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Coaching Legends

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

As you might expect, putting together an “greatest-of-all-time” list can be a challenging endeavor, mainly because these sorts of rankings can be purely subjective. This list is no different. Here’s my Top 10 Division I college basketball coaches of all time. To make things even more interesting, I’m including the women’s coaches as well. No doubt, you might disagree with who ranks where, but you’ll probably agree that all of these coaches deserve to be on this list. Combined, these ten men and women have won 52 national championships!

So here’s my Top 10, in ascending order:

10. JIM CALHOUN. Went 877-382 over his head coaching career, giving him the sixth-most coaching wins among Division I men’s coaches. He led Connecticut to four Final Four appearances and three championships. His third national title came in 2011 when he was 68, making Calhoun the oldest coach to win a Division I men’s basketball championship.

9. ADOLPH RUPP. Rupp was certainly one of the most dominant coaches in college hoops history. Posting a record of 876-190 in his 41 years at Kentucky, he won an amazing 82.2% of his games (second all-time after Gonzaga’s Mark Few). Coached the Wildcats to four national titles and some 40 SEC regular-season and postseason championships.

8. TARA VANDERVEER. The Hall of Fame coach has led Stanford to three NCAA championships, including the 2021 title. Earned “National Coach of the Year” on five occasions. Boasts an overall career record of 1,125-255 ”(Idaho, Ohio State and Stanford).

7. ROY WILLIAMS. In terms of numbers, Williams has surpassed his longtime mentor, Dean Smith. Although he never won an NCAA championship in his 15 seasons as the head coach at Kansas, he went on to hoist three title trophies in 18 seasons at North Carolina. Posted a 903-264 record before retiring at the end of this past season. He ranks third on the all-time wins list for Division I men’s basketball coaches.

6. DEAN SMITH. “The Dean” is regarded as one of the game’s top innovator. Architect of the “Four Corner Offense.” Smith served as the head coach for North Carolina for 36 seasons, mentoring hoops greats like Phil Ford, James Worthy and Michael Jordan. Led the Tar Heels to two national titles and 11 Final Four appearances. Has a career coaching record of 879-254.

5. BOB KNIGHT. The fiery and often-controversial coach popularized college basketball’s motion offense. When he retired in 2008, his 902 career victories ranked him No. 1 on the all-time list (since surpassed by Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams. Coached the Hoosiers to three national championships. His 1975-76 Indiana team remains the last team to go undefeated (32-0).

4. PAT SUMMITT. In her 38 seasons as the head coach at Tennessee, the Lady Vols never missed an NCAA Tournament. That speaks to the greatness of Summitt, who guided Tennessee to eight national titles and 18 Final Four appearances. She amassed 1,098 coaching wins in her 38 seasons as a head coach.

3. GENO AURIEMMA. Auriemma has led UConn to 11 national championships (and counting), including four straight from 2013 to 2016. He’s earned national “Coach of the Year” honors eight times. His winning percentage is an unbelievable .886 (1119–144). One could make a case for Auriemma being the greatest college basketball coach of all time, but, much like VanDerveer and Summit, he’s benefitted from there being less parity in the women’s game.

2. JOHN WOODEN. The “Wizard of Westwood” had the greatest coaching run ever, winning seven consecutive national championships from 1967 to 1973. Wooden led UCLA to 10 NCAA titles in all – all within a 12-year span. Two of the college game’s greatest player, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabber) and Bill Walton, played under Wooden. Many would give the No. 1 spot to Wooden, but I placed him No. 2 because the NCAA Tournament during his era had fewer teams. (The tournament at the time featured a 25-team field. Today, it’s a 68-team field.) His career coaching record is 664-162.

1. MIKE KRZYZEWSKI. “Coach K” has delivered five national titles to the Duke Blue Devils’ program, second only to Wooden. Krzyzewski, who will retire after the 2021-22 season, has a career coaching record of 1,170-361. His Duke team’s have made 12 Final Four appearances and earned 14 No. 1 seeds.

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