Everyone knows the most important part of a successful college basketball program is the head coach. They have two major roles. First, they have to actually coach the team through the season. This means choosing strategies, running practices, handling players, choosing substitutions and motivating the team.
But, the other part off the job is just as, if not more, important. That is recruiting. Before you can win anything on the court you have to go out and get skilled players. It does not matter how good at coaching you are, with no talent on the team you will not win. However, that goes both ways. There have been many talented teams that have underachieved due to poor coaching and or lack of leadership from the coach.
The Big Ten has some terrific coaches in it. There is a reason the conference is as good as any other conference out there. Elite coaches can get great talent and direct the talent to success. Here our my top three Big Ten coaches.
#3- Thad Matta- Ohio State
Matta has led the Buckeyes since the 2004 season. Before even getting to Columbus Matta led Xavier to the Elite Eight and got the A-10 Coach of the Year Award in 2003. Under Matta, Ohio State has won at least 20 games every season, including three 30 win seasons. They have made it to the Final Four twice and finished first in the Big Ten in five of his eight seasons. Just to prove how well he recruits, he has had three top five NBA Draft picks in Greg Oden, Evan Turner and Mike Conley Jr.
#2 – Bo Ryan- Wisconsin
Bo Ryan is the ultimate college coach. He rarely has elite talent yet finds ways to win. One mark of a great coach is their home record. Wisconsin simply does not lose at home. Ryan, who took over in 2001, has made the NCAA Tournament every season. Wisconsin has also won three regular season Big Ten Titles as well as two Big ten Tournaments. However, the one knock against Ryan is his lack of NCAA Tournament success. The Badgers have made it past the Sweet 16 just once in twelve attempts. If you can count on one thing every season it is Wisconsin being good and that is due to Bo Ryan.
#1- Tom Izzo- Michigan State
Tom Izzo may very well be the best coach in the country, not just the Big Ten. Izzo has been at Michigan State for 17 seasons, the most of any Big Ten coach. He has brought the Spartans to 15 straight NCAA Tournaments. That includes six final fours and a National Title. Izzo just always wins, whether or not people pick the Spartans or not going in to the season. Izzo is also a master recruiter, having sent big names into the NBA, including Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph and just last summer Draymond Green. It is safe to say that as long as Izzo chooses to stay at Michigan State (NBA Teams have tried to court him) they will win.
These three coaches are on the list not just because they have won, but how consistently and for how long they have won. Who knows, in five or ten years coaches like Tom Crean, Matt Painter and John Beilein could have these spots.