Most Underrated Coaches in College Basketball

Joe WirthContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

Sean Miller has restored the Arizona program to prominence, but does he get the respect he deserves?
Sean Miller has restored the Arizona program to prominence, but does he get the respect he deserves?Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The college basketball landscape is scattered with great coaches. Legends like Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim need no introduction. Tenured veterans like Bob Huggins and Roy Williams get their due and successful young coaches like Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart get there share of attention as well.

There are coaches out there, however, who are successful, but do not get the same recognition. In some cases they may not have the gregarious personality that garners attention, or maybe it is just a case of bad luck, but either way they are underrated and underappreciated.

Here is a list of the most underrated coaches in college basketball.


Sean Miller

Miller follows a line of Xavier coaches to go on to successful endeavors after his time with the Musketeers. While at Xavier, Miller went to four straight tournaments, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2008.

Miller joined Arizona in 2009 and has transferred the success at Xavier to the desert. He followed Lute Olson, who single-handedly built the Arizona program to what it is today—not an easy task.

Miller not only had to follow a legend, but he also had to contend with scholarship-limiting NCAA sanctions that were levied on the program.

Through all of this, he managed to keep his team focused and he kept the program moving forward. In 2011, the No. 5 seeded Wildcats took a deep run in the tournament. Miller took Arizona to the Elite Eight and defeated top-seeded Duke in the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual champion Connecticut.

After a down season in 2011-12, Miller has the Wildcats clicking on all cylinders this year. At 19-2, they are widely considered the best team in the Pac-12 and one of the favorites to win the national championship.

Maybe it has something to do with an "East Coast bias” in the media, but given his track record, Miller is rarely discussed as one of the elite coaches in the country. At just 44 years of age, however, he has plenty of time to enter that conversation.   


Fran Dunphy

Before taking the helm at Temple, Dunphy was one of the best coaches in Ivy League history. He led Penn to nine tournament appearances in 17 seasons and many assumed he would stay with the Quakers for the rest of his career.

After disagreements with Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky, however, Dunphy left and took the job at crosstown rival Temple in 2006.

Like Miller at Arizona, Dunphy followed a legend in John Chaney, and, also like Miller, he has done a great job restoring the reputation of a fallen program.

Dunphy has taken the Owls to the NCAA tournament five times in his six years with the Owls and has returned a program that waned in final years of the Chaney regime back to being a perennial power in the Atlantic 10.

This year has been a down year for the Owls. They are currently 14-7 and need to pick up their play if they have any hopes of making it to the tournament for the sixth straight year.

Despite years of success, Dunphy still does not get as much national respect as he deserves. The main reason is because he has coached at smaller programs and has been largely unsuccessful in the tournament.

Although he has only had limited postseason success, Dunphy is still regarded by many in the coaching fraternity as one of the best coaches in the country.

His 444 wins should provide him "elite" status.


Dana Altman

With the backing of booster and Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight, University of Oregon sports programs have experienced unprecedented success and interest in the past few years.

These improvements have been nearly across the board, but one of the sports that had lagged behind was basketball. This year, however, in his third year in Eugene, Altman is turning the Ducks around and awakening a sleeping giant of a program.

This is Altman’s fourth head-coaching position. He began his career at Marshall, before transitioning to Kansas State. While he was successful at both of those spots, he made a name for himself by putting the Creighton program on the map.

Altman was with the Blue Jays for 16 years, led them to 13 postseason appearances and was instrumental in Creighton becoming one of the marquee mid-major programs in the nation.

In 2010, Altman joined the Oregon program—a program that had struggled at the end of Ernie Kent’s tenure.

The Ducks have steadily improved since Altman arrived. They went 21-18 in his first year, 24-10 in his second and this year are currently 18-4 and ranked No. 19 in the country.

Thanks to Altman, Oregon is a program on the rise. The Ducks have piggybacked off the success of the football program and have benefited from the Nike brand to become a program to be reckoned with on the West Coast.