College Basketball Coaches Who Added Most to Their Legacy in 2014

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2014

College Basketball Coaches Who Added Most to Their Legacy in 2014

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    College basketball coaches get paid lots of money, and those big salaries are usually tied to wins and losses.

    Division, conference and national championships get thrown into the mix as well, but those accomplishments are necessarily realistic for all of the roughly 350 guys running Division I programs.

    But beyond just the win-loss record and end-of-season rankings, coaches who consistently put together great years start to develop a legacy that they become known for, even when they don't end up on top. It's why Mike Krzyzewski will continue to be considered one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history even when his highly talented teams get upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament twice in three years.

    There were 10 coaches in particular whose exploits during the 2013-14 season helped enhance their legacies. Whether they've been around for a long time or are just starting out, what they did this year will help define what they're known for decades from now.

    Here's our look at 10 coaches who added the most to their legacies in 2014.

Rick Barnes, Texas

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    Rick Barnes' 15th season at Texas began with questions about how hot his seat was and whether he could turn the Longhorns around quickly enough to remain in Austin.

    It ended with Barnes earning Big 12 Coach of the Year honors after finishing tied for third in the league, and then getting Texas into the Round of 32 after missing the NCAA tournament the year before.

    Barnes got an underrated squad to play better than anyone could have expected this season, with unheralded freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor leading the way. After a 16-18 record in 2012-13, the Longhorns went 22-9, beating Arizona State on a buzzer-beater in the NCAA tourney before falling to Michigan.

    It was the closest Texas has looked in a while to the program that made the Elite Eight in two of three seasons from 2006 to 2008.

Tony Bennett, Virginia

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    Tony Bennett parlayed the accolades of being able to get a basketball wasteland like Washington State into the Sweet 16 into a much sweeter gig, but it had been a very slow and methodical progression during his first four years at Virginia.

    Bennett's plan finally reaped results this season, as the Cavaliers won the ACC title outright for the first time since the early 1980s. Virginia also won the ACC tournament to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995.

    Using a style that was sometimes criticized for being as plodding and deliberate when it was really more of a patient and calculated attack, Virginia was among the best defensive teams in the nation and had a slew of players willing to share the ball and the rewards.

    It was the same way Tony's father, Dick Bennett, gained success at various stops in Wisconsin, including getting the Badgers into the 2000 Final Four. Tony looks headed in that same direction if he sticks to his plan, which seems like a safe bet.

Larry Brown, SMU

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    As if he needed to do anything else to add polish to his sparkling legacy, Larry Brown showed once again he could turn around any team if he puts his mind to it.

    The 73-year-old Brown, who is already in the basketball Hall of Fame and has both NBA and NCAA titles under his belt, turned SMU from a doormat into a viable contender in his second season in Dallas. A relatively weak schedule and a late slide kept the Mustangs from making their first NCAA tournament since 1993, but  Brown did get his team to the NIT Finals where it fell to Minnesota.

    Brown also showed he still has pull on the recruiting trail, landing No. 2 overall prospect Emmanuel Mudiay, a 6'5" Dallas-area stud of a point guard who picked SMU over Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky.

    Brown has a reputation for not staying very long at a job—SMU is his 13th head-coaching gig since 1972—but for however long he sticks with SMU that program is sure to keep rising.

Steve Fisher, San Diego State

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    Steve Fisher has quietly put together one of the country's most consistently solid programs, one that arguably has been the best in California for the past decade, as schools like California, Stanford and UCLA have gone up and down.

    He's already been credited with resuscitating an SDSU program that was at the bottom of the barrel when he arrived in 1999. But what Fisher has done there since 2005 has been nothing short of phenomenal.

    This year's Aztecs team wasn't supposed to be anywhere close to some of his better clubs, as evidenced by them being picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West. Instead they won the regular-season title and got into the Sweet 16 for the second time in four years.

    Fisher had a great individual player in Xavier Thames, and his development of Thames and other transfers into productive if not great players once again produced a legacy-building result.

Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

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    What Steve Fisher did with transfers at San Diego State, Fred Hoiberg has taken that approach to the next level.

    Hoiberg has been quite open about his willingness to take on players who didn't fit in well at other programs, and that strategy has seen the Cyclones improve in each of his four years at his alma mater. After making the third round in 2012 and 2013 ISU broke through to the Sweet 16 this season, its first trip there since 2000.

    While he still recruits at the high school and prep level, Hoiberg has made the most of junior college transfers and those leaving other Division I programs, with the 2013-14 team epitomizing this approach.

    Leading scorer Melvin Ejim was a four-year player for ISU, while all-around star DeAndre Kane came from Marshall and Dustin Hogue was a junior college transfer.

