College Basketball: Top 10 Coaches of All-Time
College Basketball: Top 10 Coaches of All-Time
Tricked you with the title picture? Good, I hope you're all riled up. The only thing harder than chewing on a two dollar steak is figuring out who the all-time bests are, especially in specific order. Sure, the top selection can be pretty unanimous, but even with a decisive winner, controversy can run a muck through the rest of the order. To make matters even worse, while doing a college basketball list of any kind, people will do the opposite of jumping your bones if you don't pick "their" guy in the top ten.
For college sports, more than any other, the passion for your team runs so deep that you rue the day someone considers anyone better than the diabolical Mike Jarvis(I see you NCAA scandal fans). Gone is any form of objectivity, in its place is some form of terribly placed loyalty. I'm not saying your guy isn't that good or anything, I'm just saying history goes back longer than ESPN would like you to think it does(Sports have been around longer than 25 years, shocker).
I was tasked, or more appropriately punished(kidding?), by my editor to come up with "The 10 Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All-Time". At first I was excited for the opportunity to show off my college basketball history chops. Then it happened, reality set in as I was doing my research, there is literally close to 100 coaches(Really more, all who have made an impact on a young person did something great) who have made a real legitimate impact on college basketball. With the pressure on, while trying to respect what all these men have done, I did my darnedest to come up with the best list possible.
I wasn't completely sure how to define all-time best. If I was just a lazy man, who says I'm not, I could have just gone with most national titles or overall wins. However, that leaves far too much wiggle room for debates of eras. Certain guys coached when the NCAA Tournament was the end all be all, others coached when you only had to win 4 games while never leaving their region to win a title, and then some just flat-out deserved to be on this list but didn't have the appropriate all time wins one would think it would take to get on this list.
I didn't get to live through all the eras of the coaches on this list, it's almost unfair for me to judge them. Yet not many people are left that were old enough at 1930 to remember, but young enough to live now, to talk about it. Making an all-time list for a sport that's been around longer then you've been alive has proven difficult. So with as much respect as humanly possible I present, The Top 10 College Basketball Coaches of All-Time...
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow him on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone
10 John Calipari
At number 10, I risk losing you reading through the rest of the slideshow and any credibility I might have built up. But let's not short change John Calipari because you don't like him. While Calipari has only one National Championship, he has done it while embracing the foolish "One and done" rule. Through no fault of his own, the NCAA decided to make a rule where professional level basketball players were forced to go to college for at least one year.
While we are taking advantage of him doing it, Calipari has done the unthinkable, convincing all of those professional basketball players to come play at his school. In the process he has had first round draft picks ride the pine during his stent at Kentucky. NBA coaches have a hard enough time getting stars to sit at their level, Calipari convinces kids to go to Kentucky(While there is literally 200 other options), with the chance of them being a sixth or seventh man on the team.
His biggest knock has always been that he is a great recruiter and not a great coach. I dare you to look at his early UMass teams and tell me that he didn't do a great job coaching there. Calipari has survived two very different eras of basketball, the Mike Krzyzewski dominated early 90's and the one and done ball being played today.
By the way, he's only 53, so there is still plenty of time for him to improve upon his resume.
9 Clair Bee
Did putting Clair Bee on this list just gain me back some of my credibility? From 1931-51 Bee was dominate coaching Long Island University, winning 95 percent of his games. That's 20 years of him winning 95 percent of his games, please just stop to think about that. Bee also holds the highest winning percentage of a head coach, winning games more than 82 percent of the time. While Bee did eventually go on to coach in the NBA, he won two NIT Titles when they were still the most important college hoops title in all the land.
However, Bee would likely be remembered more often and maybe fonder, if he wasn't forced to resign in 1951 when his players were implicated in a point shaving scandal. The scandal ultimately made LIU shut down all of their athletic programs. Talk about a way to go out on the wrong note.
8 Jim Calhoun
The miserable former UConn coach is all still fresh in our domes. Like Calipari, Jim Calhoun has survived all different variations of college hoops. But it's not his survival instinct that lands him on the list, it's his ability to not only convince young kids that Storrs, CT. is a swell place to play college hoops but coach the living Sam Cassell out of them.
Calhoun might act like your miserable old next door neighbor who kept the ball when you knocked it into his yard, but the man knew how to win. In all, Calhoun finished his coaching career with three National Titles in three different decades(1999, 2004, 2011). That not only shows how great he was but the period of time his greatness lasted.
