Ranking the Top 25 Coaches in College Basketball Today

Joe DiglioCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Coaches in College Basketball Today

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    For better or worse, coaches are often the faces of college programs. Unlike players, who stay only for a few years, coaches can create longer legacies in the college game.

    That being said, which current college basketball coaches boast the strongest legacies? How do some of the younger, rising stars compare to the more established coaches?

    Here is a list of the 25 best coaches in college basketball today, looking at both recent accomplishments and career totals.

     

25. Steve Alford

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    Career Record: 463-235

    NCAA Tournament: Sweet Sixteen (best finish)

    Although New Mexico fans may be bitter that Steve Alford bolted for UCLA, you can’t ignore what he achieved with the Lobos.

    He won at least 22 games in each of his six seasons there, taking the Lobos to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four seasons. In those three years, his teams won 28, 29 and 30 games.

    Where Alford needs to improve is in March, as he won only two tournament games in New Mexico.

     

24. Buzz Williams

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    Career Record: 136-71

    NCAA Tournament: Elite Eight (best finish)

    Like Alford at New Mexico, Buzz Williams has achieved solid consistency at Marquette, winning at least 22 games in each of his five seasons.

    However Williams boasts more postseason success. After two Sweet Sixteen appearances in 2011 and 2012, he inched one game closer to the Final Four, falling just short in the Elite Eight in 2013.

     

23. Sean Miller

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    Career Record: 216-90

    NCAA Tournament: Elite Eight (best finish)

    Sean Miller has had success with teams both in and out of major conferences, bringing both Arizona and Xavier to within one game of the Final Four.

    He has also shown his ability to recruit lately at Arizona, landing top-10 classes each of the last three seasons, according to ESPN. 

22. Bo Ryan

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    Career Record: 672-216

    NCAA Tournament: Elite Eight (best finish)

    Although Bo Ryan grew up and played basketball in Pennsylvania, he is a Wisconsin coach through and through. After getting his head coaching start at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville (where he won four national championships), he moved up to Wisconsin-Milwaukee before landing at Wisconsin, where he has been for the past 12 seasons.

    Ryan brought his unique style of play to Madison, slowing things down and forcing opponents to play at his tempo. He has taken the Badgers to the second weekend of the tournament five times, but is still searching for his first Final Four appearance.

     

21. Mark Few

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    Career Record: 374-93

    NCAA Tournament: Sweet Sixteen (best finish)

    Under Mark Few, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been a model of consistency, winning the West Coast Conference regular-season or tournament championship in 11 of his 12 seasons in Spokane.

    The Bulldogs reached their pinnacle last season, winning 32 games and earning a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

    Few’s teams have averaged nearly 27 wins per year. If he maintains that average, he should get to 400 career wins by the end of this season.

     

20. Mike Montgomery

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    Career Record: 653-306

    NCAA Tournament one Final Four

    Mike Montgomery’s best days as a coach up to this point were in the previous few decades when he took Stanford to a Final Four and Elite Eight.

    However, he has maintained a respectable program at California, producing four 20-win seasons.

    Montgomery also has more experience than any coach mentioned so far, and he is sixth in career wins among active coaches.

     

19. Jay Wright

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    Career Record: 379-229

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    After leading Hofstra to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, Jay Wright went to Villanova, where he has since led the Wildcats to the Final Four and Elite Eight on separate occasions.

    Wright’s program has fallen on harder times since making the final weekend in 2009, winning only one tournament game since then in three appearances.

    Villanova missed the postseason entirely after a losing season in 2011-12, but Wright turned them around quickly, winning 20 games last season and returning to the tournament.

     

18. John Thompson III

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    Career Record: 277-130

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    John Thompson III got his start at Princeton, but it wasn’t long until he took over at Georgetown, bringing the Princeton-style offense with him.

