Rant Sports NCAAB Season Preview: Top 15 College Basketball Coaches
Legends of the Game
College basketball is a game that is defined by coaches. In only a few sports can one man effect an entire team both on and off the court. With the 2012-2013 season fast approaching we decided to compile a top 15 list of the best coaches in the game today. Past performance, expected performance, recruiting, success in getting players to the NBA and overall buzz were all factors that went into making the list. Some names that are left out including Mark Few, Tom Crean, Kevin Stallings, Rick Barnes, Tubby Smith among others. That's for a good reason. The coaches in this list are the cream of the crop. They have virtually no flaws. Without further ado let's get to the list of the top 15 coaches in college basketball.
#15- Matt Painter, Purdue
Matt Painter is a coach that truly defines his school. Purdue is known for their hard working, gritty nature and that makes him the perfect fit. Under his leadership the Boilermakers are now considered a constant threat at the top of the Big Ten. You really have to wonder how high he could have gone had JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore all been able to play together as seniors.
#14- Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Bo Ryan has won at nearly every level he's coached. His obsessiveness over every detail is nearly unmatched in the college ranks. His swing offense might not be pretty to watch but it is darn effective. Under his leadership Wisconsin is nearly unstoppable at the Kohl Center and truly get the most out of their talent. However, for Bo to continue to rise up the list he needs to be a constant player for Final Fours since the Badgers aren't getting just the 3 star players anymore.
#13- Ben Howland, UCLA
Ben Howland on the list I'm sure will surprise quite a few people. He's had a lull at UCLA over the past couple seasons thanks to injuries and a squad run by knuckleheads who either are criminals (Reeves Nelson) or can't stay away from the buffet line (Josh Smith). His incoming recruiting class is stacked and his focus on defense should make the Bruins a major player again this season.
#12- Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Bob Huggins is a controversial coach who truly gets the most from his players. West Virginia isn't exactly stacking the NBA with stars but he finds specific roles for his team that few other coaches could muster. A guy like Joe Mazzula becomes a solid point guard despite the fact he can barely move his shoulders above his head. While last season was a down year "Huggy Bear" remains on top of his game.
#11- Buzz Williams, Marquette
Buzz Williams might be my favorite coach on this list. He is so into the game he's almost an extra player on the floor. He came out of nowhere to take over this program when Tom Crean left and has seen almost nothing but success. He's a master at utilizing the JUCO ranks and his teams are tenacious on defense despite normally having not a lot of size. It's simply a lot of fun to watch.
#10- Thad Matta, Ohio State
Thad Matta is a man who has had success at every level he's coached. Now, his teams at Ohio State are constantly among the nation's best despite the fact he coaches a "football school". Despite losing Jared Sullinger to the NBA I expect the Buckeyes to be right there again with Deshawn Thomas and Aaron Craft leading the way.
#9- Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Jim Boeheim confuses me. He could be higher on this list considering his overall win total but his lack of success getting the big prize is holding him back. He's been known as a great innovator and it always surprises me how he gets top level talent to buy into his 2-3 matchup zone. Let's see deeper runs by the Orange into the next few tournaments before I put him higher on the list.
#8- Brad Stevens, Butler
Brad Stevens shouldn't be this good, this quickly, on the national stage. He's out of a D-3 school in Indiana called DePauw University. It's better known for producing Fortune 500 CEOs than shooting guards. Yet two Final Four appearances later and multiple players to the NBA draft already give him this spot. The Bulldogs were down last year which was expected without Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard but that won't be a problem this year as Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke and a solid recruiting class are headed to Indianapolis.
#7- Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Tom Izzo is Michigan State. His blue collar work ethic and determination fit his school perfectly. He's a master at teaching his teams to be physical and they are always near the top of the nation in rebounding margin. That allows his teams to get by even if they don't have top line talent for a single year. Also, his kids generally stay in school, at least till they're juniors, which allows him to have much needed continuity in this the age of "one and dones".
#6- Bill Self, Kansas
Bill Self is another coach who has seen nearly instant success at any place he's been during his career. However, his greatest triumph was bringing last year's team, average by Kansas standards, all the way to the national championship game. Look at that roster and tell me you're not impressive. I mean for gosh sakes Conner Teahan got significant playing time. When we do this feature next year, I won't be surprised if he cracks my top 3.
#5- Rick Pitino, Louisville
Rick Pitino might be a slick used car salesman but he just wins basketball games. His team's tenacious defense allows them to get easy buckets even if they aren't that skilled offensively. He takes players like Kyle Kuric and completely changes how they play just so it benefits the team. I'm not a big fan though of the way he dumps players in order to clear a spot on his roster for a hot, new signing. Ask Jared Swopshire (Northwestern) if you don't believe me.
#4- Billy Donovan, Florida
Billy Donovan could retire today and he'd already go down as one of the all time greats. His back-to-back title teams brought everything a college basketball fan could want and while not all those players have been stars in the NBA, at least he gave them a chance to earn a nice living. While there were some down years once that "fab five" left, he's back as a national title contender led by stud forward Patric Young.
#3- Roy Williams, North Carolina
Roy Williams found out sometimes you just have to come home. He did, and two titles later, UNC is thrilled they brought him back. His reputation at Kansas was good but there he couldn't grab the big one. Enter the Tar Heels title teams loaded with NBA players and suddenly that has gone away. Now he's just got to figure out his point guard situation this season...
#2- Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
"Coach K". When you hear that you immediately know you are talking about greatness. The all-time wins leader in men's basketball history can do no wrong in my eyes. Sure some of his recent teams outside the 2010 champs have underachieved but he still is elite. What he did during that year was incredible considering the overall lack of talent on that squad. I'm curious if this year we'll see his team return to that tenacious man to man defense we've expected from his squads in the past.
#1- John Calipari, Kentucky
Sorry America but Coach Cal is number one. His team cut down the nets in April and he's got the best recruiting class coming in once again. While he's clearly been mired in controversy over possible misconduct at his stops in the past, you can't hold that against him unless he gets caught. Until then I take what he did at UMass, Memphis and now Kentucky at face value. He's the "it" coach of our current generation and the one the top players are clamoring to play for