Greatest NCAA Coaches of All Time

Coaches Who Made The Difference


t1larg.mike.krzyzewski.giRanking the top 25 in NCAA Men’s Basketball has become no more than a guessing game this season.  The AP has Indiana at No.1 this week, and Duke at No. 2.  Rankings don’t mean much.  What will be of great importance is what the teams will do when the tournament begins next month.  When it does, the coaches will have as much effect on the outcome as the players.

College basketball is far superior to the Professional game.  It is pure, it is still a team effort.  The game is not defined by “slam dunks” and individual statistics.  Coaches are still in control of their players, and are often the reason games are won or lost.  Here is a list of the top 10 coaches of all time.  I don’t believe many will argue with their rankings.

No. 10, Jim Boeheim.  With 909 wins, he has the second highest total in history.  He has coached his alma mater for 37 years and is a respected icon in college basketball

No. 9, John Thompson.  1964 saw Thompson become the first African-American coach to win a national championship.  His victory remains Georgetown’s only title.  He was respected by his players as much for his concerns for their personal lives, as for what he did on the court.  He had 596 wins.

No. 8, Jim Calhoun.  Calhoun, who is now retired won 3 national championships and totaled 877 wins in his famed career at Connecticut.

No. 7, Phog Allen.  Coached by Naismith himself, Allen is known as the “Father of Basketball Coaching”.  He won 746 games in almost a half century of coaching.  He also coached baseball and football.

No. 6, Henry Iba.  The head coach of Oklahoma State won 767 times in 41 years.  He coached the U.S. to 2 gold medals, (when the game was still played by college players, true ‘amatuers’), and won two national championships.  He was also the coach when the U.S. suffered a controversial loss to the Soviet Union in 1972.

No. 5, Adolph Rupp.  His coach was Dr. James Naismith, the founder of the game of basketball.  He posted 876 wins and 4 national championships at Kentucky.  His winning percentage was 82.2, the 3rd highest in history.

No. 4, Dean Smith.  The “Dean” coached for 36 years, winning 879 times, including 2 national championships for North Carolina.  Among those he coached was Michael Jordan.  He was named coach of the year 4 times, won an Olympic gold medal, and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

No. 3, Bobby Knight.  With 899 wins, mostly at Indiana University, Knight is the 3rd winningest coach in history.  He was known as the “General” for his unforgiving style of coaching.  He won 3 national championships, and was in the final four 5 times.

No. 2, Mike Krzyzewski.  Coach “K” began his career at Army, then moved on to Duke University.  He is the winningest coach in NCAA history with 947 wins.  He has won 4 national championships.  Although he has been sought by several professional teams, he is happy remaining in the college ranks.

No. 1, John Wooden.  Possibly the greatest coach of all time in any sport, Wooden took UCLA to 10 NCAA championships in 12 seasons. He once coached teams to 88 consecutive wins.  His 664 wins are not indicative of his accomplishments as a coach.  His “Pyramid of Success” involved more than the game of basketball.  His goal was always to groom young men into great young men.  He won with teams that were considered too small, and with teams led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the rebellious Bill Walton.  The dream of every high school player in Los Angeles, including myself, was to play for coach Wooden.  Alas, I was too short, and a white guy who definitely couldn’t jump.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express.

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