Ranking the 10 College Basketball Coaches with the Most Job Security
Which college basketball coaches have the job security to survive a completely unthinkable winless season?
We've done plenty of pieces on coaches who are most in danger of losing their job after this season, but let's look at the opposite end of that spectrum.
If Bill Self and Kansas inexplicably went 0-32 in 2014-15, would he be fired? What about Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo or John Calipari? Could they maintain their jobs after posting what would be by far the worst season of their careers?
This isn't your typical "Best College Basketball Coaches" article. Rather, we looked at track record and projected years remaining to determine which college basketball coaches would be least likely to get fired after a winless season.
Think of these coaches as cars with blown transmissions. You may love that car like a family member after all that you've been through together. But you eventually have to wonder whether the miles per gallon and years left on the engine are really worth reinvesting in a major repair when you can just as easily afford a gently used, newer model.
Roy Williams, North Carolina
Williams has one of the best coaching records of all time. His .792 winning percentage ranks eighth in the history books, trailing only Gonzaga's Mark Few (.801) among active coaches. Williams has won two of the last 10 national championships.
But a media firestorm has been circling around Tar Heel nation over the past two summers, and Williams has more losses in the past five years than he does in any other six-year span in his career. If North Carolina goes 0-32 this year, it wouldn't be a complete surprise if he gets shown the door.
Mark Few, Gonzaga
As mentioned above, Few has the highest winning percentage among active coaches. He has led Gonzaga to 15 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and at least a share of 13 of 15 WCC regular-season titles.
It sure would be nice if he could coach the Bulldogs to a deep run in the tournament, though. Gonzaga has been to four Sweet 16s in the past 15 years, but the last time the Bulldogs made it to the Elite Eight was also the last time someone other than Few was the head coach.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Shaka Smart, VCU
These two coaches have put together fantastic work over the past few seasons, but they will forever be the first names mentioned for any high-profile opening in the country.
The constant fear of losing Gregg Marshall or Shaka Smart to a bigger program could theoretically drive Wichita State or VCU to overreact to one awful season.
10. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Career Record: 948-320
Jim Boeheim has been patrolling the sidelines at Syracuse for nearly four decades. He's already one of just two men's college basketball coaches with 900 or more career wins and is two average seasons away from reaching 1,000 wins in his illustrious career.
At a certain point, though, you have to start coming up with a backup plan for your living legend.
Three days after the 2014-15 season begins, Jim Boeheim will turn 70. Most men his age have already retired from their desk jobs.
How much longer are we to assume he can just keep on traveling, recruiting and passionately coaching like a madman?
Unless I'm mistaken, Larry Brown (SMU) is the only active head coach older than Boeheim, and the oldest coach to ever win a national championship was Jim Calhoun at the age of 68—and Kemba Walker isn't walking through that door for Syracuse.
This certainly isn't an argument that the Orange should or will fire Boeheim. They will let him get to 1,000 wins and retire on his own terms. But under the fictitious premise of a winless season, it's hard to believe they'd want him to stick around for a rebuilding situation.
9. John Beilein, Michigan
Career Record: 443-269 (150-94 at Michigan)
Michigan was a disaster when John Beilein took over.
From 1998-2007, the Wolverines failed to make the NCAA tournament even once. (They were banned from postseason play during the 2002-03 season but probably wouldn't have been invited with a 17-13 record anyway.) When Tommy Amaker was fired after the 2006-07 season, the Wolverines also lost their four leading scorers to graduation.
Beilein came in from West Virginia and promptly went 10-22, but he quickly rebuilt the program into an annual contender.
Success over the past four seasons has earned him at least a couple of mulligans for the future.
But a winless season would take more than a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. The last four years have been great, but Beilein had a winning percentage of .598 in the 18 seasons before that hot streak fueled by lottery picks Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas.
One truly awful season would have even the biggest Michigan fans questioning whether both Beilein and the Wolverines are on the fast track back to mediocrity.
8. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Career Record: 693-241 (341-117 at Louisville)
Fool me once, shame on you. Leave the college ranks to coach in the NBA three times, shame on Rick Pitino.
It's been 13 years since he last dipped his toes in the professional pool, but the fear of him leaving again will never fully go away—even at the age of 62. And an employer can be as committed to an employee only as he is to it.
Pitino was willing to leave Boston after getting the Terriers to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history, willing to leave Providence after leading the Friars to the Final Four for just the second time ever and able to bail on Kentucky after three Final Fours in a span of five years.
Louisville needs to be equally capable of cutting ties if he goes 0-32 this year.
That obviously won't happen. The Cardinals have been arguably the best team in the country over the past three years and are widely regarded as a top-10 team for this season. But in a bizarre world where every great coach goes winless in 2014-15, there are seven other coaches more likely to retain their job than Pitino.
7. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Career Record: 351-148 (321-121 at Wisconsin)
The Badgers suffered at least 10 losses in 38 of the 39 seasons before Bo Ryan took over as head coach.
Despite playing eight to 10 more games per year than they did during most of those earlier years, Ryan has led the Badgers to fewer than 10 losses in eight of the past 12 seasons.
While competing in one of the most difficult conferences in the country, Ryan has a winning percentage of .726 and has gone to the NCAA tournament in all 13 of his seasons at the helm.
His name has become synonymous with "defense," "slow-paced," "fundamentals" and "success." He has done it all while rarely having a prayer of landing any of the top-rated recruits that his peers in the business cycle through on an annual basis.
But like several others on this list, Ryan qualified for AARP a long time ago.
Ryan will turn 67 in December and will likely celebrate the occasion by prepping for the road trip to Cal just two days later.
Should things go horribly awry this year, one would think the Badgers would look to rebuild with a coach who might have the longevity to see it through to completion.
