College Basketball: Power Ranking the 13 Coaches With the Biggest Egos
In a sport with as much player turnover as college basketball, it is no wonder that the coaches are the enduring stars of the game. And the more successful the coach, the greater the ego.
Here is a list that ranks the 13 coaches with the biggest egos in the sport.
Note: This list is not intended to rank the coaches by the degree of their egos. It ranks them based on their success as coaches, while offering reminders as to how their ego can assert itself.
13. Travis Ford
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford has made his share of enemies throughout his career.
A standout freshman player for the Missouri Tigers, he is forever known in Columbia, Missouri as "Travis the Traitor" for transferring to Kentucky before his sophomore year.
Ford's reputation as a traitor endured after he left UMASS for Oklahoma State in 2008, despite saying that he was "100% committed to UMASS."
12. Billy Gillispie
As a two-time Big XII coach of the year and SEC co-coach of the year in 2007, Billy Gillispie has plenty of accolades to massage his ego. And the new coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is sure to reassert his presence in the Big XII.
A self-proclaimed "work-a-holic", Gillispie loves to talk about himself and the extremes he goes to as a coach. He likes to remind people that he once went six months without going to the grocery store because he was too busy coaching, or how his eight-year marriage fell apart after he decided that his work was more important than being with his wife.
This is also the same man who took the head coaching job at Kentucky without telling his players at Texas A&M in person, opting to send them text messages instead.
Although Gillispie never found any time to spend with his wife, go grocery shopping or tell his former players he was leaving them, he has found time to indulge in some adult beverages en route to three DUI arrests in 12 years.
He took a timeout from coaching in 2009 to enroll in an alcohol rehab center. While in rehab, it is safe to assume that he spent much of his time there talking about himself.
11. Bo Ryan
An author of three books and winner of two Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has won enough to remind college basketball fans that he is a pretty good coach.
Although his teams have never broken through to the Final Four during his 10 years in Madison, they have reached the NCAA tournament in each of his 10 seasons, going to three sweet sixteens and one elite eight.
Ryan's ego drew the ire of Ohio State fans in 2011 after the Badgers upset the number one Buckeyes in Madison. Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger revealed that he was spit on by a Wisconsin fan as they rushed the floor after the game, prompting Ryan to respond by telling Sullinger to "deal with it."
Buckeye fans waved printed towels with Ryan's infamous words printed on it and serenaded the Badgers coach with chants during the rematch in Columbus.
10. Bob Huggins
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has one of the biggest resumes and egos in college basketball.
Huggins has 691 victories, 19 NCAA tournament appearances, and two Final Fours to his name. The best of those years came at Cincinnati, where he took the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament in 14 consecutive seasons.
His tenure at Cincinnati came to an end when school president Nancy Zimpher fired him because she thought the basketball program under his leadership was counterproductive to the school's desired academic reputation.
Afterwards, he spent one season at Kansas State before the country roads took him home to West Virginia, his birth place and Alma Mater.
But everywhere Huggins has coached, his abrasive personality has followed him. His acid tongue, short temper, and flashy suits also give a fairly good indication of his ego.
9. Tubby Smith
Minnesota coach Tubby Smith will likely find a deserving place in the Basketball Hall of Fame someday.
But even this talented coach who came from humble beginnings has a sizeable ego.
As many Kentucky fans (and fellow Bleacher Report columnist Eric Wright pointed out), Smith never bothered to do much in terms of recruiting, perhaps because he believed that he could win with anybody he put on the floor. Kentucky eventually showed him the door.
There was considerable hype surrounding Smith's hiring at Minnesota, but he has yet to place his stamp on the program, despite having the highest overall salary of any state employee in Minnesota. His record with the Golden Gophers is 80-53 with two first round NCAA tournament appearances.
8. Jim Boeheim
Basketball Hall of Famer and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has done enough throughout his coaching career to earn the right to a big ego. Syracuse has been a basketball power in during his 36 years with the school, and the program's only national championship came under Boeheim.
