KUs Greatest Coach???
Based upon accomplishments up to this point I’d have to rank the former KU coaches:
- Forrest Allen - 2 Helms 1 NCAA championship coached KU and Baker then KU and Haskell at the same time also coached the football one season to a winning record as well.
- Bill Self - 1 NCAA championship 13 straight Big 12 championships
- Roy Williams 3 final fours elevated KU to blue-blood level.
- Larry Brown 1 NCAA championship. left the team on probation.
- W. O Hamilton Won the Missouri Valley his first 5 years of coaching including 3 one loss seasons, had a near .500 record his final 5 years.
- Ted Owens Final Fours in '71 and '74 made the NCAA tournament 7 of his 19 years coaching.
- James Naismith famously said (paraphrasing) you can’t coach basketball
- Dick Harp 2 NCAA tournament appearances in 8 seasons. Couldn’t win it all with Chamberlain.
@dylans nicely done! I wonder if you can compare someone like Allen to Self. If they were to coach against each other my first thought is Self would coach circles around Allen. But as you mentioned, coaching D-I wasn’t the all encompassing thing then that it is now.
@approxinfinity It’s hard to say for sure, but I’m willing to bet Dr. Allen would’ve adapted with the times and would be even better today than he was then.
I don’t know a whole lot about Dr. Forrest “Phog” Allen, but everything I read is amazing. Practicing medicine while coaching 2 college basketball teams! No one has anything but nice things to say about him.
I feel even though the court is named after him that he is under appreciated due to a lack of education. (I include myself in that statement and hope to continue to learn more about the man)
Bill is still writing his legacy. There is one more spot for him to overcome in my book. I think he has the potiental to lead KU to the higher heights than ever before.
Self-compares himself to Coach Allen.
@wrwlumpy And that’s why Coach Self is the best!
I’d flip Owens and Hamilton…and The Inventor and Harp on the list.
@Fightsongwriter Naismith is the only coach with a sub .500 record, but he gets major points for inventing the game! Outside of that he’s the least accomplished of the coaches. However, Naismith is the most famous of KUs past coaches for what it’s worth.
The Fieldhouse is named after Phog Allen, the basketball court is named after James Naismith. I am not sure if this is what you meant.
@JayHawkFanToo yes, slip of tongue/type.
Based on what each did for KU:
1 Allen–put KU on the map.
2 Brown–put KU back on the map
3 Self–kept it on the map and won a ring.
4 Williams–kept it on the map, didn’t win ring.
Best head to head with equal talent?
Larry Brown would win the most games against all of these other great KU coaches. There are only three guys Larry could not consistently beat with equal talent in all of basketball history: Red Auerbach, John Wooden and Phil Jackson.
The least talented of these four?
That’s easy. ROY WILLIAMS. Roy has never built anything in his life. He has been a coat tail rider his entire career. Roy has proven he can’t win any rings at all without superior talent delivered by petroshoeco regimes and an EST whistle. There’s just no doubt. If Roy had not started at KU with the apparent petroshoe connection from UNC and the nucleus of players like Randall that Brown left him, he probably would have been a .600 coach at best at KU. Roy has wasted more great talent at KU and UNC than the other three great KU coaches have ever had COMBINED. Roy is a good coach, not a great one, that has won multiple rings once he got a huge edge and even then he has choked frequently. Roy only wins when he holds the most aces.
The above sounds too harsh about Roy. Roy is a fine coach with a gift for getting players to play incredibly hard. In comparison to other UNC coaches, it’s pretty clear Roy is their best coach now. But this list of KU coaches is a murderers row! And Roy just wasn’t as good in his time at KU. In Roy’s defense, when he does hold all the aces, he tends to “get her done.” Lots of coaches that have held them haven’t. LB blew it with his best KU team. So: to take Roy down a notch here is not so harsh as it may sounds. But bottom line? Every guy on this list ahead of him has built a program and “got her done” with LESS aces than an opponent had, but not Roy.
By comparison, Brown won his ring with when he equal or less talent, and Self won his ring beating a more talented UNC team and a Memphis team full of ringers.
Of all the coaches, the jury is still out on Self. He could still surpass Brown and Allen, but the clock is his opponent now. It appears he will never be allowed to sign OAD 1s and 5s.
…unless Self and KU give up the gravy train shoe contracts and regain apparent full access to the lion’s share of available talent at 1 and 5.
Go, Bill, go!
@dylans The thread is titled “Greatest Coach” not greatest inventor. Naismith has to be last on that merit. He would have put himself last on the list, no doubt.
Naismith requires a lot of caveats to talk about.
First, he shouldn’t be judged on his W&L statement, because he never really tried to be a basketball coach in an conventional sense of the word.
Naismith was an AD and academician.
He coached basketball more or less to save the school and himself the money of hiring a basketball coach. As nearly as I can tell, basketball coaching was never more than a second or third job to Naismith.
Naismith needs to be judged based on the incredible athletic department he built, the NCAA he helped start, the NAIA he helped start, the game he invented, the integration he helped pioneer, the sciences of medicine and physical training that he helped pioneer, and the coaches he identified and mentored (not only Allen and Hamilton who won, but John McClendon and others back in the early days of now forgotten YMCA ball.).
Naismith was a GIANT who came to the sticks and stayed. Had he done what he did at Yale, instead of KU, he would be remembered as one of the great men in America of the first half of the 20th Century instead of the condescending “inventor of basketball.”
My point is this: The guy became exceptional at everything he ever focused on.
I have no doubt that if he had chosen to be a full time basketball coach that he would have been one of our top basketball coaches. He coached, then hired and retained Phog Allen, the first great college basketball coach for a long time.
