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Top 15 College Basketball Coaches of 2012

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Top 15 College Basketball Coaches of 2012


The legendary coach above, John Wooden, is the inspiration for this article and the coaches recognized here. Coach Wooden was great at communication, developing a program for the long term and having a great personality. The fifteen coaches that are ranked here have displayed Wooden like qualities over the past year that placed them in this ranking. These coaches are the best of the best at recruiting, motivation and staff building. They also excel at developing players, scheduling games that showcase their program and overcome adversity. Lastly, what makes these coaches great is that they embrace the "information age" they are coaching in, are the face of their programs and have a personality and system that players want to play for. Each of these coaches have separated themselves from the pack over the past year. Plenty of great coaches were left off this list and it could of easily been a top 50 ranking, but these coaches are the best of the best.

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Mark Few

James Snook - US PRESSWIRE

15. Mark Few- Gonzaga University

Mark Few has made a program relevant where few have dared to try. Have you ever been to Spokane? There is rain, snow and Gonzaga Basketball, that's it. God is responsible for the first two and Few gets the credit for the third. The Bulldogs wrapped up its 11th straight West Coast Conference regular-season title in 2011 under coach Few. Few has shown his loyalty this program over the 23 years that he has served on the coaching staff, 13 as the head coach. He has developed players from hardly being recruited out of high school to NBA players, installed a system of play that makes coming to the Northwest appealing. Few has made Spokane a destination spot, that is great coaching.

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Shaka Smart


14. Shaka Smart- Virginia Commonwealth University

At 35-year-old Shaka Smart is one of the youngest coaches on this list. As the leader of the VCU Men’s Basketball team he has displayed his natural abilities as a motivator. His “Havoc” style of play – a high-octane platform marked by full-court pressure and transition offense - has turned heads for its effectiveness (.750 winning percentage) and watchability (18 straight sellouts, school records for televised games). His methods are also worthy of attention. At the Final Four in Houston in 2011, Smart grabbed headlines for participating in the “Iron Man” drill at practice. The last two years, he’s also joined his players and staff in a week of grueling Navy SEAL training. He may not make splashy headlines with his recruits in years past but is now starting to grab players in the top 100 like Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess. With huge wins over highly ranked teams over the past year coach Smart is establishing himself among the elite coaches in the nation.

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Brad Stevens


13. Brad Stevens- Butler University

The Butler coach left a position as a marketing associate at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis to pursue a career in basketball coaching. Basically, he was already a proven personality in the information age and a great communicator in the corporate world, both things that translate to modern day coaching. In 5 years at Butler the 35-year-old Butler coach has led the Bulldogs to a 139-40 record, four Horizon League regular season championships, three league tournament titles and five trips to postseason tournament play, including two national championship games. Stevens does not always get the flashy names when recruiting but he has an eye for unheralded talent and is a developer of that talent, as has placed a handful of players into the NBA. This is one coach that other coaches do not like to meet in March.

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Bill Self


12. Bill Self- Kansas University

Coach Bill Self of Kansas is the post players dream. Self has developed five NBA level post players over the past few years and now has made another potential first round pick in Jeff Withey. The run that Self engineered with his team to the NCAA title game in 2011-12 was quite the accomplishment after returning only one starter and losing seven regulars from KU's 35-3 team of 2010-11. In 2011-12, KU won it's school-record eighth-straight conference regular-season title under coach Self. Self may not run the type of high octane offense that most players want to play for but he has proven that he can help players achieve their ultimate goal, get to the NBA. Always good for a quote with the media, Self has become synonymous with Jayhawk basketball.

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Tad Boyle


11. Tad Boyle- Colorado University

A Colorado native, Tad Boyle is as perfect a fit for the program he is with as you will find on this list. In two years, Boyle and his coaching staff are 32-4 (.889) at home, a huge sign of great coaching. His coaching development no doubt started as he played college ball at Kansas (1981-85) for legendary coach Larry Brown, a teacher of the game. Prior to his arrival to Boulder, Boyle resurrected the basketball program at the University of Northern Colorado and before that helped build up Wichita St as an assistant. Boyle is showing that he loves coaching for his home state's premier university as he has installed an energetic system and breathed life into a dormant program.

