Earlier this week, Athlon Sports put out a pretty solid list of the top 30 coaches in college basketball.
They listed Tom Izzo first, and frankly, it is difficult to disagree with them.
The problem with ranking coaches, however, is that there are really two ways to do it because a head coach has, essentially, two jobs.
The most obvious role that he plays is that of the coach. Developing game plans, scouting opponents, designing offenses and defenses that fit his personnel, in-game adjustments. Put easier, his ability to put his team in a position to win a game and whether or not that ability translates into wins, especially in March.
His most important role is that of program facilitator. Can he identify talent, recruit that talent to his campus, and do it without getting caught breaking NCAA rules? Can he develop the talent that he brings in? Can he keep the fan base happy by winning games? Can he keep the boosters around by knowing their names, shaking their hands and turning up at enough events to keep their money coming in? Can he hire a staff that is good enough to make both parts of his job easier?
When it comes to simply being a basketball coach, I’m not sure that there is anyone better than Tom Izzo. There is a reason that his team’s always seem to outperform their seeding in the NCAA tournament. Hot on his heels is Brad Stevens. He led the Bulldogs to two consecutive national title games. That’s unbelievable. VCU’s Shaka Smart, Billy Donovan and Bill Self would be way up on that list as well.
Another guy that would almost assuredly would be a top five coach on that list is Mike Krzyzewski, which is notable because I’m not sure there is a coach in the country that is better at running a program that Coach K. He’s won a national title in three different decades. He turned Duke from a doormat into arguably the nation’s premiere basketball program, and he’s done it without relying on a steady flow of future NBA all-stars.
That’s why I would rank Coach K as the nation’s top college basketball coach.
(Note: I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating: I don’t think there has ever been a more perfect fit for a coach at a school than John Calipari at Kentucky. His persona and his attitude are perfect for the passionate fans of Big Blue Nation. His mantra — let’s get you to the NBA as fast as possible after we win a national title! — and his track record make him a perfect fit for every elite recruit in the country.
He’s turned UK into the Freshmen Dynasty.)