I think Naismith deserves some respect about coaching.
I’m doubting Allen did what he did the first ten years without ANY mentoring from Naismith.
Gotta believe Jimmy could have been one of the greats had he ever chosen to coach basketball full time.
@Fightsongwriter Thomas Edison is probably the greatest inventor. (If you believe Franklin stole a ton of his ideas while running the patent office) Then there’s Leonardo…This is a much harder list to make.
I honestly think any coach that couldn’t win the NCAA tournament with Chamberlain gets docked big time. Also a coach that only made he Tournament once without Chamberlain can’t be too great inspite of the reduced field.
Without Naismith there would be no coaches. Ergo he is a much more meaningful coach than Harp. Greatness comes in many forms.
What defines greatness? Only wins? I feel I have undervalued Naismith on “greatness” by weighing his on court results so heavily for him to land so low on the list.
You can change my mind though. What reasons make you think Harp was greater than Naismith? You’ve stated it twice, enlighten me as to the reasons for your convictions!
Shifting sands and topic 😉 but hey thats cool. The Inventor was truly a giant as an educator, spritual leader, AD leader, physician and sportsman.
Naismith was involved with the NAIA but not the NCAA. In 1937 the first Tournament for small colleges was held at Municipal Auditorium in KC organized by Naismith and KC businessmen. In 1940, the National Association for Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) was formed in Kansas City, Missouri and in 1952, the NAIB was transformed into the NAIA.
Phog Allen created the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which went on to create the NCAA tournament.
I like your list and one could argue that Owens could be 5 instead of 6. If you go by coaching only, Naismith would be last since he did not believe in coaching and he is the only KU coach with a losing record.
Self and Allen is an interesting comparison and one that is difficult to make. First, they coached in different eras and there is no question that it is a lot more difficult to win now than it was 60-90 years ago, so the advantage goes to Self. However, when you consider Allen’s overall contribution to coaching, advantage goes to Allen. At this time I would agree that Allen is at the top but by the time Coach Self is done, he could well be at the top.
Interesting that 3 of the top 5-10 coaches of our generation, Brown, Williams and Self coached at KU. Brown will never get enough credit as a college coach because he never stayed with one program long enough to develop a legacy and everywhere he coached he left the program on probation; KU came within a wisker of getting the death penalty and we did not even find out the details until many years later. Great coach that cut way too many corners.
No question that whe looking at KU only Coach Self rates higher than Williams but when you consider their entire careers, Coach William would be higher by virtue of his more recent titles, although Coach Self has plenty of time to catch up and pass Coach Williams. Anyone that thinks Coach Williams is not a great coach is simply being disingenuous.
Owens/ Hamilton and Naismith/Harp were toss ups in all honesty. I knew putting Naismith over anyone would be a smidge controversial. I was hoping to inspire someone (such as you) to write up something positve on the coaches and hopefully something on the older less known coaches.
Good points for clarification.
I will try to clarify in another post as time permits.
But thanks for bringing this up.
It is important for persons to appreciate Naismith’s and Allen’s long dissatisfaction with the NCAA and why their and one time NCAA Director Walter Byers’ dissatisfactions need to be understood to make sense of the game that is being sold to us today.
I don’t know if it makes a difference, buuuuuuuuut. In Wilt’s time he had to play the JV team when he first came to KU. Also when Wilt and KU lost that Championship game there was no shot clock. So old Tar Heels dribbled down the ball and held on to it until the game was over. Am I wrong?
Nice. Here are some lists of mine. lol Best KU Basketball coach
- Phog Allen, Did a ton for the game, has a NC and most wins
- Bill Self, Winning the NC in 08 moved him to #2. Will be second in wins early next season. Another NC gives him the #1 spot.
- Larry Brown, NC in 1988, left us in a bad spot.
- Roy Williams, Kept us a super power after Brown got us there.
- W.O. Hamilton, has the 4th best win percentage and 5 conference titles.
- James Naismith, was a terrible coach (only ku coach with sub .500 record) but invented the best game ever gets him outta the cellar.
- Ted Owens, 4th on KUs all time wins list, would be #4 or #5 if would’ve retired 10 years earlier. Made a single sweet 16, won two conference titles and only 5 NCAA appearances in his last 10.
- Dick Harp, Dr. Allen was quoted with saying he could win a NC with Wilt and 4 sorority girls. How Harp messed that up to me is crazy when UNC’s leading scorer fouled out in regulation of a triple OT game…Damn it.
@DoubleDD It was a triple overtime loss. And yes they used the four corners stall.
I don’t know how to compare some of these coaches from the distant past up to now, against Bill. I was born in the 50s and up to now I have Bill as my favorite Kansas coach that I experienced in my lifetime, by a long shot.
@drgnslayr Bill’s my favorite coach period. And in time I suspect he will be the most accomplished.
@dylans I think he sticks around long enough to pass Phog for all time wins at KU. There will be at least 2 more NCs along the way.
I just don’t see a good reason why Bill would leave. He has big bucks already, and plenty of challenge right here in Lawrence. If he coaches around more now he has a distinct chance of losing some of his prestige, too… especially when discussing “legacy.”
@dylans UNC had a 3 OT game in the semifinal, too.
All I can say when it comes to the Wilt and UNC downer. Is one Wilt took that loss very badly. When his number was retired he really felt he let KU and it’s fans down. And two thank God they changed the rules and brought about a shot clock.
@DoubleDD I was there. Right under where his number was unveiled a few rows from the top. I couldn’t figure out why Allen filled up so early. Then out walked Wilt. He was a massive man.