Boeheim's relatively ego (although relatively small) has been evident when he has lobbied for things such as postseason spots for some of his bubble teams and the expansion of the NCAA tournament.
He also has been engaged in a rather childish feud with ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb.
7. Billy Donovan
As is the case with almost every coach on this list, Florida coach Billy Donovan's ego is well-deserved. His Gators have won two national championships and have been to three Final Fours.
Donovan's ego was on display when he left the Gators to accept the head coaching job for the Orlando Magic. But Donovan backed out of the job after only a few days and returned to Gainesville, supposedly enticed in-part by the prospect of having the court at the O'Connell Center named for him.
Donovan was also wooed back to Florida by the $3.5 million per year contract the school offered him, which made him the highest-paid coach in the country.
But it's hard to argue that he isn't worth what he came back to Gainesville for.
6. John Calipari
Kentucky coach John Calipari may be sixth on this list, but his ego is second to none.
Calipari has been a polarizing presence at every school he's coached for, taking his programs deep in NCAA tournaments and leaving just as the NCAA investigators arrive on campus.
He reached the Final Four during his last year at UMASS, and then left for the New Jersey Nets before the NCAA vacated the team's tournament record after it was discovered that Marcus Camby had taken money from an agent.
When he came back to college basketball he coached the Memphis Tigers to multiple NCAA tournament appearances and lost in the 2008 Tournament final against Kansas. However, that season would eventually be vacated after Tigers point guard Derrick Rose was found to have cheated on his SAT exam. Calipari left the program in 2009 to go to Kentucky.
Although Kentucky celebrated Calipari's 500th win during the 2010-2011 season, his official win total is only 467 due to the vacated wins from UMASS and Memphis.
5. Tom Izzo
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo carries so much clout around campus that he was once considered a head coaching candidate for the school's football program.
During his 16 years in East Lansing Izzo has become one of the greatest coaches in Big Ten history, winning a national Championship and making six Final Four appearances.
The student section at Breslin Center is known as the "Izzone" and he makes more than $3 million per year. Obviously, he's earned both honors.
4. Jim Calhoun
An ignorant and confrontational reporter once asked UCONN coach Jim Calhoun why he had not offered to give part of his salary back to the school during an economic recession. Calhoun, who is known throughout Connecticut for his philanthropy, verbally undressed the reporter. As righteous as he was in his response, the incident did reveal a little about Calhoun's ego. After winning three national championships and 604 wins, Calhoun doesn't have to give anything back. And he won't.
3. Rick Pitino
Louisville coach Rick Pitino will be remembered as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. He will also be remembered for his ego.
It was that ego that took him out of his college element and brought him to the NBA two different times, where his success was lukewarm at best.
Pitino has also authored multiple books, including Rebound Rules and Born to Coach. He probably should have read his own self-help book, Success is a Choice, before he jeopardized his coaching career and family by turning a Louisville restaurant into a bordello in 2003.
2. Roy Williams
North Carolina coach Roy Williams' ego is tame compared to the majority of coaches on this list.
His ego is as contained as it is earned, but it can show itself at times, especially to referees.
Williams' ego hit a high note when he left powerhouse Kansas, who was on the cusp of a national title, to go to his Alma Mater at Chapel Hill in 2003.
He has won two national championships at North Carolina, cementing his legacy as one of the best college coaches in history.
He is one of the best in the game, and he knows it.
1. Mike Krzyzewski
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski may be the greatest coach in college basketball history, winning 900 games and four national championships.
And although coach K and his teams present themselves as selfless and team-oriented, even the seemingly divine Krzyzewski can't help but have a bit of an ego.
To understand this, recall when Phil Jackson first retired from the Los Angeles Lakers. Krzyzewski was cited as a possible candidate, and he had the entire student body at Duke on their knees begging him to stay.
He admitted that he would have taken the Lakers job if not for an email sent to him by one of the students.
With a coaching legacy as strong as Krzyzewski's and a following of everybody from the student body to the media, it is impossible not to have an ego.
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