Point/Counterpoint: Who Should Be NCAA Coach of the Year?
Elan: This college basketball season has been one for the ages. The race for the No. 1 seeds in the tournament is heating up, National Player of the Year is a contentious topic, but one race is a particularly tight battle; National Coach of the Year. I see Larry Brown, from Southern Methodist, taking the honor. Brown, the winner in 1988, has taken a downtrodden program that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1993, and led it back to prominence. In the final AP poll, they were ranked 25th. They hadn't even been ranked since 1985.
Dan: When talking about National Coach of the Year, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall has to be in the conversation. After reaching the Final Four last season, Marshall led the Shockers to 34-0 record this year, rolling over opponents in the Missouri Valley Conference by an average of 11.3 points and climbing to as high as No. 2 in the national polls. With their 83-69 victory in the MVC final, Wichita State became the first team to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated since UNLV did it in 1991.
Elan: Marshall is a nice choice, and Wichita State is a national title contender, but Brown is a legend enjoying a renaissance. You'll be hard pressed to find a coach more decorated in any sport than Brown. He already has an NCAA Coach of the Year while at Kansas, a national championship, the 2001 NBA Coach of the Year trophy and an NBA title from 2004 with the Detroit Pistons. In 2002, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. At 73 years old, with this program, Brown submitted the crown jewel season of his career. He deserves to be rewarded.
Dan: Although Brown is a phenomenal coach who has exceeded at every level, this award is not about who has had the best career, but rather who has been the best coach this season. Marshall's ability to inspire his team to "play angry" has allowed them to roll over inferior competition with ease while persevering to beat high quality teams like Saint Louis. Simply put, Marshall's ability to lead the Shockers to an undefeated season shouldn't be overlooked, as it is one of hardest feats to accomplish in men's college basketball.
Elan: Marshall has led an ascendant Wichita State program to the brink of the Promised Land. Last season, the Shockers went to the Final Four. However, what Brown did can only be described as resurrection. He took an SMU program that has been mired in mediocrity for a generation. The AAC leads the nation in most ranked teams with five. Going 23-8 against foes like defending champion Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis is arguably one of the most impressive coaching jobs in recent memory. It is crucial to understand just how bad SMU was before Brown took over.
Dan: Brown's accomplishments this season are impressive, but not enough to give him merit in the AAC or nationally. The honor of AAC Coach of the Year went to Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who led the Bearcats to a share of the regular season title after being predicted to finish fourth. In an informal poll of 22 anonymous division one coaches by ESPN's Dana O'Neil, 11 of them chose Marshall as their pick for Coach of the Year, while Brown received only one vote. These coaches realize how difficult it is to go undefeated in the regular season and want to make sure that Marshall gets the recognition he rightly deserves.
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