    Despite such a diverse group, Hoiberg didn't micromanage his team; he let his players play, and it resulted in some of the most fun-to-watch basketball in the country. It also was quite successful, though it eventually ended with a five-point loss to 2014 NCAA champ Connecticut.

Tom Izzo, Michigan State

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    Tom Izzo has it really good at Michigan State. But then again, Spartans fans have it really good with Izzo as their coach.

    Fresh off the end of his 19th season at East Lansing, the coach appears uninterested in leaving for an NBA job or some other college gig. He said as much while MSU was preparing for the Sweet 16 a few weeks ago, telling's Matt Norlander "this is part of my family. I haven't been a five-year guy. I've been a 30-year guy."

    One of the most well-regarded coaches in the game reached the Elite Eight this season despite weathering a seemingly non-stop run of injuries to star players. Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Keith Appling all missed time during the year, yet MSU still won the Big Ten tournament and was a trendy pick as a No. 4 seed to make the Final Four.

    The Spartans ultimately fell to eventual champ Connecticut one game short of that goal and while that did mean the graduating senior class would be the first under Izzo not to make a Final Four this in no way should be a sign that his career is on the way down.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

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    Gregg Marshall's Wichita State team had the best record in the country in 2013-14, but all most people are going to remember about the Shockers was that one loss.

    A year after making a surprise run to the Final Four, Wichita went unbeaten through the regular season and earned a semi-controversial No. 1 seed. The Shockers were then knocked out in the round of 32 by eventual national runner-up Kentucky in what would have been the first of a murderer's row of opponents they'd have had to go through to get back to the national semifinals.

    While the Shockers fell short of expectations, Marshall still did masterful job this season. The pressures associated with going unbeaten, especially when you're at the helm of a program that struggles for credit, could lead a team to implode. Syracuse was 25-0, then finished by losing six of nine and also falling in the round of 32.

    But WSU kept on winning, and Marshall kept on keeping the team's focus solely on the next game. The Shockers didn't lose for any reason other than they ran into a better team.


Phil Martelli, St. Joseph's

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    Always among the most colorful coaches in college basketball, Phil Martelli had more or less fallen out of the spotlight after his 2004 St. Joseph's team started 27-0, eventually reaching the Elite Eight behind future NBA players Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.

    There had been some lean years for the Hawks since then, including back-to-back 11-win seasons, but Martelli kept on plodding away at the small private school in Philadelphia. And this past year was his return to national notoriety.

    St. Joseph's finished tied for third in the Atlantic 10 but were considered an afterthought in a league with more sexy teams like Massachusetts, Saint Louis and VCU. But it was the Hawks that came out on top and won the A-10 tourney to get into the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2008.

    St. Joe's led eventual national champion UConn by five points with less than five minutes remaining in the second round before falling to the Huskies in overtime. The loss was a painful end to a great resurgence by the Hawks, but the always humble Martelli took it in stride and calmly headed back to Philly to get the ball rolling on his 20th season.

Kevin Ollie, Connecticut

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    Kevin Ollie was a darn good college player at Connecticut, and a pretty serviceable (not to mention dedicated) journeyman NBA player, but his skills as a coach were far less laudable when he was named to succeed Jim Calhoun at his alma mater in 2012.

    The move was an interim one at first, but midway through his first season he got the gig permanently as he piloted the Huskies through a trying season that included a 20-10 record and a postseason ban because of low academic progress.

    Ollie had this year's UConn team playing well early, with a win over Florida in nonconference play, but uneven play once the American Athletic Conference schedule started had the Huskies looking like just another team heading toward an early NCAA tourney exit. That was especially true after UConn lost its regular-season finale by 33 points.

    But a never-give-up attitude that enabled him to play for 12 teams in 13 NBA seasons served Ollie and his team well. This was punctuated by his declaration during a midseason trip to AT&T Stadium (in the midst of a two-game losing streak) that his team would be back there in April for the Final Four.

    Just two years into his head coaching career, Ollie has a national championship and a great start on what could be a long-lasting legacy.

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

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    With four national championships at the Division III level and more than 700 career victories, no one has ever said Bo Ryan wasn't a very good, very successful coach. He just wasn't considered an elite one because of one simple reason.

    No Final Fours.

    But that ended this season, with Wisconsin reaching the national semifinals for the first time since 2000. That was a year before Ryan took over the Badgers, and he led them into the NCAA tournament in each of his 13 seasons in Madison.

    Ryan finally got over the hump by letting his foot off the break, so to speak, and allowing his talented team to up the tempo when the situation warranted. Wisconsin's swing offense was still it's bread and butter, but with so many shooters and great ball-handlers, scoring more quickly was more of an option than in years past.

    Rather than fit square-pegged players into round-hole roles, Ryan made the adjustments himself and in turn got Wisconsin into the Final Four and got himself onto that list of elite coaches.

    And by doing so, his already solid legacy was enhanced that much more.


    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.