Kentucky Basketball: Power Ranking the Top Wildcats Coaches Ever
The history of University of Kentucky men's basketball runs deep.
It is the program with the most wins in college basketball, both in terms of victories (2,052) and winning percentage (.760).
Kentucky leads all schools in total NCAA tournament appearances with 51, is tied with North Carolina in NCAA tournament victories with 105 and ranks second to UCLA in NCAA championships with seven.
Over the last 80 years, the Wildcats have had only seven head coaches. To compare, in the same time period, North Carolina has had 11 coaches, Indiana has had 10 and Kansas has also had seven.
The following is a Kentucky Wildcats head coach power ranking for the last eight decades.
We will look at their overall records, their conference titles, their tournament appearances and their number of NCAA championships—their "Lexington Legacies."
7. Billy Gillispie
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UK Record: 40-27 (59.7 percent), two years—2007-2009
Overall Record (College): 140-85 (62.2 percent)—seven years
Alma Mater (Year): Texas State (1983)
Hometown: Graford, Texas
Born: November 7, 1959
Billy Gillispie, in spite of having success at both UTEP and Texas A&M, had a tough go of it in Lexington.
Gillispie's first season got off to a horrible start, being upended 84-68 by the unranked Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs in Rupp Arena in the second game of the season.
After this shocking loss, the Wildcats did not return to the Top 25 the rest of the 2007-08 season.
Kentucky opened the 2008-09 season with another embarrassing home loss, this time to the VMI Keydets, 111-103.
The Wildcats finished the year with a disappointing 8-8 record in conference and 22-14 overall. The record tied for the second-most losses ever in the program's history.
Gillispie was fired in the days immediately following his second season as head coach at Kentucky.
6. Eddie Sutton
UK Record: 88-39 (69.3 percent), four years—1985-89
Overall Record (College): 804-327 (71.1 percent)—36 years
Alma Mater (Year): Oklahoma A&M (1958)
Hometown: Bucklin, Kan.
Born: March 12, 1936
Must have been an Eddie Sutton fan that put together the photo layout, because Sutton's time in Lexington is rarely considered a success.
His four years as Wildcats head coach were uneven. In his first season, the Wildcats went 32-4 and made it to the Elite Eight. His second season, UK dropped to 18-11.
In Sutton's third year, the Wildcats went 25-5, advancing to the Sweet 16. However, Kentucky had to vacate this year's SEC regular-season and tournament titles, as well as its NCAA tournament appearance, after Eric Manuel was found to be academically ineligible.
On top of that, Kentucky was rocked by a major recruiting scandal brought on by Sutton and his staff that left the program on NCAA probation.
5. John Calipari
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UK Record: 64-12 (84.2 percent), two years—2009-present
Overall Record (College): 509-151 (77.1 percent)—19 years
Alma Mater (Year): Clarion State (1982)
Hometown: Moon Township, Pennsylvania
Born: February 10, 1959
In his two years as Kentucky's head coach, John Calipari has been able to bring in more top talent than just about any coach at any school in any time.
The problem is that they haven't stuck around for very long.
As Coach Cal hit the ground in Lexington, he was instantly making announcements about the elite-level recruits that would be coming to campus.
Those young 'Cats, combined with the existing players, delivered a 35-3 record and the school's 44th SEC regular-season championship. In the NCAA tournament, Kentucky made it to the Elite Eight.
Unfortunately, almost all of Calipari's top players entered the NBA draft, forcing him to pull off another major recruiting coup.
And that's exactly what he did: He pulled in the nation's top recruiting class.
In his second season, Calipari's 'Cats grabbed a 22-8 regular-season record, winning their second consecutive SEC tournament championship.
Kentucky fans are waiting to find out which, if any, of the three current players who have entered the draft will be returning.
But Calipari has won big on the recruiting trail AGAIN, signing the best class for next season.
If Calipari wins an NCAA championship in Lexington, he will move up this list.
4. Joe B. Hall
UK Record: 297-100 (74.8 percent), 13 years—1972-85
Overall Record: 373-156 (70.5 percent)—19 years
Alma Mater (Year): Kentucky (1955)
Hometown: Cynthiana, Ky.
Born: Nov. 30, 1928
Joe B. Hall knows what it's like to try to fill some monstrously huge shoes.
Hall had the undesirable task of following the legendary Adolph Rupp, who was forced to retire at age 70.
Hall, a former Rupp assistant, met the challenge head on, coaching three teams to the Final Four (1975, '78 and '84) and winning the 1978 NCAA championship.
Hall is one of only three men to win an NCAA championship as a player (1949, Kentucky) and coach (1978, Kentucky). The only others to achieve this feat are Bob Knight and Dean Smith.
3. Orlando "Tubby" Smith
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UK Record: 263-83 (76.0 percent), 10 years—1997-2007
Overall Record (College): 467-198 (70.2 percent)—20 years
Alma Mater (Year): High Point (N.C.) (1973)
Hometown: Scotland, Md.
Born: June 30, 1951
Smith had high expectations to meet from day one as Kentucky's head coach, as he followed the successful run of Rick Pitino.
The Wildcats were at the pinnacle of the basketball world at the time, having won a national title in 1996 and played in the national title game in 1997.
However, Smith didn't fold under the pressure. He delivered.
In his first season as head coach of UK, he coached the Wildcats to their seventh NCAA men's Division I basketball championship,
During the rest of his time leading Kentucky, the Wildcats won five SEC crowns and five SEC tournament titles, with six Sweet 16 finishes in his 10 seasons.
2. Rick Pitino
UK Record: 219-50 (81.4 percent), eight years—1989-97
Overall Record (College): 572-210 (73.1 percent)—25 years
Alma Mater (Year): Massachusetts (1974)
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Born: Sept. 18, 1952
Rick Pitino took two years to get Kentucky going (a decent 36-20 in his first two seasons), but once he did, the Wildcats were ready to win and win big.
In the next six years, Pitino's UK teams were a super-impressive 183-30 (85.9 percent). They made it to the Elite Eight twice, the Final Four once, finished the runner-up once and won the NCAA championship once (1995-96).
This was Kentucky's first NCAA championship in 18 years.
Pitino holds the distinction of being the first coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to a Final Four.
1. Adolph Rupp
UK and Overall Record: 876-190 (82.2 percent), 41 seasons—1930-72
Alma Mater (Year): Kansas (1923)
Hometown: Halstead, Kan.
Born: Sept. 2, 1901
Died: Dec. 11, 1977 (age 76)
Adolph Rupp was, without a doubt, the greatest coach in Kentucky basketball history.
He had the most victories of any college coach, finishing with 876 wins when he retired in 1972, a mark that stood for 25 years until North Carolina's Dean Smith moved ahead of him in 1997.
He is still fourth in overall wins, behind Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Smith.
Rupp is also second in all-time winning percentage (82.2 percent), trailing only Clair Bee (82.6 percent).
Among the many UK victories were four NCAA titles (1948, '49, '51 and '58), one NIT championship (1946) and 27 Southeastern Conference titles.
Rupp's coaching career was cut short, having been forced into retirement in March 1972 after reaching the age of 70, the mandatory retirement age for all University of Kentucky employees at the time.