College Basketball: Top 15 Coaching Jobs in the Country
Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy recently started a mini Twitter war with his followers and college basketball fans in general the other day with his rankings for the Top 10 coaching jobs in college basketball. According to DeCourcy, the most important factors to consider were access to talent, tradition, support from the community and campus, facilities.
And what didn't matter to DeCourcy: recent success.
I happen to think that DeCourcy is one of the best college basketball writers in the country. But I also think his rankings are flawed. Not do I think he did a horrible job picking the teams, but I also think a lot of his placements are off.
Why? Well, for starters I don't think you can just ignore recent success when considering the best jobs. There are reasons that some schools are successful and some aren't. and it isn't always just because of who the head coach is. A lot of the factors DeCourcy mentions in fact go hand in hand with recent success, so to eliminate it completely seems a bit like someone cutting off their nose to spite their face.
And I also think DeCourcy focused a little too much on local talent. While nobody would claim they would rather be in a talent free area of the country, the fact of the matter is that recruiting is so nationalized now among the big programs and kids do so much traveling in middle and high school that it's becoming ever more rare for staying at the local school to become a huge factor in the recruiting process now.
So based upon that, I've created my own rankings of the best jobs in college basketball. And since I work 66 percent harder than most people do, I'm giving you the top 15 jobs.
15. Michigan State
Cheer up Tom, you just slid into the rankings.
I think Michigan State just makes it into the top 15 for a few reasons. For starters, Michigan has more talent than a lot of people think at first glance, and being the premier basketball school for the last 15 years or so has helped Izzo to lock down that talent on a pretty consistent basis.
This job is also in the Big Ten, which counts for a lot but especially for the money. This is a loaded conference and the schools are compensated justly. Coaches get paid, they get treated right and they usually love working in this conference.
And it's a bonus that Michigan State seems to really like to keep their coaches around...no quick firings in East Lansing. I mean, hasn't Michigan State had only two coaches in the last 100 years? Sure seems like it. And if the thought of maybe, just maybe coaching LeBron couldn't pull Izzo away, there must be something to this job.
Josh Pastner has a pretty sweet gig at Memphis.
Now I didn't say local talent doesn't matter at all, because not every program can recruit nationally on a yearly basis. For Memphis local talent matters. And they have a lot of it.
Pastner can almost field a squad that will keep him in or near the top 25 with guys from his own city every season. Memphis and the surrounding area is that loaded with talent.
And he also doesn't have to deal with the pressures of a lot of coaches at bigger programs do.
Throw in a relatively easy to win conference which should help keep him an NCAA regular and lots of corporate/Fed Ex money to provide assistance to the athletic department and you have a pretty darn good job. Definitely a top-15 job.
Jim Calhoun has turned a basketball afterthought into an absolute power, but I don't think UConn is just going to fall apart when he walks away. And that's part of the reason I think this is now a top-15 job.
After showing that you can win at a school up in the northeast, there will be a lot of coaches that would crawl up to Connecticut to take over what Calhoun has built. And there are a lot of advantages to this job that can't be overlooked.
Big East affiliation is huge, as it is widely considered the best conference in all of basketball. You have access to major markets, major recruits and if you so choose major endorsement dollars. And you basically have the entire northeast locked up for recruiting purposes as you have no real competition in your neck of the woods. And while there may not be a lot of high level recruits right next door, it's still nice to have an area that you own completely while still being able to recruit nationally.
As far as pressure, as much as UConn has won recently, it's still an under-the-radar type of program nationally and doesn't have nearly the pressure of a lot of job with similar high level accomplishments. Add in that you are basically ESPN's home school (not a bad perk) and this is a pretty plum job.
I know he's not the coach anymore, but to me Gary Williams is still the face of Maryland basketball. At least for a few more months.
As for the job, Maryland should be a much better program than they are with all of the talent surrounding them. But missing out on the Kevin Durants of the world can keep you as a mid-level achiever, which is what Maryland has traditionally been.
I can't just wipe that away like some can. There is some reason that a lot of local guys just don't want to go to Maryland, and until that changes I can't give Maryland as high of a ranking as DeCourcy did.
Still, it's a very good job. Aside from local talent, Maryland is also in a great conference and seems to have pretty good local fan and booster support. And with the federal government growing at a very fast rate and federal employees getting richer and richer, Maryland has to eventually be the beneficiary of some of that money.
Sorry, Rick, your job just missed the top 10. But have no fear because it is still a great job.
At Louisville there is an incredible basketball tradition with numerous Final Four appearances and multiple national titles already in the bag. For nearly as long as there has been college basketball Louisville has been winning games, so this isn't just some example of a team winning only because of a great coach. Louisville almost always wins.