6. John Calipari, Kentucky
Career Record: 597-177 (152-37 at Kentucky)
Maybe you hate John Calipari because he has made a habit of leaving teams amid scandals and comes across as one of the sleaziest people in sports.
Perhaps you love and respect him because he's actually one of the most philanthropic coaches in the game.
Regardless of which camp you're in, there's no denying that the man gets the job done.
Calipari's teams have won at least 21 games in each of his last 19 seasons as a D-I coach. Even with the disappointing 21-12 season in 2012-13, he's averaging 32.1 wins per year over the past nine years.
A few of them may have been later vacated, but Calipari has five Final Four appearances with three different programs. He's the best recruiter in the game today.
However, no coach is mentioned in NBA rumors as frequently and as strongly as Calipari. As was the rationale for keeping Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart out of the top 10, so, too, is Calipari outside the top five because of the fear that he might leave Kentucky high and dry.
5. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Career Record: 468-187
Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to 17 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including a national championship, six Final Four appearances and 12 Sweet 16s.
His teams never flirt with perfection, but the Spartans are routinely ranked in the top 10 and are always one of the biggest threats in March.
And while John Calipari has added 19 McDonald's All-Americans at Kentucky over the past five years, Tom Izzo has signed "only" 11 such players in his 19 years at Michigan State—and just three since 2003.
His ability to consistently produce a great team without the luxury of having the best players in the country makes him one of the most irreplaceable coaches.
The only minor drawbacks keeping him out of the top three are that he's no spring chicken at 59 years of age, and he's one of the primary college coaches rumored to be of interest for any NBA opening—particularly with the Pistons.
4. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Career Record: 983-306 (910-247 at Duke)
It may not look like he has aged a day in 20 years, but Mike Krzyzewski will turn 68 years old before the end of the 2014-15 season—and no one knows how many additional years of mileage need to be added for his years spent moonlighting as the coach of the U.S. national team.
He'll eclipse 1,000 career wins sometime in late January or early February and is already the all-time wins leader among men's college basketball coaches. It hardly seems necessary to justify his appearance on this list.
Great as he has been over the past three decades, though, is there any chance he's young enough to rebuild after a fictitiously dreadful season?
If the Blue Devils did stick with Coach K after an 0-32 season, it might be only because all of his qualified successors are gone. Johnny Dawkins, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski were staples on the Duke sideline for more than a decade, but they have all moved on to bigger and better things.
It's hard to imagine anyone other than Krzyzewski as the head coach at Duke, but it was a lot easier to picture Collins or Wojo in that role than Jeff Capel, Nate James or Jon Scheyer.
For as much of an improbable proposition as it may be, if Duke did fire Coach K, it would have to live with the decision for only a few years. At season's end, he will already be eight years older than Bob Knight was when he was fired by Indiana before spending seven years at Texas Tech.
Fire any of the top three guys on this list, however, and you run the risk of watching them succeed elsewhere for several decades.
3. Billy Donovan, Florida
Career Record: 486-189 (451-169 at Florida)
Few coaches in the country have had as much success over the past nine seasons as Billy Donovan.
Donovan has led the Gators to six Elite Eights, three Final Fours and two national championships.
Donovan gets bonus points for being much younger than most of the other coaches encountered thus far on the list. At 49 years of age, he still has enough years left in the tank to orchestrate four or five rebuilding projects.
After such a great run over the past decade, one awful year couldn't possibly make the Gators consider firing him.
However, unlike others on the list who are frequently rumored for NBA coaching vacancies, Donovan actually did bail on the Gators for one week during the summer of 2007 to become the head coach of the Orlando Magic.
He changed his mind and was welcomed back to Gainesville with open arms, but that minor lapse in commitment was just enough to keep us from putting Donovan in the top two.
2. Sean Miller, Arizona
Career Record: 249-95 (129-48 at Arizona)
If you're surprised to see Sean Miller this high on the list, it's time to get your East Coast bias in check—written unironically from within eyesight of the Atlantic Ocean.
Miller has become one of the best recruiters and defensive coaches in the entire country.
According to 247Sports.com, he has signed eight 5-star recruits over the past four years and has already landed another three in the class of 2015. And according to KenPom.com (subscription required), the Wildcats had the most efficient defense in the country last year.
Miller hasn't quite gotten over the hump to the Final Four, but he has been to three Elite Eights and five Sweet 16s in his 10 seasons between Arizona and Xavier. Considering he took over both of those programs during transitional seasons, that's pretty impressive.
At just 45 years of age, he's on the fast track to becoming the best coach in college basketball within the next decade. Firing Miller after one awful year would be one of the most atrocious mistakes an athletic director could ever make.
1. Bill Self, Kansas
Career Record: 532-174 (325-69 at Kansas)
Bill Self is working on a streak of 16 consecutive seasons in which he has led a team to the NCAA tournament with fewer than 10 losses.
During that stretch, he has averaged 28.6 wins per season—never fewer than 23.
Between his years at Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas, Self has finished 15 straight seasons ranked in the top 18 by the AP and has spent at least one week in the top 12 in each of those years. Add in his first job at Oral Roberts, and he has won at least a share of conference regular-season titles in 16 of the last 19 years.
To put that in perspective, Mike Krzyzewski has won a share of just 12 regular-season titles in his 39 years of coaching. Jim Boeheim has 11 regular-season titles in 38 years.
And the kicker? Bill Self is only 51 years old.
If he coaches until he's 70, he needs to average only 24.6 wins per year in order to reach 1,000 wins in his career. Considering he has won 82.5 percent of his games coached with Kansas, that's hardly an unrealistic expectation.
Not only could he go 0-32 next year without getting fired, but Self also could go winless for the next two years before anyone even starts to suggest that it's time for him to go. Based on his age and track record, he's the most indispensable coach in the game today.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.