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7 Coaches We Wish Would Return to College Basketball

Joe GoldmanCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2016

7 Coaches We Wish Would Return to College Basketball

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    College basketball players come and go. The coach, however, is the facilitator and face of his basketball program. He recruits, hand-picks the players, draws up the plays and gels a group of very different people into a single, cohesive team. 

    The best coaches, however, build their basketball programs into a perennial contenders and champions. 

    In recent years, a handful of these greats have stepped away from the game. They, for the most part, left on good terms and ended their careers as difference makers and builders of basketball programs.

    These are a the great coaches that college basketball fans would love to see return to the sidelines.

Dean Smith

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    The great Dean Smith, a coaching legend, had incredible influence on the North Carolina basketball program as well as college basketball as a whole. 

    Smith's 879 wins were good for the most in Division-I history at the time of his retirement. According to Sports Illustrated, Smith currently sits fourth on the all-time wins list and boasts a 77.6 winning percentage, 65 tournament wins (most all-time), 27 tournament appearances, 11 Final Fours and 25 first round draft picks. 

    Smith's most impressive number as a coach, however, was his graduation rate. He graduated 96.6% of his players, a number that's completely incomprehensible in today's basketball system.

    In an age of one-and-done freshmen and multimillion dollar rookie contracts, college basketball could use some of Dean Smith's philosophies.

Eddie Sutton

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    While Dean Smith spent his entire career at North Carolina, Eddie Sutton was more of a drifter. However, Sutton brought success basically everywhere he coached.

    He tallied over 800 career victories during his coaching career at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and the University of San Francisco.

    Although Sutton never won a national championship, he made three Final Fours and won conference titles multiple times in different conferences.

    Sutton's success across the country is truly indicative of how good of a coach he is. Many coaches can step into pre-built programs and immediately start winning, but Sutton was a builder and pioneer of basketball programs.

    He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Bobby Knight

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    Everyone knows Bobby Knight for his temper and controversial coaching style. However, what flies under the radar is the fact the Knight is undeniably one of the greatest and most successful coaches in the history of college basketball.

    Knight won three national championships at Indiana and helped solidify the Hoosiers as a permanent college basketball powerhouse.  

    With success at Army, Indiana, and Texas Tech, Knight sits second on the all-time Division-I wins list with 902. 

    There was never a dull moment under coach Knight. His blazing temper, foul mouth and chair-throwing is sorely missed in today's game.

    But more importantly, Knight carried huge positive influence on all three programs he coached for. He should be remembered as one of the all-time best.

Lefty Driesell

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    Charles "Lefty" Driesell, like Eddie Sutton, had incredible success in multiple conferences. He led Davidson, Maryland, James Madison and Georgia State to some of their most successful seasons in program history.

    Like so many other great coaches, Driesell's career is somewhat overridden by scandal. Only one year after signing a long-term extension with Maryland, Driesell resigned in the wake of Len Bias' cocaine-related death. Bias was Maryland's star player at the time.

    While the university and much of the public pointed fingers at Driesell for the Bias tragedy, this blame is misplaced.

    Driesell's true legacy is that he helped build the Davidson and Maryland basketball programs by earning many conference titles and NCAA tournament births. He also won several coach of the year awards and was one of the first recipients of the NCAA Award of Valor.    

    He'll go down as a great coach and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2007. 

Lute Olson

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    Lute Olson single-handedly put Arizona basketball on the map, and will likely go down as the greatest Pac-12 coach since John Wooden.

    In the midst of a brilliant career, Olson began acting strange in 2007 when he was absent from Arizona's first preseason game. Before the game started, it was announced that Olson would miss the entire season due to personal reasons.

    After speculation that he would return the following year; he never did, and eventually announced his retirement. 

    Fans would have liked to see Olson leave the game on better and more transparent terms. However, those who followed Arizona basketball and Olson's achievements will remember him for his successes, and not for his strange exit from basketball.

    Olson finished with a career 73.6 winning percentage, coached Arizona to its only NCAA championship and made the NCAA tournament dozens of times.

    He'll also go down as a one of the best coaches ever, a great motivator and the man who built Arizona's premier basketball program.

Digger Phelps

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    Digger Phelps is Notre Dame's most winningest coach. He led the Fighting Irish to its only Final Four and ended UCLA's legendary 88 game win streak.

    While there are many more successful former coaches out there, it would still be a blast to see Digger return to the sidelines. He is currently one of ESPN's top college basketball anchors and still looks fit and energetic.

    Phelps is a great entertainer and personality, and while many college sports fans question some of his remarks on ESPN, it's hard to average with a 419-200 career record.

Jim Calhoun

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    Jim Calhoun is set to announce is retirement, according to an ESPN report. College basketball fans miss him already.

    The hall-of-famer single-handedly built UConn into a perennial championship contender. He coached UConn during all three of its national championship runs in 1994, 2004 and 2011. Calhoun also won seven Big East tournament titles and ranks sixth on the all-time wins list.

    Calhoun's achievements are slightly overshadowed by the program's 2011 self-imposed sanctions. According to ESPN, Calhoun was suspended for two games and the team lost two scholarships, is banned from the NCAA tournament and was put on probation for recruiting violations and failure to comply with the NCAA. 

    However, college basketball fans won't even remember this tiny smudge on what is one of the best coaching careers of all-time. Known for his eye for talent, player development skills, 618 wins and no-nonsense attitude, Calhoun will be sorely missed for years to come.   

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