Ranking the 10 Most Controversial Coaches in College Basketball Today

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Controversial Coaches in College Basketball Today

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    Some college basketball coaches are just plain controversial.

    In some cases, it is their sideline manner or the way they handle post-game press conferences.

    In other cases, it is how they run their programs.

    Here is a quick look at the 10 most controversial coaches in college basketball today.

    Almost without exception, these are coaches who have been successful. But, there is just something about them that puts people in opposing camps.

    Here we go!

10. Fran McCaffery (Iowa)

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    No one has ever accused Iowa’s Fran McCaffery of being apathetic or unconcerned.

    The fiery fourth-year coach has the Hawkeye’s program definitely moving forward.

    McCaffery’s Iowa bio states that...

    Since taking over the program in 2010, the Hawkeyes have increased their win total by 15 games, including seven-win improvements in each of the last two seasons. The 15-win improvement over a span of three years ranks second in school history.


    He has rightfully earned a reputation of being a heated head coach because of his sizzling sideline demeanor.

    After the incident shown on the accompanying video, the Big Ten contacted the school about McCaffery’s blistering behavior. A few days later, when asked if he regretted his actions, he replied:

    If anybody thinks I'm going to sit there with my hands crossed when we're down by 40 (points), they've got the wrong guy...I was brought in here to change the culture. I'm going to coach with passion and my players know that. They also know I'm going to fight for them.

9. Jimmy Patsos (Siena)

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    Siena basketball just got more entertaining by bringing in one of the most vibrant personalities in the college hoops world, Jimmy Patsos.

    A Daly Dose of Hoops’ Jaden Daly described Patsos this way:

    He is an experience one needs to witness in person to truly believe.  His style, albeit unorthodox and controversial to some, has endeared him to most in the industry.  Not afraid to speak his mind, his press conferences take on the tone of both standup comedy act and State of the Union address simultaneously, poking fun at himself while referencing numerous historical figures.  It is what makes Jimmy Patsos who he is, a character who just happens to be a pretty good basketball coach too.


    Not everyone is amused by Patsos’ antics. Bleacher Report’s Ari Kramer asserted in a post entitled Jimmy Patsos Is a Jerk Episode I: Loyola Holds Curry Scoreless but Loses By 30”: "Patsos is college basketball's Rasheed Wallace."

    If you watched this slide’s video, you can see that Patsos works every angle and every item in the game with an unrivaled ferocity.

    The bottom line for many is that Patsos produces. According to his Saints’ bio:

    Patsos led Loyola to a school-record 24 wins and a MAAC Championship in 2011-12. This past year, the Greyhounds went 23-12 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT). It is the first back-to-back 20-win seasons in Loyola's Division I history.


    Coincidentally, Iowa’s Fran McCaffery (previous slide) was the Siena head coach from 2005-2010. I guess the folks in Albany like their coaches to be over the top.

8. Frank Martin (South Carolina)

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    I would not want South Carolina’s Frank Martin upset with me.

    He is easily the most terrifying individual in college sports today. His passion and intensity are unique and unequalled.

    If you have never seen him in action, you might be taken aback by his earsplitting screaming or his over-the-top antics. It would seem that the next chapter of this story might be that Martin is despised by his players or reviled by his assistants.

    There is generally a high level of respect for his honesty and straightforward what-you-see-is-what-you-get manner. There has been one reported incident where Martin made physical contact with one of his players. The potential controversy that could have erupted over this was squashed by his K-State players and the school’s administration.

    Because Martin's heated, old-school manner is definitely not for everyone, he finds his place on this list.

7. Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)

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    No college basketball fan in their right mind disputes the accomplishments of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

    Coach K is the winningest coach of all time (957-297). He has won four NCAA championships and has taken the Blue Devils to the Final Four 11 times.

    However, most college basketball fans run either hot or cold about him. There are very few people who follow the wonderful sport that don’t have a strong opinion about him and his program. Many respect the job that he has done in Durham. Others think that he gets preferential treatment from the refs and the media. Some think that his teams play the game as it was meant to be played. Others believe that his teams are soft and lack toughness and grit.

    One thing should be admitted by anyone aware of Krzyzewski’s run at Duke: Very few coaches have acheived Coach K's sustained level of success and excellence.

6. Scott Drew (Baylor)

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    Baylor’s Scott Drew is probably the most straightlaced, unassuming coach on this list.

    He was brave enough to take the job in Waco back in 2003, when no one would touch it with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

    Drew has led the Bears to three of the school’s seven NCAA tournament appearances. Last year, Baylor cut down the nets as NIT champs.

    But he has also had his share of doubters.

    Fox Sports’ Thayer Evans compared Drew to errant TV preachers when he said:

    But like what usually happens to wayward televangelists, Drew’s sins finally were exposed Monday when it was revealed that Baylor’s men’s and women’s basketball programs face potential sanctions for “major violations” of NCAA rules, according to an ESPN report.


    The violations were relating to impermissible recruiting calls and text messages over a span of nearly two-and-a-half years, and Baylor lost one men’s basketball scholarship for both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. In an age when just about everyone is constantly on some form of technology, this doesn’t sound like such a horrible sin.

    But the NCAA doesn’t take this matter lightly, and they usually bring down the hammer when programs turn a blind eye to their principles.

5. Tim Floyd (UTEP)

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    UTEP’s Tim Floyd never seems too far from controversy.

