Sunday, January 27, 2013


Opinion: A look at best recent NCAA Tournament coaches


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.


dylans 9 years, 3 months ago

Lets see the tally at the end of this tourney!

Steve Reigle 9 years, 3 months ago

So I guess recruiting violations don't matter. The wins still count. Great.

Zstegs 9 years, 3 months ago

In terms of this poll yeah they do. Calipari still was the coach in 2008, so for the intents and purposes of this article yes. The wins vacated do count.

Brianna Zaleski 9 years, 3 months ago

I agree with u imakansan, people just seem to gloss over the fact that Cal vacated two seasons in his career and they still count his wins. CBS is the worst. It does not matter if they played the games or not, he played them with inelligible players! Hence, the games do not count. Tell Memphis and UMASS to take solace in the fact that since the game was played it shouldn't be recognized as vacant. If u cheat, I shouldn't count. It doesn't take anything away from our win (2008) to recognize this man for what he is.

Eric Dawson 9 years, 3 months ago

To dylans' comment I would add that during the 9 years under the microscope both Roy (2010) and Calipari (2005) fielded teams that failed to even make the NCAA Tournament. Those years were major disappointments to their respective fan bases, taking a little luster off the patina you would burnish, Keegan.

As to even counting Calipari's 2008 wins with Memphis, it's just wrong to give credit to cheaters. Memphis would have been lucky to make it past round 1 without Rose.

Chris Shaw 9 years, 3 months ago

Calhoun can even be put on this list for missing in 2010. With that said, regardless of Calipari and Roy missing the tourny in their respective years, the fact they still have 27 wins over 9 years instead of 10 is pretty remarkable.

If we're strictly talking "W's" in the NCAA Tourny than IMO losing to Bucknell and Bradley back to back in essence was like missing the Big Dance twice in a year. I am just talking "W's" though.

Fortunately, I enjoy the NCAA Tournament and I really don't know what I would do with myself if Kansas missed the tourny. All of my adult life and most of my childhood, I have seen Kansas in the NCAA Tournament except one year. Pretty freaking awesome! Let's go get that consecutive streak from UNC. I believe it's at 27 or 28 straight years.

Ben Kane 9 years, 3 months ago

Those wins don't count per the ncaa and Keegs shouldn't have counted them here.

Allen Shepard 9 years, 3 months ago

Boooooooo, I have to bite my tongue to even give that cheater credit for the wins that haven't been vacated yet.

Shame on you. Disgraceful, Keegan

Tan Hong Woon 9 years, 3 months ago

So, Calipari (Memphis/Kentucky) in the NCAA record should be 22-12. Good for third behind Coach Self.

jaybate 9 years, 3 months ago

Part 1

Championships are the gold standard.

Everything else is Fed Notes.

Fed Notes spend good, but they keep going down in value and buying less and less,so you always need more and more, and they bankrupt you with inflation if they print too many.

Rings? They are not more important than anything else, but they are the highest ground--the Mt. Everest we want the most KU flags planted on.

Yes we want to be the program with the most wins the right way.

Yes we want to have the most conference titles the right way.

Yes we want to graduate the most guys the right way.

Excellence requires many objectives successfully pursued.

But we are in a quest to win the most rings the right way, too.

To master the obvious, KU and Self need another ring.

Or else Self is just Boeheim with a better tradition and trying to do it the right way. Better, to be sure, but not better at rings.

The Chancellor and the AD are playing for money. Its what they do.

But to their credit they are backing a right way guy who wins big enough to ring the register for the program. But the key is win big enough. They don't need a ring. Self and the KU Basketball Legacy and the right way people do.

Out here in the non-bureaucratic real world of little guys making ends meet and loving sports; the world where the war between good and evil rages and matters, because money can only save your life, not your lonely, mortal soul, proving the right way guys can win more rings than the wrong way guys matters.

Da mugs dat think it don't matter are just double parked on the boulevard of broken dreams. Guys what think that cynicism can keep their hearts from being cracked again. A bunch of Rick Blaine's not stickin' their necks out for nobody...until Ilsa walks back in their joint with Victor Lazlo and calls the Nazis what they are.

