ESPN counting down top coaches

  • Didn’t know who else might have noticed this, but ESPN has been counting down the top 25 coaches, one per day (M-F), for the last 3 weeks (they also ranked #26-#50, but didn’t count them down). Today they unveiled #11 Sean Miller, leaving the top 10 for the next two weeks.

    Here’s the lower half of the top 50:

    No. 50 (tie): Randy Bennett (StMary), Scott Drew (Bay)

    No. 49: Richard Pitino (Minn)

    No. 48: Stew Morrill (Ut St.)

    No. 47 Bob Hoffman (Mercer)

    No. 46 John Thompson III (Gtwn)

    No. 45 Mike Brey (ND)

    No. 44 Rick Barnes (Tex)

    No. 43 Chris Mack (Xav)

    No. 42 Josh Pastner (Mem)

    No. 41 Ed Cooley (Prov)

    No. 40 Bruce Weber (KSU)

    No. 39 Tubby Smith (TxTech)

    No. 38 Buzz Williams (VaTech)

    No. 37 Rick Byrd (Belmont)

    No. 36 Steve Alford (UCLA)

    No. 35 Phil Martelli (StJo)

    No. 34 Tad Boyle (Col)

    No. 33 Fran McCaffery (Iowa)

    No. 32 Tim Miles (Neb)

    No. 31 Lon Kruger (OU)

    No. 30 Bob Huggins (WVU)

    No. 29 Jim Crews (STL)

    No. 28 Jim Larranaga (Mia)

    No. 27 Mick Cronin (Cin)

    No. 26 Archie Miller (Day)

    No. 25 Jamie Dixon (Pitt)

    Here’s some omissions that surprised me:

    Cuonzo Martin

    Dana Altman

    Tom Crean

    Mike White

    Johnny Dawkins

    And here’s the list from No. 24 – No. 11:

    No. 24 Bob McKillop

    No. 23 Greg McDermott

    No. 22 Tommy Amaker

    No. 21 Larry Brown

    No. 20 Thad Matta

    No. 19 Jay Wright

    No. 18 Steve Fisher

    No. 17 Mark Few

    No. 16 Roy Williams

    No. 15 Fred Hoiberg

    No. 14 Tony Bennett

    No. 13 Shaka Smart

    No. 12 Jim Boeheim

    No. 11 Sean Miller

    So now, who’s left? Can we fill out the remaining 10? Shouldn’t be too hard right? In some order this is what I’ve been able to deduce:



    Coach K


    Rick Pitino


    Bo Ryan




    (Quick note on what ESPN says is their criteria, and that is which coaches are doing the best jobs right now. Not about career accomplishments. Not about legacy. Although…it has to factor in somewhat, otherwise Self and Marshall wouldn’t be in the top 10, not having advanced at least to the sweet 16 last year. Right? Idk, it’s ESPN.)

    Anyway, to me it makes for fun debate. Who got snubbed on their ranking? Who’s ranked too high? What does the top 10 look like (I do try to be somewhat objective)? I’ll give it a little while before posting any of my thoughts. Just thought it would be something to focus on instead of poor JoJo’s foot!

  • @icthawkfan316

    Thanks for posting the list. I found it too degrading to the coaching profession (and too annoying to me) to watch the names of these guys be reeled out one by one, like the Top Ten Bimbettes, or the Top Ten Fashion Faux Pauxs on a People Magazine web site, just so clicks could be maximized.

    Regarding 25 through 50, Scott Drew and Josh Pastner being on the list make me sure that who ever did it must have trouble finding their glutes with both mitts.

    Putting Bruce Weber ahead of Rick Barnes is like putting Bean ahead of John Gielgud on a list of best actors.

    Tubbie, ranked behind anyone without a ring, even though I’m not a Tubbie fan, is the equivalent of putting Lewis Black ahead of Steve Martin on a list of comics.

    Mick Cronin is obviously too high.

    Jim Crews ahead of Lon Kruger? How about Gomer Pyle ahead of Pavarotti.

    Tim Miles ahead of Tad Boyle? Only Tim’s mother would think that, and only then after a nightcap.