Being in the Big East is an advantage as well for all of the exposure and recruiting help that brings. More importantly though, Louisville is in Kentucky. And while there is a lot of pressure in the Louisville job it is nothing compared to the pressure cooker of UK basketball. So at times there is a bit of a break for whoever coaches Louisville in the press and amongst fans during the offseason.
Throw in an improving and attractive downtown scene in Louisville and a new arena which should have recruits salivating, Louisville is a wonderful and possibly improving job.
UCLA ought to be higher on the list, but like Maryland until they can show that they can consistently take advantage of their assets they must be knocked down quite a few pegs.
There is a ton of local talent to choose from, and not just in cheerleaders. A lot of really good basketball players come out of the Los Angeles area every year, but unfortunately for UCLA a lot of them wind up at Arizona, other Pac-12 schools and places as far flung as Kansas.
There is also out-sized pressure on this job from my perspective, as aside from one glorious run in the '60s and '70s when John Wooden and Sam Gilbert had things rolling in Westwood, this really hasn't been a dominant program. They could be, but they just never have been (the Gilbert influenced years aside).
But any school surrounded by this much talent on and off the court, as well as weather almost as beautiful as the ladies, UCLA would be a good gig for almost anyone to have.
Florida used to only be a football school, but Billy Donovan has shown that with a good coach you can definitely win there in basketball as well.
Florida has one of the best athletic departments in all of the country, and one of the best ADs in Jeremy Foley. And that athletic department has shown the commitment and the dollars to keep as good of a coach as Donovan around for much longer than I think most people would have once thought.
Florida is a great place for recruits with wonderful weather and scenery comparable to UCLA, and there also isn't really any noticeable pressure on the basketball team to be any good at all. As long as Florida football is winning, the basketball job flies right under the radar.
The local talent is also pretty good, which has given Donovan many of his players that he has had over the years. You can win titles in the modern era at Florida, Donovan has shown us that. And with almost no pressure with it...this is one heck of a job.
Arizona is one of those second-tier schools that's just on the edge of joining the big boys, but can't quite get over the hump. But that doesn't mean it's not an elite job, because it clearly is.
You can win at Arizona, and with the right coach you can win really big. Lute Olson had a wonderful career at Arizona, and if he stays Sean Miller will likely win even bigger than Lute did.
There aren't a lot of powers in the west to contend with, so Arizona should have an easy time staying on or near the top out west, and any time you can be the best program in an entire region of the country that is going to be good for recruiting.
You play in a good conference and have lots of access to California talent, and you can make a lot of money at Arizona. The fan support is also very good and this program is never lacking in funding support or pay for coaches.
Arizona is hurt somewhat by a lack of exposure though with a bad television contract and just by the fact of being in a bad timezone for television purposes. This hurts Arizona's ability to recruit as strong nationally as other schools can.
7. Ohio State
For Ohio State, you could almost just write "see Florida." It's a really similar situation.
Football school? Check
Little pressure? Check
Great athletic department? Check (unless you want honesty)
Lots of money? Check
So why is this job listed ahead of Florida? Simply put, talent and conference. Ohio State has access to so many good players not just in Ohio, but also in nearby Indiana and Michigan. And they get their fair share of guys from those states such as Greg Oden, and they get them on a consistent basis.
And as competitors, and coaches are competitors and you should never forget that, coaching in the Big Ten trumps the SEC almost every time in basketball. It just does.
And it's not like Ohio State has no basketball history either. This has almost always been a strong school and they have won titles at Ohio State in the past, so it can be done there.
According to most experts, Duke has been the top program in college basketball for the past 20 years. I would take issue with that as I'm sure some others do as well, but that is the general consensus. And that can't hurt when you are making job rankings.
The question with Duke, however, is will it last when Coach Krzyzewski is gone? Or was this simply a one man creation that will fizzle as soon as he calls it quits?
My guess is no, Duke will still be a good job. I mean, it's not like Duke was never any good in the past. This is a program that had made Final Fours pre-Coach K, but has gotten much better due to him being the head man.
Advantages for Duke: the media loves you, you're in a great conference and the media loves you. And what high school recruit wouldn't want to play in a great conference and have every poem they have ever written be read out loud on SportsCenter? So coaches can tap into this and make a killing on the recruiting trail.
Plus, as a private institution, Duke likely has more money at its disposal than almost any other school when it comes to hiring coaches. So if you coach at Duke you will get recruits, you will get paid, and you will get media exposure.
The biggest problem, though, is will anyone ever be able to live up to Coach K's legacy?
I agree with DeCourcy on this, Texas is a much better job for coaches than many would at first suspect. First, here are the good reasons for this, quickly.