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John Thompson III


10. John Thompson III- Georgetown University

Coach JT3 has tremendous pedigree as the second Head Coach at Georgetown named John Thompson, he is the child of one Hall of Fame coach and the student of another, having played for the legendary Pete Carril as an undergraduate at Princeton. Recognized as an outstanding talent evaluator who has been nationally-recognized for his in-game coaching, tremendous vision and character, outstanding recruiting and his ability to connect with players. Thompson is a visionary of the game as he continues to tweak the Princeton offense into his own variation of what he calls the "Georgetown Offense". His family bond to the Hoyas give him an edge when recruiting during these days of coaches leaving and being fired at the drop of a hat. A motivator, strategy guru and visionary make JT3 one of the best coaches in the nation.

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Dave Rice


9. Dave Rice- UNLV

Dave Rice got to work in a hurry when he returned to UNLV. The first thing Rice showed was that he was a keen evaluator of talent as he was able to lure in two transfers from UCLA that apparently were not good enough to play for the Bruins. However, Mike Moser and Casey Stanback proved to be outstanding players for UNLV and helped lead them to a top 25 ranking while the Bruin faithful missed out on an exciting March. Rice and his staff have spent considerable time working toward the future as well and upgrading the talent on UNLV's roster as their 2012 recruiting class was ranked as the seventh-best in the nation by ESPN. No other Mountain West team was included in the top 25. Rice is turning his alma mater into a national power again and is doing it quickly.

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Travis Ford

Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

8. Travis Ford- Oklahoma State

Coach Travis Ford's outgoing personality, motivation of his players and organization of the Cowboy's program has remade Oklahoma State. Ford's personality has made him into a front-runner on the recruiting trail, as evidenced by his first recruiting class at Oklahoma State being ranked No. 4 by in the spring of 2009. He has brought in two McDonald's All-Americans in his short stint at OSU, with Marcus Smart joining Le'Bryan Nash in that elite group now leading Ford's team. This year he has already lead his team to some huge wins a national ranking of 15th and a contender to knock of Kansas as the Big 12 champion. All things are headed in the right direction with coach Ford at the wheel.

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Frank Haith


7. Frank Haith- Missouri University

Overnight coach Frank Haith has turned around the Tigers program. Despite having a roster which featured just seven scholarship players, Haith and his staff guided the Tigers to a 30-5 overall record in 2011-12 and is looking to continue that success this year. He used his incredible recruiting ability to bring in four key transfers this year and has built up a program from nothing in just one season on the job. Ranked number 16 in the nation right now, Mizzou is looking to be contenders for the SEC championship and become a nationally recognized program. Coach Haith's intensity, drive to succeed and ability to build up programs means that the Tigers are in for a run of success.

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Billy Donovan


6. Billy Donovan- Florida University

Coach Billy Donovan took a next to irrelevant program at a football dominated school and made them into a nationally respected destination. 14 straight 20-win seasons, two 30-win seasons, including a school record 35 wins in 2006-07 and fifteen consecutive postseason appearances. An up-tempo style of basketball and no nonsense approach to the game makes “Billy the Kid” one of the more fun coaches to play for in the nation. Donovan proved his commitment to the Gators when he ultimately decided to not coach the Orlando Magic of the NBA and instead stay at Florida. Donovan continues to bring in highly ranked recruiting classes and turn those players into NBA draft picks. His big personality, ability to put his players in positions to succeed and his natural leadership is what has put his team at number 7 in the AP rankings and an annual contender in the SEC.