    I agree with you that leaving Crean and Altman off the list borders on double capital offense, but Martin, who I was once very high on, has yet to fulfill my hopes for him and White and Dawkins are at best coin flip adds to 25 through 40.

    Looking at 24-11, well, McKillop is better than McDermott, Amaker, and Matta, even coaching with a kidney stone and a blind fold.

    Putting Matta ahead of Larry Brown is a slap in the face to one of the game’s all time greats. Larry could literally meet his maker, leave his seat empty during an SMU-Ohio State match-up, and Larry’s flipping memory would out coach Thad Thimble Brains.

    Fisher deserves his own list. The slimy list.

    Hoiberg, much as I like him and think he is a good coach, deserves to be ahead of Roy Williams only in the mind of a syphillitic.

    Tony Bennett ahead of Roy? Tony’s got po, but Roy’s a a sure hall of famer with two rings. Someone at ESPN must really have it in for ol’ Roy.

    Shaka Smart’s only claim to fame is upsetting Bill Self the day after KU got gassed playing Richmond. Smart is above average, but he really hasn’t done diddledy squat to be above 50 through 25.

    Stumpy Miller ahead of Roy and Boeheim? This is like ranking Moe Howard above Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr.

    Among the guys left, Marshall needs to be down at about 30…maybe.

    Ollie is too new to be ranked higher than 10 through 15.

    Bellein, though a fine coach, is a cut under everyone else I have not mentioned on your remaining list.

    Ryan deserves to be above Bellein.

    Brown and Williams should be on the Top Ten list, or there is no basketball god.

    Calipari ought to be on a WWW list, but he won a ring the wrong way, so he’s got to go somewhere.

    Consonants, though I loath him, has to be on top until he quits.

    Self has to win another ring to go higher than 3rd, even though I think he is the best coach the last five years.

    Ratso, Pitino, and Donovan are tied for second until Self leap frogs them with another ring or two.

    Outta here.

  • @jaybate 1.0 I thought it - you wrote it…

    • Tim Miles might win a contest of largest teeth among coaches. Coaching…not so much.

    *ESPN is obsessed with Stumpy. Something about having no neck intrigues them. That AZ fan base is quickly becoming nearly intolerable as it is - the ESPN Stumpy pimping isn’t helping matters.

    *Hoiberg 15th? Really? I guess that is because of the Clones deep NCAA finishes, or all the B12 championships they’ve won - oh wait …

  • Like Ict indicated on the main post, you need to read the criteria ESPN used to rate the coaches.before judging whether the list is correct or not. My list would likely be different if I would be selecting who I think are the “top” coaches, period. Maybe the list does not use the criteria many of us would, but it is what ESPN chose.

    Remember this ranking that was done about the most successful programs?

    Most successful basketball programs…

    I bet fans from all schools other than KU had a problem with the criteria, but that is what the story writers chose. In any case, if Coach Self is ranked #1, we will be quoting this poll for a long time.

  • It will be interesting to see how our guys shake out in this. Not sure the criteria used but to put Roy at 15 is preposterous. Larry at 20 something is even worse.

    Jay Wright ahead of Larry? Fred ahead of Roy and Larry, and even Steve Fisher who was 6-0 with an NCAA title to his credit 6 games into his coaching career?

    I pretend to know a lot about hoops, but I’ve not heard of McKillop. I know I could look him up, but that doesn’t change it.

    These things always generate interesting controversy. I’m internetless this summer, sitting in a McD’s right now catching up, so I probably won’t check out their countdown til later.

  • @wissoxfan83

    As I mentioned in the post before yours, you have to read the criteria ESPN used.

  • @wissoxfan83 McKillop is the coach from Davidson. Not a bad coach, as we remember from 2008. Top 50? Not in my books.

  • OK here’s my thoughts on the list: first, the criteria is too ambiguous. Again, “which coaches are doing the best jobs right now”…what exactly does that mean? It can’t be simply this past, most recent college basketball season. If it was, Self would not be top 10. He didn’t finish top 10 in the polls, we were bounced out of the tourney in the round of 32, etc. Same with Duke & coach K. Bob McKillop checked in at no. 24, they lost in the first round of the NIT last season. So what else is in the criteria ESPN? Recent recruiting? The past 3 seasons? Are they giving degree of difficulty points, in that it is harder to succeed at a place like Harvard than it is at a blue blood institution? Or is there in fact a nod given to legacy and/or consistency? Unfortunately there is no further info given, so these “rankings” open themselves up to immediate criticism. Given this, perhaps it was a very poor list to subject to debate.

