Ranking the 10 Most Creative Coaches in College Basketball
College basketball is full of copycats and coaches so conservative that falling back on defense to prevent fast breaks instead of hitting the offensive glass has actually become a thing.
Give me the coaches who think outside the box. Give me the innovators. Give me the risk-takers.
These 10 coaches have won a lot of games with legitimate creativity.
10. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Creativity requires a willingness to be different.
Jim Boeheim has won a lot of games playing differently than everyone else by playing zone. It's a wonder more coaches don't try to duplicate what Boeheim has done, and it speaks to the fear most coaches have of being different than everyone else.
9. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Tim Miles made Colorado State basketball relevant thanks to good coaching and good recruiting. He hopes to do the same at Nebraska.
Miles' ability as a program builder is not why he's on this list. Miles is here because of his personality. Follow Miles on Twitter, and you'll find out what I'm talking about. He tweets at halftime. He tweets at halftime! He was also a willing participant in Nebraska's version of the Harlem Shake.
Miles realizes it takes some creativity to generate interest in a struggling basketball program, and that figures in his rebuilding plan.
8. Dave Rose, Brigham Young
Dave Rose has become the guru for taking a skilled college guard and making him a scoring machine. First, it was Jimmer Fredette. Now it's Tyler Haws.
It's rare for an offense that features a volume outside shooter to be efficient, but Rose's teams have done just that. He also has his teams speeding up in an era when everyone else is slowing down.
7. Andy Enfield, USC
To start making money as a shooting coach and then turn a program like Florida Gulf Coast into a Sweet 16 team takes a lot of creativity.
Andy Enfield probably deserves to be higher on this list for getting to where he is in his career so quickly and taking such a strange path to get there. His creativity was a joy to watch this March. He turned an unknown team into an alley-ooping, fast-breaking machine. Now it's time to see if he can do it again
under a lot more pressure at USC.
6. Buzz Williams, Marquette
For us college basketball junkies, one of the most interesting studies is to look at the coaching resumes of Ken Pomeroy's site. The numbers for most coaches year to year are usually pretty similar.
Buzz Williams' resume jumps off the board because of how his teams have been all over the board in regards to pace of play. In 2010, Marquette ranked 304th in adjusted tempo. In 2012, the Golden Eagles were up to 16th. This past season, they dropped back to No. 239. What it shows is Williams' willingness to play a different style year to year based on personnel.
And if you ever want to question his creativity, read about how he worked his way into coaching.
5. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Fred Hoiberg took over at Iowa State in 2010 with absolutely no coaching experience. He had the Cyclones in the tournament in his second season in Ames.
Hoiberg has been creative in how he's built his roster, willing to take on multiple transfers. In 2011-12, he had an extremely unique talent in Royce White. Hoiberg had White, a power forward, bring the ball up the floor a majority of the time.
Hoiberg also plays more of an NBA style than most college teams, which comes from his experience playing in the league and then working in the Timberwolves' front office. The Cyclones spread the floor, shoot a lot of threes and try to take advantage of mismatches. And if that means a power forward playing point guard, the Mayor doesn't think twice.
4. Shaka Smart, VCU
Shaka Smart gets credit for creating a great defense and a great brand. "Havoc" is both.
Smart isn't the first to win with a full-court press or to even brand it. Nolan Richardson gets credit for that with "40 Minutes of Hell." Richardson's creation is still around at Arkansas, thanks to Mike Anderson.
But when you ask this generation about the full-court press, they talk about Smart's Rams. He has made that style his own and made VCU's program a household name.
3. Brad Stevens, Butler
It has been well documented how much Brad Stevens loves his numbers. It takes some ingenuity to get a program like Butler to back-to-back title games, and studying the numbers has definitely benefited Stevens.
He's so devoted to advanced statistics that last year Stevens brought on numbers guru Drew Cannon to be a grad assistant and a one-man advanced statistics department. Cannon had just graduated from Duke with a statistics degree, and his experience in basketball was as a writer at Basketball Prospectus and an intern for ESPN.com's recruiting analyst Dave Telep.
Advanced stats are becoming a part of the equation for a lot of coaches. Stevens is just ahead of the curve.
2. Rick Pitino, Louisville
In 1987, when the NCAA adopted the three-point line, the national average that season for attempting a three was 15.7 percent of field-goal attempts. Rick Pitino's Providence Friars attempted a three on 30.4 percent of their attempts.
Pitino has always tried to take advantage of the rules or current style of play. Most coaches are scared to press. He's always pressed. Most coaches were hesitant to start letting their players fire away from deep in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Pitino encouraged it.
Some might call that adapting, but he usually adapts before anyone else, and that's what makes Pitino creative.
1. John Beilein, Michigan
I imagine John Beilein sits in a diner every morning in Ann Arbor scribbling plays onto a napkin.
Beilein worked his way up through college basketball with an offense that he created on his own.
During his West Virginia days, he played a 1-3-1 zone, which you rarely see in college basketball. That defense made him unique at the time.
But defensive creativity is not why Beilein is No. 1 on this list. It's all about his offense, which is beautiful to watch and difficult for anyone else to duplicate. Why? Only the creator has it mastered.