    Although JT3 hasn’t achieved as much success as his dad did with the Hoyas up this point, his does have a Final Four appearance to his name. Unfortunately, this has been followed by subsequent March failures, as the Hoyas have bowed out to double-digit seeds in each of the last four tournaments.

     

17. Bruce Weber

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    Career Record: 340-163

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    While Bruce Weber has yet to achieve the same postseason success at Kansas State that previous head coach Frank Martin has, he did something in one season that Martin couldn’t do in five: win at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship.

    Of course, Weber does have postseason experience, having led Illinois to the championship game in 2005.

     

16. Tom Crean

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    Career Record: 274-178

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    Tom Crean (and Dwyane Wade) took Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, and Crean kept winning consistently after that. But he left in 2008 to take over an Indiana program that had been disgraced by former head coach Kelvin Sampson.

    Crean struggled through the first three seasons, during which the Hoosiers were under probation. But the past two seasons have been a revival for one of college basketball’s more storied programs. Crean has brought Indiana to consecutive Sweet Sixteens, and while the second one may have been disappointing given the team’s No. 1 seed, he has reestablished the Hoosiers as top team.

     

    Tom Crean (and Dwyane Wade) took Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, and Crean kept winning consistently after that. But he left in 2008 to take over an Indiana program that had been disgraced by former head coach Kelvin Sampson.

    Crean struggled through the first three seasons, during which the Hoosiers were under probation. But the past two seasons have been a revival for one college basketball’s more storied programs. Crean has brought Indiana to consecutive Sweet Sixteens, and while the second one may have been disappointing given the team’s No. 1 seed, he has reestablished the Hoosiers as top team.

15. Gregg Marshall

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    Career Record: 333-153

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    Last season’s Wichita State team, which made the Final Four and won 30 games, put Gregg Marshall on the map.

    But it only confirmed his place as one of the country’s best coaches. Marshall’s coming-out party followed a regular-season championship of the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA Tournament berth the previous year, and an NIT championship the year before that.

    Marshall also had success at his previous position at Winthrop. He is responsible for seven of the program’s nine NCAA Tournament appearances, as well as its only NCAA Tournament win.

    Last season’s Wichita State team, which made the Final Four and won 30 games, put Gregg Marshall on the map.

    But it only confirmed his place as one of the country’s best coaches. Marshall’s coming out party followed a regular season championship of the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA Tournament berth the previous year, and an NIT championship the year before that.

    Marshall also had success at his previous position at Winthrop. He is responsible for seven of the program’s nine NCAA Tournament appearances, as well as it’s only NCAA Tournament win.

14. Shaka Smart

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    Career Record: 111-36

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    Another coach to lead a mid-major school to a Final Four, Shaka Smart has managed three NCAA Tournament berths in just four seasons as a head coach.

    He first led the VCU Rams from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011 and has since followed it up with two more postseason appearances.

    While Smart’s teams have managed to win only one game in each of the last two tournaments, his overall record speaks for itself. He has never won fewer than 27 games or tallied double-digit losses in a season.

    Another coach to lead a mid-major school to a Final Four, Shaka Smart has managed three NCAA Tournament berths in just four seasons as a head coach.

    He first led the VCU Rams from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011, but has since followed it up with two more postseason appearances.

    While Smart’s teams have managed to win only one game in each of the last two tournaments, his overall record speaks for itself: He has never won fewer than 27 games or tallied double-digit losses in a season.

13. Jim Larranaga

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    Career Record: 519-354

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    Jim Larranaga is in a similar boat as Marshall and Smart, but he tops the other two for two reasons.

    First, he was able to couple his mid-major Final Four (with George Mason in 2006) with success at a program in a power conference, leading Miami to an ACC regular-season and conference tournament title and a Sweet Sixteen finish.

    Second, his longevity gives him better overall numbers, as he has amassed over 500 wins in his career.

     

     

    Jim Larranaga is in a similar boat as Marshall and Smart, but he tops the other two for two reasons.

