College Basketball: Big East Coaches Power Rankings
The Big East has the distinction of being perhaps the most competitive league in all of college basketball. Last year the conference sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA tournament, with the Connecticut Huskies ultimately cutting down the nets.
Although the Big East is a bit down this year, it is still hard to argue that this conference from top to bottom isn’t the toughest and most rigorous in all the land.
The Big East is not good by accident. Through the hard work and dedication of some of its coaches, the Big East is definitely a man’s league when it comes to coaching.
What you will see in this slideshow is a list of legendary, and in some cases Hall of Fame, coaches mixed in with a few energetic up-and-coming stars in the coaching ranks.
With that said, let’s rank the Big East coaches.
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16. Ed Cooley: Providence
The main reason Cooley is last on this list is, well, this is Cooley’s first season with the Friars, so there isn’t much of a track record to go on.
So far the going has been rough for Cooley and the Friars, with Providence having yet to win a Big East game (0-4).
However, the time will come for the Friars, as Cooley has secured a top 10 recruiting class, and the wins should come next.
15. Stan Heath: South Florida
It’s make or break time for Heath.
Heath has been at South Florida for four years now and has yet to take his Bulls to the NCAA tournament, while only going to the NIT once.
While Heath is a respected coach, this is a results-oriented business, and if he doesn’t get his team to more postseason tournaments (notably the NCAA tournament), Heath’s name will forever be entrenched on the hot seat.
14. Kevin Willard: Seton Hall
Willard has plenty of room for growth, and if this season is any indication, his Pirates squad should be ready for prime time with an NCAA tournament selection.
The Pirates currently rank 24th in the AP rankings, while having the No. 3 RPI.
Willard is picking it up on the recruiting trail, and if the Pirates make the NCAA tournament this year, he will have the program moving in the right direction.
13. Mike Rice: Rutgers
For a coach in only his second year with the Scarlet Knights, Rice has brought a lot of passion and hope to Piscataway, N.J.
Rice brought in a talented recruiting class this year and the fruits of his labor are already paying dividends, as Rutgers has already notched big victories over Florida and Connecticut.
Rice almost got to .500 with this squad last season. If this team can make a postseason bid this year (NIT, CBI), Rice may be prepared to take Rutgers to the next stop (read: NCAA tournament) in 2013.
12. Mick Cronin: Cincinnati
The coach who has best chance for quick ascension up the Big East coaches power rankings has to be Cronin.
Cronin’s 2011 NCAA tournament run, which concluded with a Sweet 16 loss to Connecticut, was his first foray into the Big Dance with the Bearcats.
While that is impressive, Cronin needs to build on that resume and he seems destined to do that. With his Bearcats team 13-4 and 3-1 in Big East play as of Tuesday, Cincinnati looks primed for another NCAA tourney run.
11. Oliver Purnell: DePaul
Although Purnell is still searching for his first NCAA tournament victory, he has been busy rebuilding programs into respectability.
Now at DePaul, Purnell has been assigned the tough task of bringing DePaul back to prominence. But if his track record is any indication, DePaul will back to the NCAA tournament in no time.
Purnell has had success at rebuilding programs at Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson and left each of those programs in better shape than when he came in. He took Old Dominion to an NCAA appearance once and Dayton twice and took Clemson to three straight NCAA tournaments before leaving for DePaul.
10. Steve Lavin: St. John's
Out of coaching for seven years, Lavin took to the sidelines like a fish to water last season.
After having success at UCLA (four Sweet 16 runs and one Elite Eight appearance), Lavin took St. John’s back to the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2002. Always known for his recruiting prowess, Lavin is off to a roaring start at St. John’s.
It’s too bad he may have to sit out the rest of the season while recuperating from prostate cancer. Get well, Coach Lavin!
9. Buzz Williams: Marquette
While not on the same page of some of the legends in this league, Williams is, well, building a “buzz” in Milwaukee and could easily ascend up the ranks.
Williams is coming off his first Sweet 16 appearance (beating Syracuse in the process) and has his team ready for another deep run this year.