Loads of talent, loads of money, great city, absolutely no pressure to ever win. None.
How little does Texas care about basketball? Rick Barnes still has a job. Amazing really.
Heck, if it weren't for the fact that some coaches actually like challenges then Texas should be a clear number one. In fact, with DeCourcy's criteria of not worrying about recent success I don't know how Texas wasn't No. 1 on his list.
How much talent is there in the state of Indiana? Check out what Scout's Evan Daniels pointed out in regards to the NBA top 100 camp. Astounding numbers.
So there is a lot of talent in the Hoosier state for Tom Crean and anyone else that ever coaches Indiana to pick up and build your recruiting base around.
As for history, Indiana has plenty of it. Five national titles and numerous Final Four appearances are incredible, and even though Indiana has fallen on hard times in the past decade or so it still has enough history to wow potential recruits.
Indiana is also in a wonderful conference and is a very good school academically, so it's a place you can win and win the right way.
More importantly for me though is how patient the fans are. Most school with as much winning as Indiana has had would have gone through about 10 coaches in the last three years with how much they have struggled. Not so with the Hoosiers. The fans are being very patient with Tom Crean and giving him time to build up a winner his way, and that speaks well of fans.
What coach wouldn't look at that and be amazed in this day and age. For my money, Indiana is a national power waiting to emerge once again, and is still one of the best jobs in the country.
Kansas has several advantages over most schools going for it from a coaching perspective. And due to its location they will likely almost never change.
Located in the western part of the country (especially for basketball power purposes), Kansas has been the dominant program in that half of the country for almost as long as there has been college basketball. Aside form UCLA's golden decade, it has almost always been Kansas, Kansas and then more Kansas when discussing basketball in the west.
And that has been true in its conference affiliations as well. Kansas really doesn't have any competition and has run roughshod over conference foes for as long as any of us coming to Bleacher Report can remember. So its coaches will continually win conference titles and be in the mix for national titles.
Additionally, Kansas has enough star power that it is a national recruiting force. While its local talent base ins't nearly enough to sustain a power, Kansas doesn't have to worry about that. They can get kids from anywhere and have done it under every coach they have had in recent decades. And it's not going to stop anytime soon.
And Kansas has the single best home court in all of college basketball at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is a coaches dream, and is a close third to the top-two schools.
Would it be fine to just say we have a tie at the top, because that is almost how I feel about this choice. You really can't get much better than Carolina, and I'm not sure any job is better. I think there is a better one, and you'll get that reason in a second...but I'm not sure.
Because North Carolina is a great, great job.
As a coach you are going to get paid here. You get to coach in a great gym on a beautiful campus. And you are coaching at one of the winningest programs in the history of the game.
But the best part of coaching at UNC is that recruiting is so darn easy. Locally there is some talent, but location doesn't matter for UNC. They are the school that every recruit in country has some interest in. Be it the Michael Jordan effect or whatever you want to call it, UNC gets in any door they want to get in. And recruiting is the lifeblood of college basketball.
UNC has the winning tradition, recent success and the easiest time recruiting. How can it really get any better for a coach?
So what does Kentucky have that a coach couldn't get at North Carolina? I've already said recruiting is better at UNC, so what could make the UK job more attractive to a coach.
Is it just winning games? Probably not. Yes, UK has more all-time wins and more titles, but UNC has more Final Fours. And the all-times win race is so close that it is really negligible.
Is it money? Maybe. Kentucky is so desperate to win that it will pay through the roof to get a good coach. But it's not like UNC pays guys in peanuts. You'll get rich either place.
Is it national prestige? No. Kentucky is definitely a destination job, but even Kentucky fans are kidding themselves if they say coaching at UNC doesn't have more national buzz.
To me, the difference that puts Kentucky at the top is one that you must be a competitor to want to deal with. But I think most coaches are extremely competitive and would love this challenge. It's not recruiting (which Kentucky usually does with ease nationally), it's not the money and it's not the money backing the program (which is unparalleled).
The difference is that at Kentucky, the fans and the program demand excellence. They don't expect it, they don't really want it, they demand it. And while that can be unnerving to some and too much pressure for others, it is what makes UK great. Because if you can deal with it properly, you should win big at Kentucky.
There is a reason that four different coaches have won titles at UK, and that is because the fans and program alike will settle for nothing less than at least having a chance at the title every year. And if you have drive and want to compete as a coach, you want that to be the case. You want to be expected to win titles. And at UK, history has shown that if you can handle the pressure that comes with the job, you will win a title at UK. And that's the name of the game, winning titles.
Thus, for my money, you can really do no better as a coach then to be at Kentucky.
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