The college basketball season is picking up steam. When March comes, these four coaches below stand at the head of the class in terms of engineering postseason magic on a college basketball court.
The greatest coach of the 21st century works at Duke. Coach K started in the early 1980s, and he is still going strong. Duke is one of the leading contenders for the 2019 Final Four and national title. The Blue Devils have won two national championships this decade, in 2010 and 2015. They would not surprise anyone if they made that three in a row. The Blue Devils have a special place in history as the first program to win back-to-back national championships since John Wooden’s great UCLA teams in 1972 and 1973. Duke won those consecutive titles in 1991 and 1992, a feat later replicated by Florida’s consecutive national crowns in 2006 and 2007.
Krzyzewski has won five national titles, more than any other coach except for John Wooden. He won in the early 1990s, he won in 2001, he won in 2010 and 2015. Winning national titles 24 years apart – 1991 for his earliest, 2015 for his latest – speaks to how well Krzyzewski has been able to adjust with the times and continue to reach young athletes. His track record speaks for itself and is better than every other coach… except this next one:
This is the godfather of all coaches. The Wizard of Westwood has dominated the history books and stands above every other college basketball coach who has ever lived. It is simply mind-boggling what the Wizard of Westwood was able to do. He won 10 national titles. More than that, he won those 10 national titles in 12 seasons. More than that, he won seven straight national championships from 1967 through 1973. It is simply impossible to fully grasp.
Wooden did not believe in calling a lot of in-game timeouts. He believed in the idea that preparing players in practice was supposed to shine through in the game. Drilling good habits into players was enough to enable them to respond on the fly in live action. Wooden is regarded as an elite teacher who produced results, rather than a coach who merely recruited well or who needed to motivate players at a deep level to convince them to play their best. Wooden simply taught the game at a deep level and allowed his teaching skills to take care of the rest.
The early-period giant in college basketball coaching in the NCAA Tournament era was Adolph Rupp. Before Wooden won his 10 titles and Coach K won five, Rupp won four national titles with Kentucky in the late 1940s through the late 1950s. He made the national title game in 1966 but lost the famous game to Texas Western. He eventually retired in the early 1970s after more than 40 years at Kentucky. Rupp built the Kentucky program into one of the elite programs in the sport, and that elite identity remains today inside Rupp Arena.
Roy Williams learned the game at North Carolina from his mentor, Dean Smith. Roy would tell you that he will never be as good as Coach Smith, but he has surpassed him with three national titles to Smith’s two. Williams has made multiple other appearances in the national championship game but lost. All told, though, he has made six national title games in his career. Given his three titles and the fact that he has never lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game, he deserves to be seen as among the very best in March Madness.