But back to convincing kids to go to Storrs, good for him.
7 Adolph Rupp
Adolph Rupp currently ranks fifth in all-time wins(876) with four National Titles to boot. Rupp was instrumental to introducing the earliest versions of fastbreaks to basketball and helped define an era of college sports. Known to be a horrible sore loser(Not a gracious winner either), Rupp wanted to win at all costs. During my research I stumbled upon this Rupp quote that might sum up the man best, "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then what in the hell is that scoreboard doing up there?"
Over the years, thanks in large part to a major feature film, Rupp has been portrayed as a potential bigot tarnishing his legacy to a group of us who never got to see his teams play or hear the man speak. While I was not their to hear him do or say anything, I doubt a man of his temperament would last long in the coaching world today. However, nobody has risen him from his grave so I guess we'll never know.
Funny thing about Rupp as well, Kentucky forced him into retirement at the age of 70, as it was a Kentucky rule at the time. Don't think we'd see that happen to today with any successful coach.
6 Henry Iba
Henry Iba became the NCAA's first back to back National Title winner(1945-46) ever. He also is the man responsible for Oklahoma State being what it is today. When Iba took over the program in 1934, he also doubled as the Athletic Director, the school was still named Oklahoma A&M College. Iba was a man of longevity as well, being there in total for 36 years.
Iba has also been credited as the inventor, or at least innovator, of man-ball defense principles. Iba finished his career with the two titles and 755 victories.
5 Phog Allen
While we are still in the way back machine, you've likely heard of Phog Allen. Allen was a James Naismith underling who took the Kansas Jayhawks program to new heights. It's rather strange on how to decide how many "national" titles Allen actually won, as the game wasn't even remotely national when he started coaching for the Baker Wildcats. On a side note, Allen won four football titles in the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association for the Warrensburg Teachers(Both real I promise).
His coaching legacy is great but it might be what he passed on that actually puts him on the list. Allen coached future Hall of Fame coaches Dutch Lonborg, Adolph Rupp, Ralph Miller, and Dean Smith, while at Kansas. That's passing on knowledge kids, read some history books!
4 Bob Knight
Bob Knight was once a man known for being the greatest coach of his era and not one who fell asleep during a picture-box broadcast. Knight has three National Titles and is the last coach to lead his team to an undefeated season.
While his coaching styling wouldn't draw top recruits today, parents of top athletes were thrilled to send their kid to a new role-model back in Knight's heyday. And yes, we all know the Knight stories. He was short-tempered, standoffish, and even condescending. You know what else he was? A legendary coach who help shape college basketball for three decades.
3 Dean Smith
He is higher on the list than I thought he would be when I started to make it. Two National Titles, 879 wins. a coaching tree that he started to long to list. It's unbelievable how great of a coach this man was. Lost in time is the fact he took over a North Carolina in tremendous turmoil. Smith took over the program after Frank McGuire was forced to resign because of a point shaving scandal(Seems to be a lot of those back then). The program actually cut back on the amount of games they were going to play and Smith was tasked with running a clean program to the point where winning didn't matter.
Winning might not have mattered to North Carolina at the time but it sure must have to Smith. It's hard to argue with 13 ACC Tournament titles, 17 ACC Season Titles, 11 Final Four appearances, and his lasting impact on the game.
Oh, and he coached Michael Jordan. That must have been neat.
2 Mike Krzyzewski
Who knows, maybe Mike Krzyzewski can become number one overall before his career is all said and done. Here is the thing, while a lot of the other coaches on the list you might not of heard of, you have heard of Coach K. I'm not going to waste your time telling you how 11 Final Four runs, 8 National Title Game appearances or 4 National Tiles make him all kind of awesome.
Here is all you need to know, if you somehow don't already, Krzyzewski is closing in on 1,000 victories. That's less than 1,001 but a hell of a lot more than 0.
1 John Wooden
Who else would it be, do you think I'm a dope? John Wooden was college basketball for a longtime. Four(FOUR) undefeated seasons, 10 National Titles, and a legacy worthy of every college basketball coach's admiration. Argue the eras all you want, I don't care if there was only 12 teams during an era, winning 10 National Titles is just astounding.
Wooden went out on top, retiring after winning his tenth National Title in 1975. To this day UCLA still uses his "Pyramid of Success" thoughts to help inspire not only the athletes but the students on the Bruin campus.