The 10 Most Animated Coaches in College Basketball Today
As if college basketball isn't entertaining enough by itself, several of its most recognizable coaches do a superb job of adding to the festivities. With the right men on the sideline, the on-court action can become secondary to the real show.
The coach's home fans love to watch him get fired up. The opponents love to make fun of the outrage. Television highlight producers love that their jobs are made so much easier thanks to the dancing, screaming and meltdown footage. Everybody wins.
These 10 tightly wound coaches mostly win, as well as entertaining while doing so.
10. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
Pictured: Bruce Weber attempting to raise the roof shortly before his players had to tell him, "Coach, people stopped doin' that in, like, 2005."
A 2005 New York Times profile on Weber begins with the observation that a preteen Bruce had surgery to remove polyps from his throat. The doctor's subsequent advice was not to enter a career that required much public speaking or yelling.
Those instructions were obviously very well heeded, indeed.
Weber will employ that gravelly voice to great effect, both in working the referees and in motivating his own troops.
The Wildcats were on both ends of epic comebacks in Weber's first season. A pivotal win over Florida was almost blown after KSU gave away a double-digit lead, but K-State hung on for the win.
In the NCAA tournament, Kansas State went down 18 to La Salle but rallied to lead with less than three minutes left. While La Salle would finish off the victory, K-State's comeback was impressive merely in that it happened.
Compared to Weber's KSU predecessor Frank Martin, just about anybody would look docile and mild-mannered. Weber surprised his new players by actually getting himself ejected from a game during a summer tournament in Brazil.
From there, the Wildcats took their coach's motivation all the way to a piece of the Big 12 title.
9. Dan Hurley, Rhode Island
Either Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley is highly fired up about a terrible call, or someone just spoiled the ending of Breaking Bad's series finale.
Hurley's first season at URI contained plenty of chances to get cranky. The Rams lost 21 games in his inaugural campaign, compared to his 22 losses in two years at Wagner or 21 in nine years at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey.
The son of a legendary high school coach, and the equally fiery Bob Hurley, Dan once compared his brand of sideline mayhem to his father's. At the time, Dan admitted to spending too much time working the refs, while his father reserved more heat for his own players. (h/t MassLive.com)
In a January 2013 meeting with Fordham, Hurley spent much of the afternoon in such a rage that one writer accused him of "attempting to provoke Fordham coach Tom Pecora." More likely, Hurley was asking the officials for clarification on several of the 27 fouls that were called on URI that day.
It's been a long time, though, since we've seen a good coaching scrap, so maybe someone was hoping for more fire behind the smoke.
While Dan Hurley's likely not the guy who'll throw down with his counterpart (I've got Morehead State's Sean Woods in that particular pool), it's unlikely he'll mellow on berating the zebras any time soon.
8. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Sure, Jim Boeheim sometimes saves his best stuff for press conferences. While it's not the excitement level that he usually brings to the sideline, witness his slow burn and strong smackdown on this offending microphone.
Still, the referees don't escape for a minute. Boeheim doesn't go into apoplectic rages at the striped shirts, but he's still in their ears from tip-off to buzzer.
A technical foul in a 2012 NCAA tournament loss to Ohio State was his first in nearly 18 months, emblematic of Boeheim's usual style. He's less of a raging tsunami than a slow drip, needling the officials relentlessly instead of charging in swinging his sword.
For better or worse, though, Internet trolls like Boeheim "animated" in GIF form—especially when TV cameramen and photographers catch him digging for nose gold. To our knowledge, he has never offered to share it with the townspeople.
7. Frank Martin, South Carolina
Pictured: Frank Martin putting everything he's got into a karaoke rendition of "Stop! In the Name of Love."
Winning occasionally soothed Martin's inner savage beast at Kansas State, where four of his five seasons ended in the NCAA tournament. His current rebuilding project at South Carolina, conversely, has led to moments of greater stress.
Witness the scathing comments Martin unleashed on his own team following a February loss to LSU. Among other things, he suggested his players be cast in a zombie movie and unfavorably compared his team to 14-year-olds he had led as a high school coach.
Martin's fire and intensity can occasionally scare off recruits, but a Sporting News profile from early last season suggests that those same traits can draw some players in. His sideline raving also makes him one of the nation's most entertaining television views.
6. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
A coach has to have serious passion to win the way Tom Izzo does.
Michigan State doesn't draw the one-and-done megastars stopping in college long enough to grab a cup of coffee and attend four classes. MSU hasn't had a class ranked higher than 11th in Rivals' rankings since 2003, the first year those rankings were published.
The fire that has driven MSU to six Final Fours is Izzo's, and it passes down to the players. The 2013 tournament saw best friends Keith Appling and Derrick Nix nearly come to blows in a huddle. Of all things for a coach to simply shrug about, that was one for Izzo.
And perhaps firing up his team to make another Final Four?
5. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
The man who is sometimes graced with the deceptive sobriquet "Huggy Bear" is the third coach on our list to ply his trade at Kansas State. If not for the fact that Bob Huggins already had a reputation as a hothead, we'd think there was something in the water in Manhattan.
Huggins is another coach whose persistent anger serves to stoke the fire in his teams. Whether at Akron, Cincinnati or West Virginia, any of his teams given long enough to learn under him have been among the hardest-playing squads in America.
His players have learned to put out maximum effort or face a benching, no matter their stats. Of course, the benching is nothing compared to the difficulties those players would face in practice the next day.
Former WVU forward Deniz Kilicli told the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review, “Every day is like an army camp. You go in there knowing you’re going to get your butt chewed.”
And those are the players that he works with every day and comes to love. Imagine how the referees feel when they arrive for work.
4. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Those who like Mike Krzyzewski call him "intense."
Those who don't? Well, they call him things that we can't publish here.
The scowling face and the berating of the officials reach the TV airwaves with every call that goes against the Blue Devils. The legion of Duke haters reach a joyful state of bliss when given opportunities to mock the "Coach K Face," such as this one from Virginia's win over the Devils in March.
Krzyzewski's hard-driving style may soon begin to wear on the modern player, the one-and-done concerned with his place in the NBA. The players who come to Duke ready to work, however, will find a coach ready to work for them, no matter how many referees or media members he needs to irritate in the process.
Sometime in the 2014-15 season, Krzyzewski will become the first men's college basketball coach to reach 1,000 victories. All the wheedling, whining, working the officials—whatever you choose to call it—has taken Coach K farther than anyone in the history of the game.
A man who harbored a burning obsession to win at "Angry Birds," after all, is one who will drive himself relentlessly to get back to the Final Four every year.
3. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Pictured: Bo Ryan potentially threatening to do something unspeakable to the photographer and his camera.
There's always a possibility that Ryan will lose his mind at least once a game. Rival fanbases love to compile Bo's greatest faces into photo collages like this one at GopherHole.com.
Here's the great paradox of Ryan and his era at Wisconsin: An old-school coach whose teams win by emphasizing a largely methodical offense is perfect for the Internet.
After all, his reactions to calls are tailor-made for GIFs both with and without hellfire and brimstone burning around him. His reaction to a last-second loss against Michigan State in January 2012 will live forever on YouTube.
Ryan doesn't exactly enjoy cuddly relationships with his Big Ten counterparts, either. Both Tom Crean and Tom Izzo waste little time on pleasantries after a battle with the Badgers, especially if Indiana and Michigan State have just tasted defeat.
It's happened to IU quite a bit in the Crean era, 10 straight times to be exact. Just saying.
2. Thad Matta, Ohio State
It's easy to watch an Ohio State game in a bar or any other place where you can't hear the announcers. When a foul is called against the Buckeyes, or OSU is facing a substantial deficit, coach Thad Matta can often be seen turning a shade of red usually reserved for fire trucks, freshly boiled lobsters or Ohio State's own uniforms.
The video at left documents one of Matta's more recent and infamous outbursts, unleashed on big man Evan Ravenel late in a tight game against Northwestern.
Ravenel nearly drew a technical foul for a loss of composure, so his coach let him see what a real loss of composure looks like. The rest of the Buckeyes drew motivation from the explosion, allowing Northwestern only four points in the final four minutes to salt away a victory.
To his credit, Ravenel stood and took it like a veteran.
Even a star like Deshaun Thomas wasn't immune to a Matta mauling. Thomas absorbed a tirade at the start of OSU's Big Ten tournament game against Nebraska when the Huskers got out to an early lead. He went on to score 19 points in an OSU win.
Like so many other screaming coaches, Matta gets his players' attention with a well-timed rant. It's not a style that works for everyone, but most of Matta's Buckeyes seem to understand.
1. Buzz Williams, Marquette
Pictured: Marquette coach Buzz Williams clutching his head to ensure it doesn't explode like the guy in "Scanners."
Williams is a one-man assembly line for YouTube and GIF gold. It takes a man who does not take himself the slightest bit seriously to produce the kind of entertainment that Williams has bestowed upon us all.
There's the classic "Walk It Out" from 2010.
From 2011, Marquette athletics shared with the world a classic Buzz Williams karaoke session. The coach takes a markdown for confusing Beyonce with Alicia Keys and Bon Jovi with Boston.
Then, there's 2012's dance on West Virginia's midcourt logo. The Mountaineers' student section did not appreciate Williams' misappropriation of their "Country Roads" anthem, and threatened to rip him limb from limb live on ESPN. WVU showed its displeasure by...bolting for the Big 12? (Perhaps the two stories were unrelated.)
We could go on like this for awhile, but the point is that Williams makes every Marquette game worth watching. Whether the team is entertaining or not, the coach is almost always just that.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.
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