    Back in 1998, Floyd left his coaching position at Iowa State to become the Chicago Bulls' head coach against the wishes of Michael Jordan. MJ made it clear that he didn’t want to play for anyone other than Phil Jackson.

    USA Today’s David Leon Moore and Jack Carey reported that Floyd:

    ...stepped down a month after a published report that he gave $1,000 in cash to the man who acted as a go-between when star player O.J. Mayo decided to attend USC and play his freshman season at the school.


    ESPN.com reported that USC:

    imposed sanctions on its men's basketball program for NCAA rules violations, including a ban on postseason competition at the end of this season, a reduction of scholarships and vacating all of its wins from 2007-08.

    The university said the self-imposed sanctions resulted from an internal investigation that found NCAA rules violations related to O.J. Mayo, who played for the Trojans during the 2007-2008 season under former coach Tim Floyd.


    Currently at UTEP, Floyd is in the middle of a conflict with McDonald’s All-American Isaac Hamilton, who wants to be released from his national letter of intent in order to attend college closer to home. At this point, Floyd has denied Hamilton’s request.

    CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish was very definitive in his perspective about Floyd’s decision:

    I think Floyd is wrong for the simple reason that I think any coach who binds a student-athlete against his will to what amounts to a one-sided contract is wrong.

4. Rick Pitino (Louisville)

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    Louisville’s Rick Pitino is a captivating and compelling coach.

    He belongs in the upper tier of college basketball’s all-time greats.

    He is currently tied with the legendary John Wooden for career wins (664). He is the only coach in NCAA history to take three different programs to the Final Four. Maybe most impressively, he is the only coach to win NCAA titles at two different schools.

    Pitino sometimes makes headlines for reasons other than basketball success.

    In 2010, Pitino was involved in a late-night fling that turned into a high-profile court case. The woman he was “with” demanded millions of dollars to stay quiet about the tryst. Did this liaison put an end to his career? Hardly. Within months, it became a non-issue and Pitino picked up where he left off.

    Throughout his coaching career, he has not hesitated to speak his mind about anything or anyone.

    247Sports’ Mike Hughes captured Pitino’s comments last year about Syracuse’s departure to the Atlantic Coast Conference:

    Speaking about the impact of Syracuse and Pittsburgh's departure to the ACC next season, Pitino told reporters he doesn't believe the Big East will lose a step next season, asserting that, "Memphis and Temple will more than make up for Syracuse and Pittsburgh."

    Ironically, Louisville will join the Orange in the ACC a year from now.

3. Bob Huggins (West Virginia)

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    West Virginia’s Bob Huggins is one the most successful college hoops coaches of all time. Heading into the 2013-14 season, Huggins has posted a 723-286 record (72.7 winning percentage).

    He is in third place among active coaches in wins (behind Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim).

    Huggins has always played on the edge. His teams at Cincinnati were good but constantly under scrutiny, as  noted by by Collegehoops.net's Kevin McNeil:

    In all, according to the University of Cincinnati, there had been no less than 21 players under Coach Huggins who have had, to use their term, “significant encounters with law enforcement.”  These “encounters” included arrests for domestic violence, rape and DUI.  One guy even punched a police horse.   Another, Donald Little, taped his roommate to a lawn chair, threw weights at his head, clubbed him with a whiskey bottle and burned him with a heated coat hanger.  He then stabbed him for good measure.   


2. Jim Boeheim (Syracuse)

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    Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is No. 2 all time in wins among college basketball coaches. His 920-313 record has all come at Syracuse, where he has been the head coach since 1976.

    On his watch, the Orange have won nine Big East regular season championships and five conference tournament titles. And when they won the 2003 NCAA championship, Boeheim’s booming career was validated.

    However, Boeheim has been thought of as a crank for a long time, as asserted by NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster:

    Jim Boeheim is a curmudgeon. He’s a grumpy old man that couldn’t possibly care any less about what anyone thinks of him.


    His postgame-news conference manner is best described as irritable, ill-tempered and irascible…and that’s after Syracuse wins.

    It’s too bad that Boeheim has taken such a cantankerous approach to dealing with a straightforward part of a big-time coach's job.

1. John Calipari (Kentucky)

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    Do you want to start a heated discussion among college basketball fans? Bring up Kentucky’s John Calipari and you are sure to have some strong opinions voiced.

    Calipari has been successful at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky. But USA Today’s Marlen Garcia and Steve Wieberg echo some college basketball observers who look to dismiss or at least qualify Calipari's coaching accomplishments:

    The résumé for Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari forever will be marked with asterisks.

    The 1996 Final Four appearance Calipari made while coaching Massachusetts was vacated when it was found that star Marcus Camby took money from an agent. Calipari had moved on to the NBA by the time the NCAA ruled.

    Now, the NCAA will wipe out his 38-2 season with Memphis in 2007-08, when the Tigers bulldozed their way to the NCAA championship game behind star freshman Derrick Rose before losing to Kansas in overtime. That makes Calipari the only coach to have Final Four appearances vacated at two schools.


    Calipari has had an amazing run while at Kentucky, winning 123 games in four seasons, including the 2012 NCAA championship.

    His recruiting success since going to Lexington is unparalleled. But, many college hoops purists and former college basketball players are uneasy with his excessive one-and-done approach.

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