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Column: Hierarchy of the hardwood

By Ryan Tepperman
On March 27, 2012

Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan wrote an article Saturday talking about how Syracuse and its coach, Jim Boeheim, deserve to be mentioned among the elite schools in college basketball.

"You think about the marquee programs and coaches in college basketball and you always include the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, and if you're old enough, UCLA," Ryan wrote "It's also necessary to mention Michigan State and Tom Izzo.

"Just don't forget The 'Cuse. Or Jim Boeheim."

Whether it was an intentional omission or not, it got me thinking about how little recognition three-time champion Jim Calhoun seems to get from the national media.

After all, the entire list of coaches with three or more titles is as follows: John Wooden (10), Coach K (4), Adolph Rupp (3), Bobby Knight (3) and Calhoun.

Calhoun also has 866 career wins, 50 NCAA tournament wins and 16 Big East regular season and tournament championships. Yet for some reason, he's often forgotten during discussions of the elite coaches in college basketball.

Therefore, I decided to put together a coaches' power rankings, based on everything from historical achievements and postseason success to player development and age.

1. Coach Krzyzewski, Duke: Coach K has the most all-time wins in Division I men's basketball history with 927, and he's second with four national championships and 11 Final Fours. Another ship and he'll reach John Wooden-level.

2. Bill Self, Kansas: Given the choice, there isn't any coach in the country I'd rather have right now, and that includes Coach K. Here is a list of the Jayhawks' tourney seeds since 2008: 1, 3, No. 1 overall, 1 and 2. He just added another Final Four to his resume Sunday with a win over No. 1-seeded UNC to go along with his 2008 National Championship, and Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season title every year since 2005.

3. John Calipari, Kentucky: Just kidding.

Jim Calhoun, UConn

3a. Tom Izzo, Michigan State: Since getting named Michigan State's coach in 1995 (after 12 years as an assistant), the 57-year-old has taken the Spartans to six Final Fours and a national championship victory in 2000. Izzo needs another title to reach Calhoun's level historically, but he's as good as anyone right now at winning with the talent he has.

5. Roy Williams, UNC: Williams is that prototypical guy who's been labeled "overrated" for so long that he's actually become underrated. Sure, his two coaching stops have been at "Blue Blood" schools Kansas and North Carolina, but not many people can match his resume, which includes a 674-168 record - good for a .800 winning percentage - to go along with two championships and seven Final Fours. While you or I could probably recruit a top-10 class to UNC, it takes a coach as good as Williams to win with it.

6. Rick Pitino, Louisville: The only coach in men's college basketball history to take three different schools to a Final Four, Pitino's 2011-12 Louisville squad was maybe his best coaching job. Pitino now has six Final Fours and a championship in his sure-to-be Hall of Fame career.

7. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse: Boeheim ranks third all-time in career wins (890), and his 46 NCAA tournament wins is third among active coaches. But his relatively lack of NCAA tourney success (one championship, three Final Fours, one Elite Eight performance since 2003) bumps him all the way down to No. 7.

8. John Calipari, Kentucky: People want to discredit his coaching ability because of all the five stars he gets, but it's not an easy thing to do to win with young players (see Drummond, Andre and UConn). I won't feel bad at all when Calipari's two vacated Final Fours keep him out of the Hall, but there's no denying the man can flat out coach.

9. Brad Stevens, Butler: Boy Wonder missed the NCAA tournament this year for the first time in his career, but taking Butler to back-to-back championship games earns him the No. 9 spot on this list.

10. Thad Matta, Ohio State: Matta has flown under the radar for a little while now, but that should change with his second Final Four at Ohio State. He had success at both Butler and Xavier, and now that he's raking in the five stars, the Buckeyes look poised to be contenders for years to come.

Honorable Mention: Bob Huggins, West Virginia; Sean Miller, Arizona; John Thompson III, Georgetown; Shaka Smart, VCU; Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh; Ben Howland, UCLA; Bo Ryan, Wisconsin; Mark Few, Gonzaga

 


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