the Cowboys reportedly will spend more than $20 million this season on players who are no longer with the club, including Troy Aikman ($10 million), Erik Williams ($1.4 million), Kevin Smith and Deion Sanders ($6.36 million combined).
With the above sum accounting for some 35 percent of Dallas' current cap space, it's no wonder that the once-proud 'Boys now resemble owner Jerry Jones' reconstructed face: A stripped-down, sand-blasted monument to pecuniary excess.
"You have to be careful who you give your money to," Bickerstaff said. "Once you're locked into a guaranteed contract, you've got to put some profound thought into releasing a player."
As such, some teams have shied away from guaranteed money. After Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino resigned last season, the Celtics withheld the remaining $20 million balance on his contract.
Likewise, Denver signed troublemaking guard Isaiah Rider this fall, but refused to guarantee his deal unless he remained on the team's roster through Jan. 10.
Which, of course, Rider failed to do.
"There weren't any risks," coach Dan Issel said after Rider was released. "That's what made it worthwhile."
That said, don't expect non-guaranteed deals to become a trend. Not when coaches and athletes demand them. And not when schools and owners are eminently willing to ante up. Over and over again.
Last December, Georgia canned football coach Jim Donnan at a cost of $2.2 million. Soon after, it was revealed that Donnan had a negotiated a secret deal with school president Michael Adams for an additional $225,250 in severance pay.
The upshot? Georgia still owed $221,000 to Donnan's predecessor, Ray Goff, who last coached the Bulldogs in 1995.
"The owners don't have to cut those deals," O'Hanian said. "And you know, they have guaranteed money coming in as well.
"They get guaranteed contracts from television. And what about the season ticket holders? They can't get out of their ticket obligations halfway through the season just because the team [stinks].
"If you look hard enough, you'll find [guaranteed money] everywhere."
Ask Legler. Traded from Washington to Orlando in 1999, the sharpshooting guard was waived by the Magic, who were still responsible for the remaining $1.2 million on his contract.
The next season, Legler signed a one-year, $510,000 deal with Golden State. Playing in 23 games, he collected checks from both teams earning twice as much from the Magic as the Warriors to do exactly nothing.
Pretty nice work. Provided you can get it.
"Oh sure, I miss it," said Legler, now out of basketball. "God, yeah. No matter what I do, I won't get anything close to that."

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