March Madness: The 11 Greatest Coaches in NCAA Tournament History

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterMarch 11, 2011

March Madness: The 11 Greatest Coaches in NCAA Tournament History

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    DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with fans after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 79-73 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Conference tournaments are in full swing, as are my seasonal allergies, which can only mean one thing...

    March Madness is upon us! 

    Without any truly dominant teams in the field, this year's NCAA tournament is sure to be as exciting as ever. Top seeds will be upset, Cinderellas will be born and legends will be made.

    And there's no shortage of big names, especially in the coaching ranks, whose legacies have been built on wins in the Big Dance.

    With this being the 2011 edition, let's have a look at the 11 greatest men to stalk the sideline in tourney history.

11. Jerry Tarkanian

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 06:  Former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian attends a semifinal game of the West Coast Conference Basketball tournament between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the San Francisco Dons at the Orleans Arena March 6, 2011 in La
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    College basketball fans may have long forgotten about Jerry Tarkanian, but history sure hasn't.

    "Tark the Shark" had a rather colorful career as a college coach, mixing tremendous on-court success with off-court issues with the NCAA.

    Though he spent time at Long Beach State and Fresno State, Tarkanian is best known for his tenure at UNLV from 1974 to 1992, during which he took the Runnin' Rebels to four Final Fours, including the 1990 national championship in which Tark's team trounced Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils, 103-73—the widest margin of victory in a championship game in NCAA history.

    With a total career record of 38-18 (a winning percentage of .679) in March and April, "The Shark" certainly deserves a place among the best coaches to ever partake in the tourney. 

10. Jim Boeheim

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 12:  Jim Boeheim the Head Coach of the Syracuse Orange gives instructions to his team during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center on February 12, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Loui
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Forty-one wins, three Final Fours and one national championship.

    Not bad for a guy who's spent his entire coaching career at one institution.

    Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is to college basketball what Penn State's Joe Paterno is to college football—a true loyalist who worked his way up, from player to assistant coach to head coach.

    And after 25 years and 855 wins at the same school, there's no sign that Boeheim is ready to call it quits anytime soon, meaning he could very well find himself a ways up this list when all is said and done.

9. Jim Calhoun

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Head coach Jim Calhoun of the Connecticut Huskies looks on from the bench against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters  at Madison
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    It's only fitting that Jim Calhoun finds himself one spot ahead his longtime friend and coaching rival Jim Boeheim on this list, as the UConn coach has seemingly always been one step in front of Boeheim in just about every way.

    Calhoun has more tournament wins (45) and two national championships (two) and just as many Final Four appearances (three).

    However, unlike Boeheim, Calhoun's name has been sullied in recent years by alleged NCAA recruiting violations, though not enough to drag him down too much further among the best coaches of March Madness.

8. Tom Izzo

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    COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 15:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans looks on while playing the Ohio State Buckeyes on February 15, 2011 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Few coaches these days can measure up to what Tom Izzo has accomplished over the past decade and a half.

    In that span, Izzo has led Michigan State to 13 tournament appearances, nine Sweet 16s, seven Elite Eights, six Final Fours and, of course, a national championship in 2000.

    All of those numbers add up to 35 wins in the Big Dance since Izzo took over the Spartans basketball program in 1995, which is particularly impressive when considering that those wins account for nearly one in 10 of Izzo's overall victories.

7. Rick Pitino

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 02:  Rick Pitino the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the Big East Conference game against the Providence Friars at the KFC Yum! Center on March 2, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    With so many great coaches in the league, it should come as no surprise that the Big East does so well in March year after year.

    Add Rick Pitino to the picture, and the advantage becomes even clearer.

    Boeheim and Calhoun may get more praise than the Louisville coach, but no one anywhere can boast the sheer variety of success that Pitino has on his resume.

    Sure, other coaches have more tournament wins than Pitino's 38, more Final Four appearances than his five and more national championships than his one with Kentucky in 1996.

    However, no other coach in NCAA history has ever taken as many different ballclubs to the national semifinals as Pitino has; Slick Rick has guided three schools—Providence, Kentucky and Louisville—to the Final Four.

6. Denny Crum

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    15 Mar 1996:  Head coach Denny Crum of the Louisville Cardinals looks on during a game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Louisville won the game, 82-80. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones  /Allsport
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Before Rick Pitino was the man in Louisville, and during his deification at Kentucky, Denny Crum was busy establishing the Cardinals as a perennial tournament contender.