    Regardless, I’ll forge ahead with some of my immediate thoughts (focusing mostly on the top 24): Larry Brown is too low. Period. He was snubbed by the selection committee last season, but made the NIT finals. He’s made SMU relevant for their first time in decades. And he’s probably the best pure basketball mind on the list.

    Greg McDermott - too high. Do something without your son and then we’ll talk.

    Tony Bennett - too high. Be more than a one season wonder.

    Ollie in the top 10 - too high. This would have been the equivalent of Bruce Weber being in the top 10 in '05, having made the championship game with Self’s recruits. Let’s see what Ollie does without Calhoun’s recruits.

    Tim Miles has caught flak from a couple posters, but who was the last coach to have Nebraska relevant in college basketball? (and coming out of the Big 10 to boot, much tougher than the Big 12). Ending a 16 year tourney drought deserves a thumbs up in my opinion.

    I actually think Boeheim is too high, based on a 37 year career that has netted one championship. Maybe swap him and Roy.

    Thad Matta might not have the greatest coaching acumen, but he’s had about as much success as any coach on the list not to have won a ring. I don’t think you can argue with his resume. Given this, not sure how he is behind Wright, Few, Smart, Hoiberg, and it is very debatable how he’s behind Marshall, Beilein, & Ryan.

    That’s just some of my thoughts, passing the time until Late Night…

  • @icthawkfan316

    Don’t forget that Coach Self has the best record of any coach in the last 10 year, last 5 years and so om…He has also won the Conference title 10 years in a row, this accomplishment alone will be viewed in the future as one of the bigger achievements of all sport of all times. He has also sent a number of players to the NBA…

    This is a similar criteria to that the American University Games committee looked at and determined that KU had the best program in the last 5 years…and who was the coach at KU for the last 5 years? Bill Self.

    To me, who is doing the best job right now means a 3-5 year period, since judging coaches on just one season is nonsensical, wouldn’t you agree? And based on a 3-5 year criteria, Coach Self has to near at or near the top. This is also the reason why coaches such as Larry Brown, who has been back for only two years and has yet to make it to the NCAA, are ranked lower; in another 2-3 years, provided he does not jump back to the NBA and continues improving the SMU program, Larry Brown will be ranked much higher.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I do agree that a one year sample would be ridiculous. As I pointed out, it would have been nice for ESPN to clarify their criteria other than the vague “best jobs right now”. I also said it couldn’t just be this past season based on where they had certain coaches. But then…they have Tony Bennett in the top 15? And is it 3 years, 5 years? A two year difference in such a small sample size is a fairly important distinction to make I would think.

    Jaybate pointed out that they are rolling out the list one at a time just to get website hits. Similarly, I imagine they left the criteria so poorly defined so they could spark debates in the comments, with people often coming back to the article, thus resulting in more hits.

  • (Obviously interesting discussion, and this list would get ultra-serious for KU alums+fans the minute Self ever decides to walk into the Spurs organization, with that “the-ball-doesnt-stick-here” gleam in his eye…Its the next logical step, but let’s hope the KU-friendly rationale of “fun to teach college kids” prevails a while longer, as does Zenger’s zinger of a $52mil 10yr deal does also. Does an NBA coach make more than that? It’s not about the money for Self at this point, how could it be with that humZenger of a deal?)

    The MINUTE I saw Shaka Smart on the list, I had to wonder where Ben Andersen of UNI was (1-hit wonder)? Smart has yet to duplicate his “success” with a 2nd set of players, doesnt he? I think his only claim was that not only did he upset a blueblood, but actually made the Final Four. Game analysts of that KU-VCU game can point to so much that KU did wrong, and just how uncharacteristic that game was, that it can very easily be “spun” into KU giving it away vs. Shaka’s brilliant gameplan, depending on your point of view. It is hard to assign open-look, non-pressured 3looks for Reed going 1-for-7 as ‘credit’ to Shaka Smart…and hard to assign 6 turnovers from Markieff alone to Shaka Smart. But one can credit Shaka for pushing the pace with his athletes, thus keeping Self’s vaunted-D literally at a comfortable distance.
    So the real question, to me, is sustainable system excellence. Even in the short term criteria used by ESPN. Roy has 2 championships in the last 10yrs. Self 1 + 1runnerup. Calipari 1 + 2runnerups.

