John Calipari and Greatest Recruiting Head Coaches in College Basketball History
With the college basketball season set to tip off in just a few months, it’s time to review which coaches have been the best of all time at recruiting the best players to join their established college programs.
From the days of John Wooden at UCLA, coaches were encouraged to find the best players they could in order to win games. They would at times find one great player to lead their team to victory. Nowadays, it takes a team of NBA draft first-round prospects in order to win an NCAA Championship at the Division I level.
I’m putting more of an emphasis on recruiting numerous players instead of just one or two with these selections. Please feel free to put any of your suggestions in the comments section, since I’m sure there are plenty more coaches who have been outstanding at recruiting.
As you’ll see, I’ve selected five current coaches. That’s because I feel their accomplishments in recruiting trump coaches of the past.
Without further ado, here are the five best college basketball recruiting head coaches in history.
Notable Recruits: Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Anthony Davis
John Calipari is one of college basketball’s best head coaches. He has enjoyed much success at all three universities at which he's coached (UMass, Memphis and Kentucky).
He’s won over 500 games in his career, but that’s only because of the long hours he’s spent recruiting players.
Calipari has had several great recruiting classes, but none have been better than his most recent, when he had Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague on his roster as freshman.
With those three on the floor, and with some help from some holdovers from the previous season, the Kentucky Wildcats went all the way to an NCAA Championship.
Notable Recruits: Paul Pierce, Tyler Hansbrough, Harrison Barnes
Roy Williams is a Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame recruiter. He coaches at one of the best collegiate basketball programs in the country, and even though that’s an attractive factor for potential players, he has a track record of turning college players into NBA prospects.
That’s what high school players should look at when picking a school to play for, and Williams offers all of that and more.
Williams reeled in his best recruiting class in 2010, when he got commits from Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall. Each was at least a 95 grade, according to ESPN, which speaks highly of Williams and his recruiting abilities. He had five incoming freshman with grades of at least 94 in 2008, too. The most notable player from that class was John Henson.
Notable Recruits: Shane Battier, J.J. Reddick, Luol Deng, Kyrie Irving
Coach K is the best at whatever he does, whether it is coaching college players, coaching Olympians or recruiting high school players. He is the best, hands down. Krzyzewski has more wins as a head coach than any other coach in Division I history, and the players he’s had on those teams speak for themselves.
Coach K’s best ever class might be the group from 2011, even though they haven't proven much yet. Austin Rivers is already in the NBA and the other four 96-grade commits could easily follow in his footsteps.
He had another great draft class in 2007, which included Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Taylor King, who were each top-three at their respective positions, according to ESPN.
Notable Recruits: Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Derrick Coleman
The Syracuse Orange have one of the best college basketball programs in the country, and it goes without saying how much of an impact Jim Boeheim has had. He’s an incredible coach and clearly knows what to say at the kitchen table of many high school players’ homes.
Which recruiting class do I think has been Boeheim’s best?
I’m going to go with 2007, when he got commits from Donte Greene (97), Jonny Flynn (97), Antonio “Scoop” Jardine (96), Rick Jackson (96), Sean Williams and Kristof Ongenaet.
Sure, plenty of great players have come out of Syracuse. However, looking back at how good those players were supposed to be out of high school, 2007 takes the cake.
Notable Recruits: Deron Williams, Mario Chalmers, Thomas Robinson
This may not be the most popular selection, but Bill Self has done a solid job recruiting over the course of his career. He’s coached and recruited several great NBA players and has also had success on the floor at both Illinois and Kansas.
The year 2009 really stands out as a great recruiting year for Self and the Jayhawks. In that class, he landed Xavier Henry, who was an enormous name at the time. He also landed Thomas Robinson, who’s a huge name now, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and C.J. Henry.
All five of those players were top-notch recruits, and even though they have each played at a different level, that’s still an impressive list.