Ranking the 10 College Basketball Coaches Most Likely to Have a Meltdown
From Bobby Knight’s chair toss to John Chaney’s press-conference death threats, college basketball coaches have a colorful history of losing their cool. Few contemporary coaches are anywhere near Knight’s level of volatility, but there are still some who have the potential for a memorable blowup.
Tim Floyd hasn’t spent much time in the national spotlight since taking over the low-profile UTEP program. Of course, even at UTEP, people will notice you if you throw enough of a fit while being ejected that the police have to escort you off the floor.
Read on for more on Floyd and the rest of the 10 coaches most likely to go from intense to incendiary with the right provocation.
10. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Two of the best places to look for big-time coaching meltdowns are rivalry games and close games.
Wisconsin doesn’t have the same kind of bloodthirsty rivalries as Ohio State-Michigan or Duke-North Carolina, but the Badgers (who played three consecutive overtime games in February) certainly know from close finishes.
On top of all that opportunity, Bo Ryan has plenty of incentive to work the referees and keep his defense-driven teams from fouling themselves into oblivion.
He’s rarely one to hold his tongue on the sidelines, and it’s not always a huge step from shouting at the refs from the bench to a more in-your-face approach.
9. Ben Howland, UCLA
Ben Howland has taken a lot of flak for (supposedly) letting his Bruins players walk all over him, but he’ll never be accused of the same failing with officials.
Howland is one of the most strident coaches in the largely laid-back Pac-12, a tendency he brought—along with his bruising man-to-man defense—from the raucous Big East.
Howland knows how easily his teams can lose to a few extra foul calls, and his sideline demeanor is accordingly tightly wound.
Whether all that tension is a prelude to snapping may well depend on how quickly UCLA resumes its accustomed place as a Top 25 fixture.
8. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
If you buy into the idea of a Napoleon complex, 5’9” Tom Izzo (surrounded every day by towering Big Ten post players) is certainly a prime candidate to develop one.
Whether it’s his size or his dedication to his team, though, there’s no question that Izzo can lay into an officiating crew with the best.
The veteran coach generally seems to keep his temper under control better than many on this list, but when it does get the better of him, watch out. At that stage, the line between Spartan and berserker can get awfully blurry.
7. Rick Pitino, Louisville
For a coach whose obviously carefully crafted appearance is best described as “slick,” Rick Pitino doesn’t hesitate to bristle once the game tips off.
He took his first team to the Final Four a quarter-century ago, and he has all the experience in berating the officials that long tenure would imply.
The Cardinal coach’s own energy tends to reflect the up-tempo game his teams like to play, but that connection can also ratchet up the stress of a tight contest.
It doesn’t help matters any that the wildly successful Pitino finds himself in more high-stakes, high-intensity games in a year than some coaches get in a career.
6. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
New league, same Bruce Weber, who has gone from yelling himself hoarse(r) at Illinois to doing the same on the Kansas State bench.
Though the coach’s distinctive voice is a product of throat surgery from his youth, he doesn’t do it any favors with his exceptionally high-decibel sideline style.
Weber does seem to enjoy himself more than many coaches on this list when the game is going well, but he’s also quicker than many to start boiling when things go sour.
He managed to avoid going nuclear in the biggest game of his career—despite the fact that his Illini were fouling Sean May every time the Tar Heel touched the ball in the 2005 national championship—but he’s got plenty of excitable seasons left before he’s done.
5. Thad Matta, Ohio State
All of the coaches on this list tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves, but Thad Matta goes a step further. Fans looking for a thermometer of just how heated a game has gotten can check what shade of red Matta’s face has turned for a quick answer.
The vocal Ohio State coach has also had the misfortune to see some of his most talented teams (including last year’s Final Four squad) come up short of the big prize.
Let that kind of frustration build up just a bit longer for the 11th-year Buckeye coach and (maybe) watch the fireworks begin.
4. Mike Anderson, Arkansas
Mike Anderson learned his trade from Arkansas legend Nolan Richardson, whose trademark was having his defenses give the opposing team “40 minutes of hell.”
Richardson gave the referees pretty close to the same treatment, and Anderson was an adept student.
The Razorback coach’s success at implementing both lessons can be seen in his team’s outstanding performance on its home floor this season.
When Anderson has Arkansas back in the Top 25 on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if the higher-stakes games lead to some high-profile blowups down the road.
3. Mike Montgomery, California
Three weeks ago, Mike Montgomery got a reprimand from the Pac-12 for pushing his team’s leading scorer (Allen Crabbe) in the chest during a timeout.
While that negligible incident has already gotten far more discussion than it deserves, it does provide a glimpse into how emotional Montgomery can get during games.
Montgomery is also more likely than many active coaches to be given a long leash by the referees, a consideration he’s earned with more than 30 years on various college benches.
Someday, though, that leeway might turn into just enough rope to hang Montgomery if he spends a long, tense game getting more and more worked up.
2. Tim Floyd, UTEP
It would already have been noteworthy enough that Tim Floyd was incautious enough to get himself thrown out of a game in his first season with the UTEP Miners.
His overwrought response says a lot about how far he was from being in control during a February 2011 game at East Carolina.
Floyd blew up at the ejecting official (and all his colleagues) with sufficient heat that the police came out to escort him off the floor.
Whether this incident turns out to be the worst of Floyd’s coaching career, of course, has yet to be determined, but it’s hard to believe he’s entirely learned his lesson.
After all, if his memory is short enough that he wants to go back to USC, who knows how much he’ll have learned from one ejection?
1. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Lots of elite college coaches are intense, but Bob Huggins can border on joyless at times. The volcanic West Virginia head man is just as likely to blow up at one of his own players for lack of hustle as he is at a ref who’s not on the ball.
Pacing the sidelines in his trademark windbreaker, Huggins sometimes looks like he wants to run right out of the arena—or jump down the throat of an offending official.
He’s avoided any Bob Knight-like incidents through a long and impressive career to date, but there’s no active coach who shares more of Knight’s rage-filled sideline vibe.