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Tom Izzo


5. Tom Izzo- Michigan State

Coach Tom Izzo is not just a great coach for players but also a developer of coaches as he is the mentor of the number one coach on this list. Izzo has brought stability to Michigan State basketball. The 2012-13 season will be Izzo's 30th with the Spartans. The 2011-12 season was one of Izzo's most rewarding as head coach. The Spartans entered the season unranked, returning only two players who averaged over 20 minutes a game the previous season. would go on to capture a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, the seventh of the Izzo era, and head to the Big Ten Tournament where it defeated Ohio State to capture the third Big Ten Tournament title in school history. This year they opened up ranked in the top ten, mostly based on the talent of their coach rather than the talent on the floor. Izzo is a contributor to many charities, is a huge supporter of the American troops and has established himself as one of the most respected coaches in the nation.

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Sean Miller


4. Sean Miller- University of Arizona

Coach Sean Miller has brought his east coast toughness to the desert of Tucson, Arizona. He has put the Wildcats back on course after some shaky years following Lute Olson's retirement. His relentless work ethic and and ability to connect to players has him looking at possibly a third straight top 10 recruiting class. But he does not just stop at enjoying having talent, he is all about player development as well. He took a relative unknown recruit, Derrick Williams, and formed him into the number two pick in the NBA draft. On the court Miller has also shown his ability to develop great team chemistry. Arizona has allowed fewer points per game in each of Sean Miller's first three seasons: 72.0 ppg in 2009-10, 67.9 ppg in 2010-11 and 62.7 ppg in 2011-12. UA has held opponents to less than 60 points 26 times in Miller's first three seasons. This year the Wildcats are ranked number 9 and off to a 5-0 start. Coach Miller is one of the hot hands in coaching right now and having spurned the calls of two hometown area colleges to stay at the UofA he seems to be committed for the long haul to Tucson.

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John Calipari


3. John Calipari- University of Kentucky

Coach John Calipari is one of the biggest personalities in basketball and has been for years. He is one of only two coaches to lead three different schools to a Final Four (UMass-1996; Memphis-2008; Kentucky-2011, 2012). But his success is directly associated with his ability to recruit. Right now he is working on a streak of four consecutive number one recruiting classes. He has also turned out 15 NBA draft picks, 11 first-rounders, two No. 1 overall selections, five top-five picks and seven lottery picks, just at Kentucky. Oh, and he won a National Championship last year. His team this year has had a few bumps in the road but is still ranked number 8 in the nation, loaded with future NBA stars and the favorite in the SEC. Coach Cal is doing his thing and dominating the social networking realm of basketball.

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Tom Crean


2. Tom Crean- Indiana University

Coach Tom Crean has had a great year at Indiana. Named National Coach of the Year by and Big Ten Coach of the Year by The Sporting News after leading IU to a No. 7 national ranking in his fourth season. Last year he guided the Hoosiers to wins over the No. 1 (Kentucky), No. 2 (Ohio State) and No. 5 (Michigan State) teams, the first IU team to ever do so in the regular season. This year the Hoosiers are now the hunted as the number 1 team in the nation under Coach Crean. Since going to Indiana, he and his staff recruited one of the top 10 classes in the country for 2009, a top 15 class in 2011, and the No. 2 class in 2012. Crean is a hot hand right now and has the Hoosiers looking as good as they have looked since Bobby Knight was on the sidelines.

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Mike Krzyzewski

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

1. Mike Krzyzewski- Duke University

In 31 years at Duke, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a Hall of Fame coach and 12-time National Coach of the Year, has built a dynasty that few programs in the history of the game can match. He is probably the most recognizable coaches in the world and also happens to look like his schools mascot (at least in my opinion). Coach K, like coach Wooden before him, has become the epitome of coaching and leadership. Coach K not only leads one of the best college teams in America he led the USA to a gold medal over the summer. Does recruiting get easier when you show up to a gym with two gold medals? Obviously it does because Duke continues to pull in some of the highest ranked recruiting classes in the nation. This year Duke is ranked number 2 in the nation and looking like a very strong contender for the national championship. Needless to say, everything Coach K touches turns to gold.