Self to his credit tries to do it the right way and already has his FU money.

So: now, this is a hunt for rings "the right way", Louie.

This is a hardened hardwood knight in a good looking trench coat and snappy fedora on a quest for all the clay footed right way guys who ever told their kids the good guys can win, even though they make some mistakes doing it.

This is a quest to reaffirm that there is still a difference between the right way with all its human imperfection and the willful wrong way.

This is not a test of saints vs. sinners. We ain't saints.

This is a test to see if the guys that bend the rules can beat the guys that break them, or free ride on those that do, in the competition for rings.

Calhoun was apparently a wrong way guy.

Cal is apparently a wrong way guy. It doesn't matter how many more of his wins will be vacated. Memphis and UMass were what they were. Some recruits didn't take their own SATs once. The Chicago newspaper has never backed down from the allegation of the $200k offer for the superstar. !

jaybate 9 years, 3 months ago

Part 2

Roy? Super talented, super nice guy that cost KU rings, because he wouldn't recruit the east for KU the way he recruits all over for UNC. When he recruits all over, he wins two rings. When he recruits half the country, he doesn't. His school just had to force its top fund raiser out, so his school has apparently been operating with an unfair advantage all these years. KU gets investigated and they find people trying to hurt the program, not give it an unfair advantage. Roy is not a wrong way guy. He is just not a right way guy. Right way guys give their best for the school they work for, for the school that gives them their break, that cuts their checks. They don't recruit half the country, then coach hard and hope for another job, while telling the kids of Kansas they have more want to in their little fingers than the rest of the KU fans combined. Regarding "wanting" to recruit the whole country for KU, he never had as much want to as even I did.

This is a decisive time for the right way guys. They have struggled to within striking distance of the wrong way guys in many regards.

But we have rings to win the right way and miles to go before we sleep.

Rock Chalk

jhox 9 years, 3 months ago

Just a side note to your comments...Roy's first NCAA title was with Matt Doherty's recruits. It's hard for me to give Roy much credit for that title. That talented group could have won with Quinn Snyder coaching them...well maybe not Quinn, but anyone else.

Roy's problem with recruiting East coast guys to Kansas was all about an inferiority complex. He didn't see Kansas as an equal to the power programs on the East coast, so he was afraid to take on those programs head to head. That despite having probably the best record in the nation during his time here, and despite KU being one of the two winningest programs of all time. Not to mention the school whose first coach invented the game. For some reason he always thought KU was a notch below the large East coast programs and especially Carolina.

When Bill Self took the job, his view was that he was selling the best program in the country to kids. This was his destination job. It makes the job a whole lot easier when you believe you're selling the best product. You don't feel you need to back down from anybody.

jaybate 9 years, 3 months ago


But it also helps make my point he did it with Matt's kids, because Matt apparently recruited all over the country.

And the mind set you ascribe to Self is soooo right.

jaybate 9 years, 3 months ago

Well, actually, now that my memory is functioning, he did reputedly say that he promised Dean not to recruit the east coast when he came to Kansas. It was a deal to protect UNC, if I recall correctly.

jhox 9 years, 3 months ago

I've heard rumors of this, and it would not surprise me at all. Roy would never do anything that he would perceive as harmful to Dean. Too bad Dean didn't have the same reverence for his alma mater that Roy has for his.

On the other hand, Dean did us a huge favor in calling Roy home. Roy did great things for us while in Lawrence, but we ended up getting the better end of the deal.

wrwlumpy 9 years, 3 months ago

Keegan, I think you are doing a great job. You can always tell you're doing ok when Jaybate and the bunch simply run with the topic, each in there own special way Being a life long Jayhawk fan makes it fun to wake up knowing that there is a game tonight against a team that Self calls the fastest in the conference.

jhox 9 years, 3 months ago

Keegan can write when he puts his mind to it. His writing always seems to get better this time of year, when the weather isn't quite so conducive to playing golf.

