College Basketball's Best and Worst Players Turned Head Coaches

Steven GoldsteinContributor IAugust 21, 2012

College Basketball's Best and Worst Players Turned Head Coaches

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    They say "those who can't do, teach," yet time after time, head coaching vacancies in top college programs are filled by one-time hardwood stars.

    Today, dozens of sidelines are paced by former NCAA players. For some, the transition is ostensibly seamless, as was the case for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Others, however, struggle when trading high tops and shorts for a suit and tie.

    Check out the former college ballers who made for great coaches, as well as the players who couldn't find success with a new gig.

John Wooden

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    The "Wizard of Westwood" found success on both sides of the stick, first leading Purdue to a consensus national title in 1932 (the NCAA Tournament didn't kick off until '39).

    As a floor general, Wooden earned All-Big Ten and All-Midwestern honors, and was the first player ever to become a three-time All-American.

    Of course, he would enjoy even greater accolades as a head coach.

    As the brain behind the UCLA Bruins, Wooden donned 10 national championships in a 12-year span. The Bruins churned out an 88-game winning streak during that time, and Wooden was instantly recognized as one of the sport's bests.

    Enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, Wooden made the switch look effortless.

Isiah Thomas

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    The aptly-named "Mr. Wonderful" was a legend at Indiana, where he thrived under Bob Knight's system for two years. Thomas averaged over 15 points a night and shot .534 from the field as a Hoosier, hoisting a national championship in 1981.

    Thomas would go on to find unbridled success as a point guard for the Detroit Pistons. Once his playing days came to a close, however, things got rough.

    As a head coach for FIU, Thomas compiled a paltry 26-65 record. He was fired after three seasons.

Adolph Rupp

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    Admittedly, Rupp wasn't much of a factor as a ballplayer, spending four years as a reserve in Kansas.

    He made a name for himself on the sidelines, where he claimed four national titles and six Final Four appearances as the head coach of Kentucky.

    Rupp ran the 'Cats for over 40 years, eventually retiring in 1972.

    While he evidently wasn't much with a ball in his hands, he excelled with a clipboard, tallying four National Coach of the Year awards and seven SEC Coach of the Year honors. Rupp's .822 winning percentage ranks second all time.

Dave Bliss

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    Dave Bliss was an All-Ivy League honoree at Cornell, posting a 12.8 points per game mark while also playing as a member of the Big Red baseball team. He received the Cornell Sun Athlete of the Year Award in 1965.

    But it's apparent that Bliss wasn't cut out to coach, bouncing around seven programs in a forgettable career.

    Bliss' teams posted a .421 winning percentage in Tourney action, and is further marred by the Baylor basketball scandal of 2003, where forward Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson. Subsequent investigations implemented Bliss in improper tuition coverage. 

Bob Knight

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    Like Rupp, "The General" didn't make much of an impact on the floor.

    He spent his playing days in Columbus, where he earned a national championship in 1960 as a swingman. Knight shared time with basketball legends and fellow Buckeyes Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek.

    Knight rose to prominence as the head coach of the Hoosiers, where he won three Tournaments and 11 Big Ten titles.

    With 902 career wins, Knight is without a doubt one of the NCAA's most revered faces.

Steve Alford

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    Admittedly, it's tough to label Alford as a purely "bad coach," but he certainly has not reciprocated his playing day successes.

    At Indiana, Alford set a then-school record with 2,438 career points. He was named a team MVP four consecutive times, and averaged a mean 22 points a night in his senior campaign. Alford lead the Hoosiers to a national championship in '87.

    As a coach, however, Alford has enjoyed tepid success at best.

    He sported a losing Big Ten record during his stint as the head of Iowa, and despite winning two conference tournaments with the Hawkeyes, Alford's squad never advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

    This season, Alford took a raw New Mexico team to an impressive 28-7 record, only to fall to Louisville in the third round of the Tourney.

    Despite a credible coaching career, Alford's teams have never gone past the Tournament's round of 32.

Jim Boeheim

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    At 'Cuse, Jim Boeheim filled the team captain niche nicely, notching over 14 a night in his senior season. Of course, he would later etch his name into NCAA history as the head coach of the Orange.

    With Boeheim at the helm, Syracuse has won a national title and nine Big East championships.

    Boeheim's 890 career Ws are the most for a single program in all of college basketball.

Matt Doherty

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    As a Tarheel, Matt Doherty was a national champion, a four-year starter, and an eventual NBA draftee.

    As a coach, on the other hand, Doherty has compiled an unimpressive .486 win percentage, culminating in a firing from SMU after six seasons without a Tournament appearance.

    Doherty coached his alma mater to one of its worst efforts in school history, touting an 8-20 record in 2001-02. The Tarheels entered that year with a No. 19 preseason ranking.

Mike Krzyzewski

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    Mike Krzyzewski is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable—albeit difficult to pronounce—names in the game.

    But before "Coach K" held the reigns of the Blue Devils' offense, he was a humble combo-guard for Army.

    Krzyzewski was a senior captain at West Point, leading the Black Knights to a surprise NIT appearance at Madison Square Garden.

    Now we know Coach K as the storied coach who rebuilt Duke basketball, en route to 12 ACC titles and four national championships.

    Most recently, Krzyzewski coached a gold-clad Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games.

Dereck Whittenburg

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    Dereck Whittenburg was a standout at NC State, where he averaged over 17 points a night and shot better than 47 percent from behind the arc in 1982-83.

    Life on the sidelines wasn't kind to him though, as Whittenburg posted a hapless 136-162 career record. He bungled through seven Tourney-less seasons at Fordham, including a notoriously bad 3-25 campaign in 2008-09 before being fired.