He makes less than the other two assistants on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's staff, less than some high school coaches, less than he did 15 years ago, when he moved up from assistant to succeed Krzyzewski as head coach at Army.
"I was making $22,000 with a car, a house and a camp," Pete Gaudet recalled of his first stint as a college head coach. "I thought I had things going pretty good."
That was before a new athletic director came to West Point two years later and fired him. That was before Gaudet went to Kuwait for seven months to coach a team owned by a sheik. That was before he rejoined Krzyzewski at Duke in 1983 as a part-time assistant coach.
And that was before the NCAA stepped in 15 months ago to say that part-time assistants such as Gaudet would be reclassified as "restricted earnings" coaches, limiting them to $12,000 a year in salary and $4,000 in outside income.
At the time, Gaudet was making a reported $75,000 a year, much of it generated from running Krzyzewski's summer camp.
"I had been doing it for 10 years, and had passed up a couple of Division I [head coaching] jobs after we won the first NCAA championship because my family was happy in Durham and I was happy with the job here," said Gaudet. "We didn't
want to leave.
"The NCAA said it was being done for cost containment, but how is that supposed to be saving Duke money when it's coming from a private corporation? They said that the position was being created for coaches trying to get into the business, but who's going to go work for $12,000 a year?"
With the blessing of Krzyzewski, who made an impassioned -- but unsuccessful -- plea at last year's NCAA convention to have the restricted earnings legislation rescinded or relaxed, Gaudet filed suit against Deblin Inc., the company owned by the Blue Devils' head coach, and the NCAA.
Deblin, the company that runs Krzyzewski's summer camp, reportedly was paying Gaudet $50,000 a year on top of his salary.
A Durham County State Superior Court dismissed the suit Monday, which means Gaudet will be unable to recover income he said he lost as a result of last year's NCAA ruling. (Still pending is a class-action suit on behalf of Gaudet and other restricted-earnings coaches against the NCAA.)
The decision comes as Gaudet assumes new responsibilities: taking over on an interim basis from Krzyzewski, who was hospitalized last week because of complications from back surgery and is expected to be out several weeks.
"It's been an interesting few days," Gaudet, 52, said a few hours before Monday's decision.
Meanwhile, Duke, the most dominant team in college basketball the past decade, is going through what could be its first rebuilding season since Krzyzewski took over 15 years ago. After winning six of their first seven and nine of their first 11 games, the Blue Devils are off to an 0-2 start in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It marks the first time since 1981-82, Krzyzewski's second season, that Duke has started with two straight losses in the league. And it won't get easier for the 16th-ranked Blue Devils, who will try to break a three-game losing streak against Wake Forest when they play the No. 14 Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem tonight.
As senior guard Kenny Blakeney said after the team's most recent defeat, to Georgia Tech Saturday night in Atlanta, "It's tough to win with three freshmen in the lineup and no head coach." That night, Duke had a head coach by committee -- Gaudet and fellow assistants Mike Brey and Tommy Amaker.
But by Monday afternoon, it was apparent that Gaudet was in charge, running the team's practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the same demonstrative manner as Krzyzewski. When asked what the difference was in replacing his longtime friend, however temporarily, for a second time, Gaudet said, "It was easier the first time. I wasn't replacing a legend."
It is similar to what Wake Forest coach Dave Odom did during his last year as an assistant under Terry Holland at Virginia. When Holland underwent surgery during the 1988-89 season and was forced to miss six games over three weeks, Odom coached the Cavaliers to three victories, including an upset of eighth-ranked North Carolina.
Like Gaudet, Odom had been a Division I head coach; Odom was fired after three years at East Carolina. The stint at Virginia helped resurrect Odom's career, and he was hired shortly thereafter at Wake Forest, where he had been an assistant.
"It's never easy when something happens so abruptly," Odom said yesterday. "But it isn't like they're going with an inexperienced guy. A guy like Pete Gaudet is a lifetime coach. A good assistant will always be making suggestions, and, on some things, he'll be allowed to make decisions. When the brunt of responsibility falls in your lap, it becomes easier. That's the best-case scenario in a worst-case situation."
As for how the Blue Devils will handle Krzyzewski's absence, Odom said: "Over the short term, teams at this level have the ability to overcome the loss of a key member of the team. Well, Mike Krzyzewski is the star of that team."
Said freshman point guard and Cardinal Gibbons alum Steve Wojciechowski: "It's strange for the players to look over at the bench and not see Coach K. He gives us a lot of confidence."
But he'll be gone, at least for a while. Doctors say the coach must reduce his schedule and concentrate on his rehabilitation.
"While the time required for that to occur is uncertain, it is also secondary," Duke athletic director Tom Butters said. "Primary is the complete recovery for Mike. I would much prefer his return be later than hoped for as opposed to sooner than wise."
There are even whispers that Krzyzewski, who returned too quickly and did too much after his surgery in October, could be out for the season.
For his part, Gaudet said he isn't looking at this as a well-publicized tryout for another job. Even though he has had to supplement his income by taking a part-time teaching position in the physical education department at Duke and his wife, Maureen, has gone back to being a substitute teacher, Gaudet doesn't plan on getting another shot at running his own program.
"I'm not trying to prove anything," said Gaudet, who gives his fellow assistants an equal voice in the decision-making process. "I'm just trying to coach the kids. This isn't something I had a lot of time to think about. I'm just trying to hold the fort, trying to be enthusiastic."
Butters, who stayed home from this week's NCAA convention in San Diego to be close to the coaching situation, said he had empathy for Gaudet and others in his situation (including former Navy head coach Pete Herrmann, now a restricted-earnings coach at Virginia).
"I'm definitely against part-time coaches in a sport which at this level is sufficiently funded being paid part-time wages," said Butters.
Gaudet's pay comes to a little more than $307 a week.
"Quite frankly, I don't look at the checks," he said. "I just turn them over to my wife."