Greatest College Basketball Head Coaches

Nitrobetting gets you primed with March Madness over a week away. The herd gets thinned to some of the best teams in the league with more basketball action coming our way. But before tournament projections, analysis, and other in-depth information materialize, we focus on some of the greatest coaches in NCAA basketball history.

Our Top 10 Greatest College Basketball Head Coaches

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10. Clair Bee

Bob Knight emphasized that Clair Bee was basketball in the first half of the century. Bee’s record boasts an imposing 64-29 mark with LIU. Bee took things to the next level and led an undefeated LIU squad to an NIT Title in 1939 at a time when the NIT was the most revered National Title. For some, Bee was the greatest college coach of the first 50 years of NCAA basketball.

9. Al McGuire

Al McGuire is a mainstay name in television commentary. But, what other people overlook is the fact that he was a successful coach that turned an underdog Catholic College into a force to be revoked with. McGuire guided Marquette to the NIT title in 1970. His journey is not without its ups and downs. McGuire lost the NCAA Championship game in 1974 before making it to the NCAA Championship in 1977 and winning the title. McGuire claimed the National Coach of the Year award twice and led Marquette to top-20 appearances in his last ten seasons. By the end of his career, McGuire established his name at Marquette by being one of the first white coaches to successfully recruit from the inner city.

8. Eddie Sutton

Sutton’s career might have dipped towards the end of his stint. At his second-to-last coaching gig at Oklahoma State in 2006, Sutton resigned after being arrested for DUI. Nonetheless, that doesn’t take away the fact that he is a successful basketball coach. Sutton secured 804 career wins in Division I with Creighton, Kentucky, Arkansas, San Francisco, and Oklahoma State. During his run as a coach, Sutton coached at the Final Four in three different decades with Arkansas (1978) and Oklahoma State (1995, 2004). Today, all Oklahoma State Cowboys men’s basketball team home games are played on Eddie Sutton court at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

7. Hank Iba

Oklahoma State penned two national titles under Hank Iba, which includes a national appearance, finished fourth once, and were regional runners-up four times in eight playoff appearances between 1945-65. Iba reached the Final Four four times (1945, 1946, 1949, 1951) after directing Oklahoma A&M to the NIT semifinals on four occasions (1938, 1940, 1944). He is the winningest coach on Oklahoma State’s list. He led the nation in scoring defense 16 times in the process.

6. Jim Calhoun

Jim Calhoun recently stepped down as the UConn Huskies coach, but before ending his run with the team, he accomplished arguably the greatest assembly of a top-rank college basketball program. Hardly anyone outside of Storrs knew of its accomplishments before Calhoun made it to Connecticut in 1986. Today, it’s safe to say that the Huskies are an elite basketball team. The side scored over 600 wins to go with seven Big East Tournament titles, four Final Four appearances, and three national championships. The latest NCAA title crossed the threshold in 2011, which made Jim Calhoun the oldest coach (68-years-old) in Division I history to earn college basketball’s most coveted title.

5. Bob Knight

Knight is not everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, even John Wooden himself mentioned that “I don’t think there’s ever been a better coach than Bobby Knight.” Although he followed that up by saying that he did not have an affinity for Knight, he did respect his achievements for the Ohio native. Bobby Knight is the second-winningest coach in Division I with 902 wins. During the process, he turned Indiana into one of the country’s elite college basketball teams. His time with Bloomington gave the side 11 Big Ten regular-season championships, five Final Fours, and three national championships. Knight went through multiple controversies that led to his ejecting from the program he single-handedly established, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he is a talented coach.

4. Adolph Rupp

Kentucky is a staple name in the list of successful players and coaches. Its current program is heavily influenced by the Baron of the Bluegrass, Adolph Rupp. In his 42 seasons as head coach in Lexington, Rupp helped Kentucky make the NCAA Tournament 20 times. He helped six of the 20 teams reach the Final Four, and take four of those squads to the national championship. Adolph Rupp is a decorated basketball coach, claiming the National Coach of the Year award four times and the SEC coach of the year seven times. Furthermore, his overall record features 876 wins and an impressive 82% win rate. Rupp was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969.

3. Dean Smith

Smith and the Tar Heels made 11 NCAA Final Four appearances (1967, 1968, 1969, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997). Among Smith’s greatest accomplishments is his run to lead the Heels to the final four in four consecutive decades. He turned North Carolina’s program into one of the best in basketball history. He introduced countless innovations in the college space such as the Four Corners offense. This was a strategy that spread players over the four corners of the court to seal a victory at the end of the game. And if his record is not enough to get him high up the list, he also coached the greatest basketball player to walk on earth: Michael Jordan.

2. Mike Krzyzewski

Coach K is a Polish-American coach that grew up in Chicago. His name reverberates in college basketball as one of the greatest in American sports today. He led Duke to 11 Final Fours in his three-plus decades as Duke’shead coach. His portfolio highlights four national championships and now holds the title for the winningest coach in Division 1. His trophy cabinet also includes two Olympic medals (2004, 2008) as head coach of Team USA. To this date and 32 years into his Duke tenure, Coach K stands his ground as a national championship contender. What makes him even more impressive is the fact that he keeps up with the times, implements solid recruitment strategies, and develops players to the best of their abilities. There’s no question why Coach Mike Krzyzewski was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

1. John Wooden

It’s a tight race between Coach K and John Wooden. The same argument can go on for ages, but the margins will remain narrow. In Wooden’s over 27 years as head coach of the UCLA Bruins, his team achieved 10 national championships, counting seven straight at one point between the 1960s and the 70s. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is the only coach that makes it close to this title record. Wooden was inaugurated in the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in the early 60s.

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