NCAA Basketball is not just a place where fans can enjoy high-tier basketball and support their own schools while watching the future stars of professional basketball showcase their talents. While college basketball is indeed an exciting proving ground for the sport’s young talent, it’s also in the NCAA where we witness the sharpest minds in basketball coaching.
Play in the NCAA is known not just for the electrifying highlights, but also for the superb schemes that are showcased in the hardwood on each game, which come from none other than the coaches themselves. Many coaches in professional basketball likewise got their start in coaching college basketball, such as Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics who previously coached for Butler University, and Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls who had an extensive stint with the Florida Gators, to name a few.
However, in terms of coaching, the NBA isn’t necessarily the next level, unlike with players. In fact, there is a number of college coaches who have spent more years coaching in the NCAA than most coaches have in the NBA.
The NCAA is home to legendary coaches who have made significant contributions to the game of basketball, and we are lucky to be witnessing some of them coaching until today and some college coaches forging their path into a similar status. NCAA Basketball would not be as exciting as it is today without coaches who are constantly devising ingenious ways to play the game.
These are the best NCAA Basketball coaches who are not only collecting wins, but are also leaving an indelible mark on the sport:
The Arizona Wildcats have been a dominant force in the Pac-12 for many years now in large part due to Sean Miller’s coaching. Miller has taken over for Arizona since 2009 and has brought great success to the team in a relatively short amount of time.
Under his watch, the Wildcats won the Pac-12 Tournament championships in three times, and he has also been named Pac-12 Coach of the Year the same number of times as he currently sits at a .735 winning percentage. He has coached the likes of Deandre Ayton, Aaron Gordon, and Lauri Markannen in their college days, which has definitely contributed to their status as rising young stars in today’s NBA.
Another head coach who has relatively few years of head coaching experience under his belt but has already left a significant impact is Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers. Bennett has been named head coach for Virginia in 2009 and has garnered an impressive .745 winning percentage from then to today.
Apart from collecting a bevy of Coach of the Year awards, Bennett led Virginia to the 2019 NCAA Division I Championship and has led the team to two ACC Tournament Championships. Some of the players Bennett has coached are Malcolm Brogdon, who was a Consensus All-American under Bennett’s watch, and Joe Harris.
Since having Mark Few as head coach from 1999, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been nothing short of a powerhouse in the WCC. With a .833 winning percentage, Few has coached the Bulldogs into 16 WCC Tournament championships and 19 WCC regular season first place finishes.
He is a 13-time winner of the WCC Coach of the Year Award and he has won the Naismith Coach of the Year and AP Coach of the Year in 2017, among other accolades. Few has coached the likes of NBA All-Star Domantas Sabonis, as well as Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, who were highly-touted prospects coming in to the NBA.
Bill Self has achieved many things in his coaching career the Kansas Jayhawks, where he currently sits at a .817 winning percentage since coaching the team from 2003. In 2008, he led Kansas to the NCAA Championship and has brought the team back to the Final Four two more times in 2012 and 2018.
The Jayhawks have also won the Big 12 tournament eight times and has finished on top of the Big 12 15 times with Self at the helm. He has won the Big 12 Coach of the Year award six times and was named AP College Coach of the Year twice, as well as the Naismith College Coach of the Year once. Self has been integral in the development of former Kansas players who have made a significant splash in the NBA such as Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Kelly Oubre, Jr.
Roy Williams has had an illustrious and long coaching career. He began as an assistant coach in the University of North Carolina and got his first NCAA head coaching gig in Kansas where he stayed from 1988 to 2003. He has since returned to North Carolina and has garnered a .751 winning percentage with the Tar Heels, in addition of course to leading the team to three NCAA Championships and nine Final Fours, along with multiple triumphant finishes in the ACC.
Williams is a two-time ACC Coach of the Year and has also win the AP Coach of the Year award twice and the Naismith College Coach of the Year once. He has also won the Adolph Rupp Cup in 2006. He has also had his fair share of encounters with NBA stars and even an NBA legend. He was integral to the team that recruited Michael Jordan to North Carolina, and has coached players such as Danny Green, Harrison Barnes, and Coby White.
Jay Wright has led the Villanova Wildcats to two recent NCAA Championships in 2016 and 2018 and has led the team to another Final Four in 2019, all while garnering a .724 winning percentage with the Wildcats. The Wildcats have been consistently dominant in the Big East as well, winning four Big East Tournaments and finishing with the top record in the conference seven times.
Wright is a two-time Naismith College Coach of the Year and six-time Big East Coach of the Year. He was also awarded with the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2018. Throughout his years in Villanova, Wright helped develop players such as Kyle Lowry, Mikal Bridges, and Erich Paschall.
Tom Izzo has remained loyal to Michigan State since 1983 from his days as an assistant coach until he took over in 1995 and has since led the Spartans to an NCAA Championship, eight Final Four appearances, six Big Ten Tournament Championships, and 10 top regular season finishes. He currently holds a .718 winning percentage.
The three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and 1998 College Coach of the Year, along with winning multiple other accolades, has coached players such as NBA Champion Draymond Green, and lauded draft prospects turned key players Gary Harris and Jaren Jackson.
John Calipari has had an extensive coaching career that dates back to 1982, which features a short stint in the NBA as head coach of the then New Jersey Nets and then as assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has coached for Memphis from 2000 until 2009. He then landed in Kentucky after ending his stint with Memphis.
Calipari has a .789 winning percentage with the Kentucky Wildcats, and the team has went to the Final Four six times, won the NCAA Championship once, and has won the SEC Tournament and finished the regular season on top of the conference six times respectively.
He has won a host of awards as a coach, including three Naismith College Coach of the Year Awards, and two Adolph Rupp Cups, to name a few. Calipari has crossed paths with many Kentucky players who have made a name for themselves in the NBA, such as Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Devin Booker, and Jamal Murray, among many others.
Few coaches, whether in the NBA or in the NCAA, can match the longevity of Jim Boeheim. Boeheim started his coaching career as an assistant in Syracuse in 1969, and was promoted to the head position in 1976 where he has stayed until today, and has collected a whopping 976 wins with a .707 winning percentage.
Boeheim has coached the Syracuse Orange to an NCAA Championship in 2003 as well as five Final Four appearances. The team has also finished on top of the Big East 10 times and won the Big East tournament five times with Boeheim in the sidelines.
Boeheim is a four-time Big East Coach of the Year and has won the Naismith Coach of the Year and AP Coach of the Year Awards in 2010, together with a variety of awards throughout his storied career. He has coached NBA legend Carmelo Anthony, with whom he won the NCAA Championship in 2003, and other active NBA players such as former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and Jerami Grant.
When talking about the best coaches in NCAA history, Mike Krzyzewski is a name that cannot be left out of the conversation. Coach K has been with Duke since 1980 where he has collected 1098 wins with a .785 winning record.
The Duke Blue Devils are consistently a force to be reckoned with as long as Krzyzewski is coaching, which is proven by his five NCAA Championships, 12 Final Four appearances, 15 ACC Tournament wins, and 12 ACC regular season first place finishes.
Coach K is a three-time winner of the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award and a five-time ACC Coach of the year, and has coached the United States men’s national basketball team to multiple gold medals. He has been instrumental in the college careers of a great number of NBA players, which includes present-day stars such as Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Zion Williamson.