    First, he was able to couple his mid-major Final Four (with George Mason in 2006) with success at a program in a power conference, leading Miami to an ACC regular season and conference tournament title and a Sweet Sixteen finish.

    Second, his longevity gives him better overall numbers, as he has amassed over 500 wins in his career.

12. Bob Huggins

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    Career Record: 719-279

    NCAA Tournament: two Final Fours

    Huggins ranks third in wins among active coaches and has taken two different schools, Cincinnati and West Virginia, to the Final Four.

    The Mountaineers have slipped each season since 2010, suffering their first losing season under Huggins last year, their first in the Big 12.  However, expect them to bounce back with what ESPN has called the 20th-best incoming recruiting class in the country, including the second-best class in the conference.

     

11. Steve Fisher

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    Career Record: 441-237

    NCAA Tournament: one national championship, three Final Fours (two vacated)

    The record books have been both kind and harsh to Steve Fisher. The latter two of his three Final Four appearances (all with Michigan) have been vacated because of the Ed Martin scandal.

    But the first one, which led to a national championship, is credited to Fisher despite him coaching only in the NCAA Tournament. He served as an assistant under Bill Frieder during the regular season and only stepped in when Frieder left for the job at Arizona State.

    Since then, Fisher has taken San Diego State from a 5-23 record his first season to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, making the Sweet Sixteen in 2011.

     

10. John Beilein

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    Career Record: 598-360

    NCAA Tournament: one Final Four

    John Beilein got his start at Division III Nazareth, and after stints at LeMoyne, Canisius and Richmond, he has led two major programs in West Virginia and Michigan.

    Beilein has managed one great tournament each with the Mountaineers and Wolverines, taking West Virginia to the Elite Eight in 2005 and losing last season's title game with Michigan.

    Although Beilein's postseason successes have been somewhat few and far between, his experience puts him in a good position historically, as he will soon win his 600th career collegiate game and already has 415 wins on the Division I level.

     

9. Thad Matta

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    Career Record: 352-104

    NCAA Tournament: two Final Fours

    Thad Matta has made the NCAA Tournament in 11 of his 13 seasons as a Division I head coach, including his first and only season at Butler and all three at Xavier. The two misses came in 2005, when Ohio State was ineligible, and 2008, when the Buckeyes won the NIT.

    Otherwise, Matta has been consistently solid. He brought Xavier to the Elite Eight in 2004 and Ohio State to two Final Fours, including one national championship game appearance.

    Gregg Marshall and Wichita State denied Matta consecutive Final Fours this past March, but he and his Buckeyes have still been extremely impressive as of late. Over the last four seasons, Matta's teams have averaged nearly 31 wins per year, culminating in two Sweet Sixteens, one Elite Eight and one Final Four.

     

8. John Calipari

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    Career Record: 526-162

    NCAA Tournament: one national championship, four Final Fours (two vacated)

    Yes, John Calipari has had two of his four Final Fours vacated, but that still leaves him with two Final Fours and one national championship to his name.

    Plus, it doesn't erase the fact that he is the best recruiter the game has ever seen. His ability to succeed wherever he has coached is a testament to that.

     

    Yes, John Calipari has had two of his four Final Fours vacated, but that still leaves him with two Final Fours and one national championship to his name.

    Plus, it doesn't erase the fact that he is the best recruiter the game has ever seen. His ability to succeed wherever he has coached is a testament to that.

7. Bill Self

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    Career Record: 507-164

    NCAA Tournament: one national championship, two Final Fours

    Bill Self brought Kansas its first national championship in 20 years when he won it all in 2008. He has one other Final Four to his name, reaching the 2012 title game.

    But what stands out to me about Self is his consistency. At the beginning of the millennium, he took two different schools, Tulsa and Illinois, to the Elite Eight in consecutive years. And as of late, he's done nothing but win games in Lawrence, producing 30-win seasons each of the past four years and six of the last seven.

    If Self coaches another 15 years and stays close to that kind of pace, he'll win at least 900 games.

