Imagine you’re opening up a new college. You have all the money in the world and the ability to hire any current college basketball coach to head your team.
Which coaches are doing the best job right now? This isn’t about a legacy or total career, but what coach this present year is the best?
We’ll take a look at the 10 best coaches as of January 21, 2015 in college basketball. These are the coaches that you can trust in a one-game or one-season type event.
- Tony Bennett, Virginia
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett is starting his climb up the coaching ranks when it comes to thinking of the best coaches in America. He’s starting to overachieve at Virginia after having success at Washington State. The biggest problem with Bennett though is he’s never experienced success past the Sweet 16. On top of that Bennett has never outplayed his seed come March, but has failed to play to his seed twice. However, he’s turned Virginia into a national name after winning the ACC last season and earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Bennett’s team will always play tough defense, while the offense can sputter. A run this year in March and another ACC title will push Bennett up the rankings.
- Jay Wright, Villanova
Heading into 2009, Jay Wright was arguably the hottest name when it came to open college basketball jobs. People wondered if he’d leave Villanova for a bigger job after making four Sweet 16’s in five years, including a trip to the Final Four and another to the Elite Eight. However, after a top recruiting class never panned out, Wright has been on the road to redemption. Last year’s team went 29-5 while this year’s team is currently 17-2. Wright is one of the smarter offensive coaches in America with his ability to use four guards and still be competitive.
- Sean Miller, Arizona
Sean Miller is quickly turning Arizona into the west version of Kentucky. He’s constantly bringing in top recruiting classes, not afraid to take a one-and-done while loading up on NBA talent. There’s only been one disappointing season under Miller in 2011-12 when the Wildcats made the NIT due to a terrible Pac-12. He’s shown the ability to take almost any roster and make it successful. In just over a year he had Arizona playing in the Elite Eight and was one mental mistake by Derrick Williams from playing in the Final Four. If he can finally get over the hump and make a Final Four, Miller will constantly be thought of as a top-5 coach across the country.
- Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
The biggest knock on Bo Ryan went by the wayside last season. Ryan finally led Wisconsin to a Final Four by adjusting to the game. No longer did the Badgers play the slowest basketball in the country. They averaged nearly 64 possessions per game. They had a top-20 recruit in Sam Dekker. They averaged 1.21 points per possession adjusted. Ryan showed he has no problem adjusting to the game, allowing him to be one of the best coaches in the country to hire.
- Bill Self, Kansas
All Bill Self does is win conference championships. As much as this writer likes to knock Self’s offensive game plan, he gets the right players to work together to win the Big 12 and be on the short list of Final Four favorites. Self is winning 29.5 per year, proving consistency can be achieved in the ever-changing college basketball world. His ability to grow post players and get his team to play team defense has to be commended, but if he can have success this year while leaning on a Kelly Oubre, Jr., it could turn into his best coaching year ever.
- Billy Donovan, Florida
What if Billy Donovan stuck with the Orlando Magic for more than one day? What if he accepted the Kentucky job instead of the Magic/staying with Florida option. There goes the Billy Gillispie-era at Kentucky. There goes the John Calipari-era at Kentucky. It could be argued no one has more ‘what-ifs’ than Donovan’s decision to stay in the Sunshine State. He led Florida to an undefeated conference record last season and the Final Four with no real NBA talent on his roster. That is remarkable considering how everyone thinks you need to have NBA players in order to win at the college level. Donovan seems to have a knack for taking little-known recruits and turning them into elite collegiate players, something that should get him higher on this list, but the next four coaches are simply better.
- Rick Pitino, Louisville
Had Rick Pitino not left for the NBA three times there’s no reason to doubt he would be there with Coach K getting 1,000 career wins. What makes it crazier is he only has two national titles to show for his success. What has made Pitino so great is his ability to turn any team into a great defensive team. Since the 2012-13 season, his teams have been so good defensively that they could spring traps almost anywhere on the court when opponents would least expect it.
- Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Duke isn’t as successful as one might think. Since the 2006-07 season, the Blue Devils have won just one regular season ACC title and failed to make it past the Sweet 16 in six of those eight season. In three of the seasons Duke lost its first NCAA Tournament game, including last year’s embarrassment to Mercer. However, it’s still Coach K and his willingness now to embrace the one-and-done (at least from a media perspective) has shown the ability to still relate to young players. Sure, he has the best legacy out of any coach on this list, but looking at his resume in chunks, the most recent chunk has caused him to fall from No. 1 to No. 3. Regardless, you’re not upset to have him as your head coach.
- John Calipari, Kentucky
John Calipari is a guy who can do it all. You want NBA talent? Calipari is your guy. Develop guys likes Darius Miller and Willie Cauley-Stein? Go ahead and call Calipari. Win a ton of games and reach three Final Fours in five years? Heck, that’s why Kentucky called Calipari. What he doesn’t get credit for is the in-game coaching he is quite capable of. He matches his players up and adjusts defenses accordingly to make him arguably the best defensive coach in the country. His teams constantly rank high in KenPom’s defensive ratings, which translates to NCAA Tournament wins.
- Tom Izzo, Michigan State
This is the guy you want to hire if you want to be successful in both the regular season and NCAA Tournament. It’s been well-documented that last year’s group of seniors was the first group to not play in the Final Four under Izzo. That’s the most ridiculous fact in college basketball currently. Izzo has the perfect blend of every coach in him. Whether it’s taking the mid-tier recruits and turning them into college stars like Donovan or taking the McDonald’s All-Americans like Calipari and working them into his system, he can do it all.