Now that this is the 10th season since the coaching dominoes rippled shortly after Roy Williams used a bad word talking to Bonnie Bernstein on national TV, it’s a good time to see which college basketball coaches have made the most noise in the NCAA Tournament since the shake-up.
Three coaches are responsible for six of the nine national championships since Williams departed Kansas, making room for Bill Self. UConn’s Jim Calhoun, in his first year of retirement, won titles in 2004 and 2011, Williams in 2005 and 2009. Florida’s Billy Donovan won back-to-back titles (2006-2007). Self (2008), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (2010) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (2012) each won one title during the nine-year stretch.
But using a national-title-or-bust mentality in trying to quantify which coach has given his school’s fan base the most rewarding experience isn’t the best measuring stick. A fan spends more time clinging to realistic hope of a title than actually relishing those won. It’s not all about reaching the finish line and looking back. It’s about enjoying the tourney journey, too. The longer it lasts, the more enjoyable. Tournament victory totals paint a more complete picture.
An unofficial check of the last nine NCAA tournaments reveals that 16 coaches, including the retired Calhoun, have reached double figures in victories the past nine seasons.
The coaches with double-figures NCAA Tournament victory totals the past nine seasons, ranked in reverse order so as to build the drama toward the top dogs:
16. Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) 10-7: Since winning his national title against Kansas in 2003, Boeheim has made it as far as the Elite Eight just once, last season.
13t. Rick Barnes (Texas) 11-9: The Longhorns finally won a Big 12 game Saturday, and they’re gaining valuable experience that should get them back in the hunt for mid-March victories in 2014.
13t. Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh) 11-8: His Panthers usually are good for a tourney victory or two, and his name often surfaces in discussions about the best coaches seeking a first appearance in the Final Four.
13t. Brad Stevens (Butler) 11-5: He makes the club despite having just five seasons to earn the victories, 10 of which came in back-to-back trips (2010-2011) to the title game, an extraordinary achievement for the unflappable young coach.
12. Jay Wright (Villanova) 12-7: Hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2010, but what a week for the Wildcats. They knocked off Louisville and then Syracuse.
11. Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) 13-9: Bo knows how to get open shots for his big men blessed with soft touches.
9t. Rick Pitino (Louisville) 15-8: His recruiting hasn’t measured up to what it was when he headed the Kentucky program, but he hasn’t lost any of his edge as a coach and will figure out how to drag his team back from its active three-game losing streak.
9t. Ben Howland (UCLA) 15-6: An intensely controlling man who reached three consecutive Final Fours, Howland’s well-chronicled loss of control of former Bruin Reeves Nelson undermined the program, but the Bruins are on their way back.
8. Thad Matta (Ohio State) 17-7: Bears a vague facial resemblance to Larry Bird, but when his teams faces Kansas, they don’t shoot like the Hick from French Lick. Don’t let that fool you. Matta consistently has the Buckeyes contending for league titles and more.
7. Donovan (Florida) 18-5: Convincing his players to return for a title defense that was successful was one of the most impressive recruiting coups in the history of the sport.
5t. Tom Izzo (Michigan State) 19-9: Nothing about this year’s team suggests it should be as good as it is, except for the identity of the coach.
5t. Krzyzewski (Duke) 19-8: Titanic egos of NBA stars didn’t scare him, and he figured out a way to get them to follow his orders as Olympic coach. Motivating college athletes to fall in line must be a snap after that.
4. Calhoun (retired from UConn) 20-5: He did it his way, and if anybody didn’t like it, that didn’t cause him to lose a wink of sleep.
3. Self (Kansas) 23-8: Appears headed for his fifth No. 1 seed in seven seasons, a remarkable run that makes the back-to-back, first-round tourney exits seem as if they took place decades ago.
1t. Calipari (Memphis/Kentucky) 27-7: This is not the NCAA’s list, so the five victories en route to a national runner-up finish with Memphis in 2008 count. Kansas defeated Memphis in overtime. It didn’t defeat Vacant.
1t. Williams (North Carolina) 27-6: Roy’s return home has worked out well for the Hall of Fame coach, and it has worked out well for Kansas. Everybody wins.