Mike Barnhart 9 years, 3 months ago

When Bill Guthridge retired from North Carolina in the summer of 2000, I really felt Roy would take the job ... and I was really disappointed that Bill Self had just been hired a month earlier at Illinois! (Turns out Coach Self was "sick about it" too!)

Roy stayin' for two more years was a real blessing for KU: two more final fours for Roy and Coach Self got the only job he really coveted. PERFECT!

jgkojak 9 years, 3 months ago

Considering KY and UNC are bubble teams and unlikely to make runs - Self could be tied or #1 on this list by the 1st week of April.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

My $.02 worth - Brad Stevens has been to the Championship game 2 out of his 4 trips to the tournament. That deserves to be higher than number 13. Especially when you consider that he's tied with Rick Barnes. RICK BARNES - aka the Talent Tamer.

Mike Barnhart 9 years, 3 months ago

The list is based on total number of wins. It's not subjective.

manunitedjayhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

"Talent tamer?" You mean at the college level and how his teams play as a unit? Have you watched much NBA lately? Kevin Durant (enough said), LeMarcus Aldridge (enough said), Thompson (huge shot blocker for Cavs), TJ Ford, Avery Bradley, DJ Augustine, and that isn't even naming the other guys who see substantial minutes in the Association. You can doubt Barnes' coaching and how me manages talent at the college level but all his guys contribute and see big time minutes usually in the NBA.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for backing up my comment. With the talent he's had at Texas, the good ol boys in burnt orange ought to have about 7 National Championship Banners hanging in their barn in Austin.

manunitedjayhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

Couldn't agree with you more, and only one Final Four appearance is just unbelievable. Even guys that stay 3-4 years, PJ Tucker, AJ Abrams, Royal Ivy, Sydmill Harris, Mouton, James, the list can go on with the experience he has had in Austin along with the raw talent.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 3 months ago

I would love to see Coach Self be here till he's 75 but I know that won't happen. My choice for Bill's eventual successor..Brad Stevens. Even if Bill stays another ten years, Brad will be young enough [ only 46 in ten years] to make his mark at Kansas.

I think Danny will build his own legacy at Tulsa and that there is no one now on the current staff who qualifies as an obvious successor.

jaybate 9 years, 3 months ago

Until Bill Self has a couple of seasons vacated, I would like for people to stop mentioning Self and Cal in the same sentence as top coaches. Self is the top coach among the right way guys, or tied with with Coach K, who finally quit the cheap shotting it appears.

Cal (and Calhoun) are in the Asterisk class of top coaches, i.e., the top coaches that win with a lot of their games with infractions.


Michael Luby 9 years, 3 months ago

Both UK and UNC seem to be headed for early outs in the Tourney this year. Look for Coach Self to overtake both in total post season wins this year as well.

Dyrk Dugan 9 years, 3 months ago

Self is now 4-5 in the NCAA tourney. how is that number reached? simple: he's played to seed 4 out of the 9 years.

my calculation is, that if you're a 1 seed, you only play to seed if you make the FF. you get no bonus points for winning the nat. title...obviously in real life, that's a big plus.

4-5 is exactly where Roy was after 9 years at Kansas...and since then, he's taken off....i don't think he's ever underacheived it at UNC...except for last year.

i don't know how any of the other above coaches have done, per this formula....but i think it speaks volumes on how a coach is doing in the tourney. if you're really good, and you make the FF, you've done well. if you're seeded 3 or 4, and you can't make it past the first weekend, you have not done well.

we'll see if Bill Self can even his record this year.

Curtis Stutz 9 years, 3 months ago

That's ridiculous. Mostly because the committee is horrible at actually seeding a tournament, secondly because you're saying you'd rather get a 10 seed and make the 2nd round than be a 1 seed and make the Elite Eight.

Robin Smith 9 years, 3 months ago

Great piece, Keegan

with the huge exception being Calipari's win total.

c'mon man, you can't excuse cheating!

do you still think Lance deserves credit for 7 straight or that Bonds is the greatest player of all time?

Robin Smith 9 years, 3 months ago

KU did defeat Vacant. That's what that means.

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