Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s squad knocked off Minnesota on Wednesday, 68-52. The win was significant because it was Izzo’s 400th. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski set the record for most coach’s victories earlier this season.
So who’s the best coach of this era? Who’s the best all time? Who’s the best in the last 20 years? Here’s a list of the top coaches of the last 30 years, in the humble opinion of Hoops Scoops, of course. This list includes current coaches only. We’ll do an all-time list later this season.
1. Mike Krzyzewski – Yes, of course Coach K is No.1. How many other coaches can say they’ve led their program to 11 Final Fours and four national championships in the last 30 years? None. In fact, no one is close.
2. Jim Calhoun – Everyone said he couldn’t win at Connecticut. So much for the prognosticators. Calhoun has built Connecticut into a machine. Four Final Four appearances, three national titles, nine Elite Eights and a slew of Sweet 16 berths puts Calhoun right on the heels of Coach K. UConn would still be called Connecticut in college basketball circles if not for Calhoun.
3. Roy Williams – Yes, we know. He took over what is arguably considered the greatest college basketball in the history of the sport. But you can’t argue with Three Final Four appearances, two national championships and five Elite Eight berths in eight years. There’s also the matter of the four Final Fours, four elite eights and eight Sweet 16 appearances in 15 years at Kansas. Maybe Williams could’ve won a title with Kansas, but seven Final Four appearances in 23 years is pretty good.
4. Rick Pitino – If Pitino had more than one national championship, he would probably be higher on this list. Pitino has done something only one other coach (John Calipari) in NCAA Division I history has done. He’s taken three different schools –Providence, Kentucky, Louisville– to a Final Four. He led Kentucky to a national title in 1996. Overall, he’s been to five Final Fours and nine elite eights in 25 full seasons on the college circuit.
5. Tom Izzo – Izzo has done an amazing job at Michigan State. He’s led the Spartans to six Final Fours and a national title in 16 years at the school. What makes Izzo special is that he rarely has top-flight NBA talent.
6. Jim Boeheim – Few coaches have been as consistent for as long Boeheim. Year after year the Orange are a contender. With three Final Fours, one national title four Elite Eights and 15 Sweet 16s, Boeheim is as good as any coach out there.
Are there any coaches with a chance to get close to the aforementioned five? There are a few, but they have a long way to go.
John Calipari – The NCAA issues notwithstanding, he’s led three difference schools –UMASS, Memphis, Kentucky – to the Final Four. He wins everywhere he goes. He’ll have to stay at Kentucky a little longer and win another title before he can move up on this list.
Billy Donovan – Three Final Four appearances, two national titles and an Elite Eight appearance last year puts Donovan in a good place. At 46, Donovan is young enough to eclipse most of the coaches ahead of him. Donovan might be a little higher now, but there are two many early-round exits and NIT appearances to move him up.
Brad Stevens – Two straight trips to the national championship game warrants Stevens’ inclusion. He’s only 35, so there’s no doubt he has a chance to do great things. The question is can he get it done at Butler. While the Bulldogs have been a great story, it’s debatable if Stevens can make them a perennial national title contender. Then again, he’s been to the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons as coach at Butler.
On the outskirts – Rick Barnes (Texas), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Ben Howland (UCLA), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Bill Self (Kansas), Tubby Smith (Minnesota).