    We shall see if Marshall can duplicate his success once his talented roster starts to graduate and gets broken up. So far, Gregg Marshall has had a nice 2 seasons with 75% of the same roster. Marshall was very wise not to bolt for UCLA. He seems to have a nice, Self-like philosophy. If he can play with the big boys with different sets of no-namers like Self used to at Tulsa and Illinois, then he is proving his system of coaching. That, to me is coaching credibility.

    Jury still out on Shaka Smart…NO way I put him at #13. And the jury has spoken about Ben Andersen: not on the list, flash-in-the-pan…(just for fun: do ya wanna know why? Because he coaches low% ball, outside-in.) I’d like to see if Hoiberg’s twist on outside-in, and stretching defenses can withstand the ultimate litmus test: making a 4-6game run against quality, balanced Tourney teams, with opponents taller than 6’7…and can they sustain the trey%shooting that such a run-to-legitimate-success (Final 4) requires. I like Fred Hoiberg, looks good in a suit, and if his team’s trey shooting can duplicate that of NBA team Spurs, then he will have proved his system can do it in a OAD Tourney like March Madness.

    Thad Matta: Interesting fact, is that as of 2012, Thad Matta had an approx 81% win rate at TheOSU, compared to Self’s near83% at KU. And he has had 2 Elite8s + 1 Final4. Of course, Self beats Matta, ended their recent Tourney runs…just as Self has ended Roy’s 3 recent Tourney runs in the last 6yrs. I thought the most telling thing was that in a high-stakes Tournament game, Sullinger vs. Thomas Robinson–> Sully didnt know what to do against the double team of Withey+TRob, while TRob had been passing out of double teams routinely. That is coaching. In fairness to TRob’s friend Sully, he did have a bad back most of that season, and was the last guy lumbering across half-court in that key game against KU. Sully’s stock fell a bit due to that game, as PsychoT’s did in the 08Final4. TRob’s rose. Self’s system makes his college bigs look really good. Self gets the most out of his bigs, it is almost uncanny. But that’s Self simply working his system down to a science. (Almost to the point we openly wonder if Self is too inflexible?)

  • @jaybate 1.0 You’re just waaaaaay too tough old guy-syphilitic? Weber before (beans before pork) Barnes?

    With their credibility at an all-time summit, surely the espn criteria will include Gabe Kaplan from his monumental coaching, Oscar wannabe portrayal in…LOL…“Fast Break.”

  • Talking about top coaches only, what are the criteria?

    • Best recent seasons? In that case pick those with the most rings since (choose your year), and break ties with Final Four appearances.

    • Do you get points off for bad recent seasons? In that case move Roy and Calipari down.

    • Do you get points for a high average, or for conference titles? In that case move Self up.

    • Do you count what you think will happen over the next year, or 2, or 3? In that case follow your heart, or throw darts.

  • @FarSideHawk I’m obviously biased but I thought he would be top 3. I suppose the top 6 guys are pretty interchangeable…Self, Coach K, Cal, Izzo, Pitino, Donovan. Hard to go wrong with any of those guys (although Cal is obviously the biggest sleezeball).

  • @joeloveshawks I agree, I thought he’d be in the top 3 too, but you can really make a case for any of the top 6. I bet if we didn’t flame out against Stanford this past season, he’d be higher.

  • @FarSideHawk Don’t get me wrong, but top ten is about hoyle. His in game adjustments, or limitations as such, I can’t make him any higher than a five or six. Past 2 years in the dance he’s not faired well at all in that department. Even with Wiggs we crashed & burned vs a very mediocre Stanford under pressure. I put a lot of that & the Michigan loss right on him. Especially Michigan with the huge late lead & a team of war tested veterans. Bill just didn’t show the game savvy I expected from him with that squad. As always, JMO.

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