    In 30 seasons, Crum, who played under John Wooden at UCLA, took the 'Ville to the Big Dance 23 times, winning 43 games and two national championships with six Final Four appearances.

    Unfortunately, the man known for his red blazers and rolled-up programs isn't quite the name he used to be in the world of college basketball, though he is easily deserving of a spot on this list.

5. Roy Williams

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 05:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates winning the ACC Regular Season Championship as they defeated the Duke Blue Devils 81-67 at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 5, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Caro
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Perhaps no coach has ever benefited more from a job change than Roy Williams.

    Not that Williams wasn't successful in his 15 years at Kansas; he led the Jayhawks to four Final Fours during his time in Lawrence.

    However, since taking over at North Carolina in 2003, Williams has led his alma mater to three Final Four appearances and two national championships while adding to his already sizable total of 55 wins in March and April.

4. Dean Smith

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    With or without Roy Williams, North Carolina wouldn't be among college basketball's blue bloods without the legendary Dean Smith.

    Like Williams, Smith got much of his basketball training at Kansas, where he played under another legend, Phog Allen, who learned the game from the man who invented it, James Naismith.

    Smith put his training to excellent use, especially in the NCAA tournament, where he wracked up 65 wins, 11 Final Fours and two national championships in 36 years in Chapel Hill.

    Of course, Smith didn't do it all by himself; he had a few pretty good players along the way, assuming names like Sam Perkins, James Worthy and Michael Jordan still ring a bell.

3. Bobby Knight

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    17 Mar 2000: Head Coach Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers talks to Lynn Washington #44 during round one of the NCAA Tournament Game against the Pepperdine Waves at the Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, New York. The Waves defeated the Hoosiers 77-57. Ma
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    No list of college coaches, regardless of the topic, would be complete without "The General."

    The man known to his family as Robert Montgomery Knight had himself an incredibly productive career in the world of college basketball, throwing tantrums and abusing his players while adding some remarkable accomplishments to his resume.

    Though Bobby Knight spent time at the helm of the teams at Army and Texas Tech, he will clearly be remembered for his 30-year tenure at Indiana, where he guided the Hoosiers to five Final Fours and three national titles.

    On top of all that, Knight's 1975-1976 Hoosiers are still the most recent team to finish a season undefeated—a feat the weight of which grows greater year after passing year.

2. Mike Krzyzewski

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 05:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils yells to his team against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on March 5, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The one fact worth noting about Bobby Knight's time at Army is that he coached the man just ahead of him on this list.

    That's right: Mike Krzyzewski played for "The General" when he was at West Point.

    It's certainly strange to think of the straight-laced Krzyzewski emerging from the coaching tree of the boisterous and blather-mouthed Bobby Knight, but that's exactly what's happened.

    And one would have to imagine that folks at Duke don't mind one bit.

    Coach K is about as close to a mythical figure as one will find stalking the sidelines in college basketball today.

    Not that Coach K's six seasons as the head coach at Army need be disregarded, but clearly, his 30 years at Duke have yielded quite a bit more success.

    Especially in the NCAA tournament, wherein Krzyzewski holds the all-time record for wins (77) to go along with 11 Final Fours and four national championships.

    Oh, and he's won gold medals at the Olympics and the FIBA World Championships.

    Not bad for a Polish kid from Chicago, eh?

1. John Wooden

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    Coach K may continue to amass wins and tournament accomplishments for years to come, but he, like any other coach, would be hard-pressed to ever measure up to the late, great John Wooden.

    Sure, plenty of coaches have passed up the overall win total of the "Wizard of Westwood" in the 36 years since he stepped down from his post at UCLA.

    And, yes, Wooden's 47 tournament wins, though impressive, leave him a full 30 behind Coach K, though this gap can be at least partly corrected for by the fact that the tournament consisted of only 16 participants up until his retirement.

    This point may diminish Wooden's 12 Final Four appearances somewhat, but they certainly don't and will never tarnish the 10—count 'em—national titles he won as the head coach of the Bruins in those 12 tries, seven of which came in succession.

    Is it any wonder that Wooden, who would have been 100 years old this year, has been honored in just about every way possible, including being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the most prestigious award that the President can give to a civilian?

    So while the accomplishments of the other coaches on this list may someday be dwarfed by their younger peers, there is little chance of any coach proving so overwhelmingly dominant in the month of March as John Wooden once was.