Since being fired earlier in the year, Mike Dunleavy has not received any of the money owed to him from his guaranteed contract, which reportedly totals upwards to $12 million dollars.
This isn’t exactly new territory for Donald Sterling. The Clippers fired Bill Fitch after the 1997-1998 season and proceeded to pay Fitch only $200,000 of the $4 million dollars owed to him. Fitch of course had to pursue legal action against the Clippers, which led to Sterling giving this deposition (via a story by Peter May in the Boston Globe in January 2003):
Q. Do you have an understanding whether the 1997 contract was guaranteed?
Q. Sir, do you have any idea what a guaranteed contract is?
A. No . . . I really don’t understand what the – what “guaranteed contracts” mean. I, I’m really not sure exactly what that means with relations to players.
Asked if he understood that coaches get paid if they get fired, subject to certain provisions, Sterling said, simply, “No.”
In Donald Sterling’s world, things like guaranteed contracts simply don’t exist. With that in mind, it must be terribly inconvenient for Sterling to have to pay these coaches who couldn’t live up to his standards. For Sterling, everything is as simple as this: Do a good job, and you get paid. Do a bad job, and you don’t. Of course that’s not how the NBA or most of society operates, but these things matter not to an owner.
And really, it’s hard to see that ever changing. This isn’t just blatant penny pinching here — this is a 77-year old man’s code of beliefs being tested. Sterling believes he shouldn’t have to pay someone who no longer works for him. So he won’t, at least not until someone forces him to.
The Clippers don’t really have a leg to stand on here, but that hardly seems to matter. This is a statement from the top, and it reads loud and clear: Donald Sterling will not pay for something he has already deemed inadequate. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking bathroom renovation or million dollar coaches. Sterling won’t do it.
In his deposition during Fitch’s contract dispute, Sterling was asked if he had known Bill Fitch to lie. He answered “no.” Sterling was then asked the same question about Andy Roeser and Elgin Baylor. His answered remained the same. Finally, Sterling was asked about Bob Weiss, who coached the Clippers during the 1993-1994 season.
Q. How about Bob Weiss? Have you ever known him to lie?
A. I don’t know who he is.
Just a few years prior, Weiss had taken Sterling and the Clippers to court for, you guessed it, refusing to pay out a guaranteed contract.
It’s easy to interpret this situation as the organization slapping Dunleavy in the face. It is not. That slap was delivered with one of the most vindictive press releases in recent memory. That slap was not telling Dunleavy he was fired before releasing the news during a Clippers broadcast. This? This is just an old man sticking to his code. It doesn’t matter if he’s known you for seven years or barely knows your name — if he fired you, he’s not paying you. No way, no how.
So…who wants to come coach the Clippers?