     

6. Billy Donovan

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    Career Record: 450-186

    NCAA Tournament: two national championships, three Final Fours

    After reaching the title game with Florida in 2000, Billy Donovan broke through in 2006, going on to coach the country's first back-to-back national champions in 15 years.

    Donovan hasn't been back to the Final Four since, but has come agonizingly close, reaching the Elite Eight each of the last three seasons. At his current rate, he should reach 500 wins by the 2014 season, when he will be 50 years old.

     

5. Tom Izzo

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    Career Record: 437-176

    NCAA Tournament: one national championship, six Final Fours

    Unlike someone along the lines of Calipari, Tom Izzo may not always get the best players. But with the ones he does have, he instills in them his unique style of coaching which is predicated on defense, rebounding and toughness.

    Izzo's best stretch was from 1999 to 2001 when he sandwiched a national championship between two other Final Four appearances. He also has the distinction of getting to the final weekend so often that every four-year player he recruited has made at least one Final Four.

    Izzo's only drawback is that because of his late start (he became a head coach at the age of 40), he is unlikely to finish near the top of the all-time wins chart.

4. Rick Pitino

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    Career Record: 664-239

    NCAA Tournament: two national championships, seven Final Fours

    Rick Pitino distanced himself from Izzo this April when he won his second national championship. Discounting Calipari's vacated Final Fours also makes Pitino the only coach to go there with three different schools, which he did with Providence, Kentucky and Louisville.

    Pitino, whose Basketball Hall of Fame induction was announced en route to Louisville's 2013 championship, has now firmly cemented himself as one of the all-time coaching legends.

    Rick Pitino distanced himself from Izzo this April when he won his second national championship. Discounting Calipari's vacated Final Fours also makes Pitino the only coach to go there with three different schools, which he did with Providence, Kentucky and Louisville.

    Pitino, whose Basketball Hall of Fame induction was announced en route to Louisville's 2013 championship, has now firmly cemented himself as one of the all-time coaching legends.

3. Jim Boeheim

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    Career Record: 920-313

    NCAA Tournament: one national championship, four Final Fours

    Jim Boeheim has the most modest postseason success of the best five coaches on this list with four Final Fours and one national title. However, his career totals make up for the difference.

    He sits second on the all-time wins list, and has the most wins by any coach at a single school. Boeheim's 35 20-win seasons are also a record; only twice has he failed to do so in his 37-year coaching career.

     

2. Roy Williams

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    Career Record: 700-180

    NCAA Tournament: two national championships, seven Final Fours

    Roy Williams and Pitino have identical postseason marks of two national championships and seven Final Fours, yet one ranks fourth and the other second.

    Williams is ahead of Pitino because he has 46 more victories despite coaching fewer seasons. And while neither will likely catch Boeheim in wins because of their age, Williams has managed a better winning percentage than Boeheim.

     

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    Roy Williams and Pitino have identical postseason marks of two national championships and seven Final Fours, yet one ranks fourth and the second.

    Williams is ahead of Pitino because he has 46 more victories despite coaching fewer seasons. And while neither will likely catch Boeheim in wins because of their age, Williams has managed a better winning percentage than Boeheim.

1. Mike Krzyzewski

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    Career Record: 957-297

    NCAA Tournament: four national championships, 11 Final Fours

    Who else? Mike Krzyzewski has the best of both worlds, winning more games and national titles than any other active coach. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that Krzyzewski also has the most NCAA Tournament wins with 82.

    Krzyzewski is one of just three active coaches to reach the Final Four in four different decades, along with Boeheim and Pitino. Speaking of Boeheim, just to compare the two winningest coaches: I mentioned Boeheim's consistency record of 20-win seasons, but Krzyzewski excels at leading truly great teams, reaching 30 wins an astounding 12 times.

    Debate the rest of the list all you want, but Krzyzewski is at the top and there's no doubt about it.