Sometimes, having success is not enough for college basketball coaches to gain the high regard of their peers and hoops fans everywhere. Even if they win numerous games and titles, coaches sometimes feel like Rodney Dangerfield: They “don’t get no respect.”
Here is a quick look at 10 outstanding college basketball coaches who are getting it done, but don’t receive the recognition they deserve.
It’s not easy to consistently put a competitive team on the court in the SEC at a school like Vanderbilt. But, Kevin Stallings has been doing it for the better part of a decade-and-a-half. Because of the school’s high academic standards, coaching at "the Harvard of the South" can be a challenge. A number of top high school players cannot be recruited
Stallings has led VU to seven seasons with 20 wins or more and a total record in Nashville of 277-176. The Commodores have been invited to the NCAA tournament in six of the last 10 seasons, and they have advanced to the Sweet 16 twice.
Before coming to Vandy in 1999, Stallings had a booming six-year run at Illinois State, where the Redbirds went 123-63.
Basketball has never been much of a focal point at Colorado. Tad Boyle has turned around hoops at CU and is making the Buffaloes one of the best teams in the West. He has strung together three straight 20-plus win seasons to start his coaching term in Boulder. That hasn’t happened since…never!
Colorado’s men’s basketball Wikipedia page states that Boyle has already become “the winningest postseason coach in the history of Colorado basketball.” The Buffs have made it to the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons…another first for the men’s basketball program.
Moving forward, Boyle is recruiting the kind of players who will help sustain the success that he is already having in the Pac-12.
If you don’t remember the horrible situation that Scott Drew walked into in 2003 at Baylor, then you don’t have a full appreciation for the job that he has done in Waco. The whole Bears’ basketball scene was so saturated with corruption and scandal that it’s a wonder that anyone was willing to wade through that kind of mess.
But Drew has turned a problem into a prominent program. Over the last five seasons, Drew and his crew have averaged over 24 wins per season. Baylor has gone to two Elite Eights (2010, 2012) in the last four years and was the NIT runner-up in 2009 and the NIT champions this past April. That's not too shabby.
One of the primary reasons that Drew has been able to turn things around is his ability to recruit top-level talent. The arrival of 4- and 5-star recruits (Perry Jones III or Isaiah Austin) has become routine. He has also been able to reel in a few of the best juco (Pierre Jackson) and transfer prospects (Brady Heslip) in the nation.
Steve Fisher may be the only coach in college basketball history to win an NCAA championship in his first season as a head coach. In fact, Fisher was only serving as Michigan’s interim coach for the 1989 tournament when the Wolverines won it all.
Not so surprisingly, Fisher was then hired as the permanent coach in Ann Arbor. He served for another eight full seasons, putting up a 185-81 record. The maize and blue made it to the postseason every year on Fisher’s watch, including winning the 1997 NIT championship.
Looking for a new challenge, Fisher headed west to elevate the broken down San Diego State program.
Fisher’s Wikipedia page indicates that when he arrived at SDSU in 1999, the Aztecs “The Aztecs had not been to the postseason since its NCAA appearance in 1984-1985 .” In the year’s that have followed, Fisher has posted a 281-168 record, making it to the postseason in 10 of the last 12 years.
With all of the exceptional programs that constitute Big Ten basketball, it’s relatively easy to overlook the job that Matt Painter is doing in West Lafayette. Painter had some awfully big shoes to fill in taking over for Gene Keady in 2005. And, when it comes to media attention, the Purdue Boilermakers seem to always take a back seat to their cross-state rivals, the Indiana Hoosiers.
In eight seasons at Purdue, Painter has still posted a 176-95 record. He has led the program to back-to-back Sweet 16’s (2009, 2010). Before a rebuilding year in 2012-13, Purdue’s official team site pointed out that it was one of only 11 programs in the nation to reach the NCAA tournament in each of the last six seasons.
One of the signs of a rock-solid program is that it produces head coaches out of the ranks of their staff. Painter’s Wikipedia page points out that he has “quickly developed the beginnings of a strong coaching tree.”
Three of his former assistants (Cuonzo Martin—Tennessee; Rick Ray—Mississippi State; and Paul Lusk—Missouri State) are now leading their own Division I programs.
Chris Mack took over the Xavier hoops program in 2009 when Sean Miller left to be the head coach at Arizona. In the four seasons since Mack moved down to the first chair on the bench, the Musketeers have posted an impressive 90-44 record and made it to the NCAA tournament three times.
In his first season, Mack was named the 2009-10 Basketball Times Rookie Coach of the Year. Xavier men’s basketball Wikipedia page notes that he is “the first Xavier head coach to lead the Musketeers to the NCAA Sweet 16 in his first season at the helm.”
Mack already has conference skins on the wall, winning the A-10 regular season in both 2010 and 2011. He was selected as the conference Coach of the Year in his second season.
Until Gregg Marshall led Wichita State to this year’s Final Four, not too many sports fans knew much about him. But as the Shockers shocked the world, we all became much more familiar with one of the best kept secrets in college hoops.
In 15 years of head coaching, Marshall has already won 333 games. At Winthrop, his Eagles went 194-83, making it to the NCAA tournament in seven of nine seasons. At WSU, he has posted a 139-70 mark and has won the 2011 NIT.
Marshall has consistently been recognized among his peers, winning conference coach of the year awards six times (Big South—1999, 2003, 2005, 2007; Missouri Valley—2012, 2013).
Before Dana Altman was hired to be the Oregon basketball coach in 2010, he had moderate success at Marshall and Kansas State. He established himself as one of the best mid-major coaches in the country in his 16 seasons at Creighton, where he posted a 327-176 record.
Since coming to Eugene, Altman has moved the program forward every season. In 2010-11, the Ducks went 21-18 and won the College Basketball Invitational. The following season, Oregon went 24-10, advancing to the NIT quarterfinals.
This past year, Altman’s army won the Pac-12 tournament, but they were only given a No. 12 seed on Selection Sunday. This only seemed to motivate this talented bunch that reeled off two wins on the opening week of March Madness, surprisingly getting through to the Sweet 16.
Altman has accomplished a rare feat: He has won a conference coach of the year award in each of the four leagues that he has served (SoCon—1990; Big Eight—1993; Missouri Valley—2001,2002; Pac-12—2013.
Even though his teams simply know how to win, Altman still does his work in near anonymity.
Even though Jim Larranaga is unassuming and down-to-earth, he has proven year after year that he is one of the finest college hoops coaches in the country. He is not a flashy dresser or a colorful personality. He simply knows how to get the best out of his players and put them into a good position to be successful.
Larranaga has had two flourishing seasons at Miami, but this last year was one for the record books. Not only did the Canes go 29-7 but they also won both the ACC regular season title and the league tournament.
Before coming to South Beach, Larranaga had quite the run at George Mason. In 14 seasons, the Patriots went 273-164. The 2006 season was the pinnacle of their success when they made a magical March Madness run, advancing all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.
Buzz Williams has had exceptional success (122-54) during his five years as the head coach at Marquette. The Golden Eagles have won at least 22 games each season, and they have made it to the NCAA tournament every year. In those five March Madness appearances, Marquette has advanced to the Sweet 16 twice and made it to the Elite Eight this past season.
You would think that, with a record like this, Williams would be one of the most highly regarded coaches in the Big East. But, when you are going up against and constantly compared to coaching icons such as Rich Pitino and Jim Boeheim, it’s hard to carve out your own place of prominence.
As the new Big East begins, Williams will have a better chance to establish himself as one of top sideline leaders in this newly forming league. He deserves much more acclaim than he’s received thus far. Maybe that will happen in his second five years in Milwaukee.