Williams has been coaching at Marquette for only four years, but he has taken his Golden Eagles to three consecutive NCAA tournaments.
8. Mike Brey: Notre Dame
While Brey doesn’t routinely land top-notch recruits, he often surrounds himself with players who fit his system and wins.
Brey has been to the NCAA tournament in seven of his 11 years with the Irish, going to the NIT the other four years. In 2010, Brey advanced to his first Sweet 16. Brey often gets guys of little ilk (see Luke Harangody, Tim Abromaitis for proof) and turns them into solid college players.
7. Jay Wright: Villanova
For the past seven years, the Villanova Wildcats have been a fixture in the NCAA tournament, thanks in large part to Wright’s coaching.
Back in 2009, Villanova made the Final Four, making Wright one of six Big East coaches who have gone to the Final Four.
Wright has demonstrated the ability to coach and run a system that yields constant results. While Wright and the Wildcats are off to a slow start this season (8-8, 1-3 in Big East play), don’t count them out just yet.
6. Jamie Dixon: Pittsburgh
As a model of consistency, the only thing missing from Dixon’s resume is a trip to the Final Four.
However, Dixon’s remarkable .783 winning percentage heading into the 2011-12 season is matched by no one currently coaching in the Big East.
You want dependable and reliable, then it doesn’t get much better than Dixon, who has taken each of his eight Panthers squads to the NCAA tournament.
5. John Thompson III: Georgetown
When your father is a legend at the institute you coach for, you better bring it and JTIII certainly does that.
In his 12 years of coaching, Thompson has collected 241 wins. While at Georgetown, Thompson has led his Hoyas to the NCAA tournament in six of his eight years with the school. His crowning achievement was making the Final Four back in 2007.
Thompson also has the ability to mold young big men (see: Monroe, Greg; Hibbert, Roy).
At 45 years of age, Thompson has plenty of time to grab his ultimate goal: an NCAA title.
4. Bob Huggins: West Virginia
Love him or hate him, Huggins gets it done.
While many don’t like his methods or his cavalier attitude, all Huggins does is go out and win.
Huggins is a member of the 700-win club in the Big East with Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim. In his 31 years of coaching Division I basketball, Huggins has taken his teams to 19 NCAA tournaments with two Final Four appearances (one with Cincinnati in 1992 and one with West Virginia in 2010).
Now coaching at his alma mater, Huggins is still recruiting at a high level and should be a staple in the tourney for years to come.
3. Rick Pitino: Louisville
If you win an NCAA championship, chances are high that you’ll rank favorably on this list.
Pitino won it all back in 1996 when he was coaching the Kentucky Wildcats and is the first coach to take three colleges (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to the Final Four.
Wherever he has coached Pitino has delivered results, as his 610-223 record indicates. Pitino is an intense competitor and can recruit nationally. His 2011-12 squad is one of the country’s best, and at 13-3 it is poised to make a run at glory in March.
2. Jim Boeheim: Syracuse
If Jim Calhoun is the standard, Boeheim is not that far behind.
Boeheim is Syracuse basketball. Boeheim graduated from Syracuse in 1966 and has been a staple at the institution ever since.
Boeheim has been the coach of the Orange since 1976, and along the way he has gained 873 wins while winning an NCAA title in 2003 with the help of Carmelo Anthony. In his 35 years at Syracuse, Boeheim has been the NCAA tournament 28 times, reaching the Final Four two times and reaching the Sweet 16 at least 11 times.
It should not stop there, either, as Syracuse is rolling this season at 17-0 and is unanimously ranked No. 1 in the country. Boeheim should be ready for another deep run in the NCAA tournament in 2012.
1. Jim Calhoun: UConn
It was hard picking No. 1, as there were many candidates, but the tiebreaker was championships; a category Calhoun stands tall over his competitors.
In 39 years of coaching, Calhoun has amassed 866 wins while claiming championships in 1999, 2004 and 2011. Calhoun also took his 2009 squad to the Final Four, while also going to the Final 8 an additional four times.
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