Published on June 19, 2019 by Connor Wolf  

Basketball legend Elgin Baylor once said, “Coaching is easy.  Winning is the hard part.”  This quote makes a lot of sense to me because anyone can coach a basketball team, but it takes a knowledgeable, passionate coach to prepare and inspire his team to win games.  Coaching successfully at a high level requires a certain knowledge of the game, the ability to get your players to come together and play as a team, and often times, the ability to make quick in-game decisions.  The best coaches in college basketball need all of these attributes in their approach to coaching and must apply them to win games and, ultimately, championships.

This article will take a look at who I believe to be the ten best coaches in college basketball right now.  It will statistically break down and compare each coaches’ success in both the regular season and in their NCAA Tournament appearances.  I will then rank these coaches in terms of success, for both regular season coaching and NCAA Tournament coaching.

Regular Season Success

Best NCAA Coaches in Regular Season Play

  1. Mark Few - Mark Few lands the number one spot for regular season success due to his incredible winning percentage and his dominance over the West Coast Conference for the past 20 years. He ranks first among the listed coaches in both winning percentage (82.3%) and percentage of conference titles, at 90% (18/20).
  2. Roy Williams – Roy Williams ranks second among these coaches in winning percentage, at 78.9%, and has won an impressive 18 conference titles in 31 seasons (58.1%).
  3. Bill Self – Bill Self comes in at third due to his pure dominance of the Big 12. Coach Self won an amazing 14 straight conference titles at Kansas, and has won 18 conference titles in 27 seasons as a head coach (66.7%).
  4. John Calipari – John Calipari has the third best winning percentage among these coaches at 77.2%. He is also one of five coaches to win his conference title more often than not.  He has won 15 in 27 seasons (55.6%).
  5. Sean Miller – Sean Miller may come in at fifth as a surprise, but you can’t argue the numbers. He ranks sixth in win percentage at 75.4% and fourth in conference title winning percentage at 57.1% (8/14).
  6. Mike Krzyzewski – Coach K has won an amazing 76.7% of his games in his 44 seasons as a head coach. However, he falls to sixth on this list due to only winning 12 conference titles in those 44 years (27.3%).
  7. Tom Izzo – Tom Izzo ranks seventh among these coaches with a 72.3% win percentage. He has also won nine conference titles in 25 seasons (36%).  We will see later on that he’s much more of a March Madness coach.
  8. Tony Bennett – Tony Bennett has a 70.8% win percentage and has won 4 conference titles in his 12 seasons as a head coach (33.3%). However, he has coached the least amount in comparison to the other nine coaches on this list.  I fully expect Coach Bennett to make his way up this list over the next decade.
  9. Jim Boeheim – Jim Boeheim comes in at number nine on this list due to an impressive 71.1% win percentage over his 44 seasons of coaching. He has also won 10 conference titles in these 44 seasons (22.7%).
  10. Jay Wright – Jay Wright somewhat surprisingly comes in at number ten. He has the lowest win percentage of any of these coaches, at 68.7%, and has only won six conference titles in 26 years of coaching (23.1%).

NCAA Tournament Success

Best NCAA Coaches in Tournament Play

  1. Mike Krzyzewski – Coach K takes the number one spot in tournament success due to sheer quantity. He currently leads all of the following coaches in Elite 8 appearances (17), Final 4 appearances (12), National Championship appearances (9), and titles (5).
  2. Roy Williams – Roy Williams is a very close second for this category due to his quantity of success in March, and his amazing percentages. He currently ranks second among the listed coaches in all of the previous categories led by Coach K.  In 31 seasons, Coach Williams has made the Elite 8 14 times (45.2%) and the Final 4 10 times (32.3%).  Both percentages are the best for these coaches.
  3. Tom Izzo – Tom Izzo ranks third in tournament success because, much like Roy Williams, he makes deep runs often. Izzo has made 10 Elite 8’s in his 25 seasons (40%), along with 8 Final 4’s (32%).  Izzo has a chance to move higher on this list, but he needs to add more than one title to his resume.
  4. John Calipari – John Calipari ranks fourth on this list once again due to the percentage of deep tournament runs he has. He has made the Elite 8 12 times in 27 seasons of coaching (44.4%) and the Final 4 six times (22.2%).  He has also made 3 championship games, while winning one.  
  5. Jay Wright – Jay Wright lands the number five spot due to Villanova’s recent frequent success in the tourney. Coach Wright has made four Elite 8’s and three Final 4’s in his career. More impressively, he is two for two in National Championship games, taking home two of the last four trophies (2016 and 2018).
  6. Bill Self – Bill Self falls to sixth on this list due to his lack of Final 4’s and championships. He has made an impressive nine Elite 8’s in 27 seasons (33.3%).  However, he has turned these nine Elite 8 appearances into only two Final 4’s and one National championship ring.
  7. Jim Boeheim – Jim Boeheim has coached in eight Elite 8’s in his career, along with six Final 4’s, and in four National Championship games. However, he only has one championship trophy in his 44 seasons as head coach.
  8. Tony Bennett – Once again, I expect Coach Bennett to climb this list as his career goes on. At this time, he has only made two Elite 8’s in his 12 seasons coaching and one Final 4. However, he capitalized on his first Final 4 appearance by leading Virginia to a National Championship this past season.
  9. Mark Few – Although Mark Few has never missed an NCAA tournament as a head coach (20/20), he has only made three Elite 8’s in 20 years and only one Final 4. He is also still looking for his first championship trophy.
  10. Sean Miller – Sean Miller comes in at last on this list because he has never made it past the Elite 8. Although he has had many dominant teams, and has reached the Elite 8 four times in 14 seasons, he has never made it to the Final 4.

Sources [Link broken as of 8/31/2020]

About the Author

Connor just completed his sophomore year at Purdue University, where he is pursuing a double major in actuarial sciences and applied statistics, with a minor in management.  He has had a passion for both sports and statistics since a very young age, and enjoys discovering all the new information statistics can give us about sports.  Here is a link to his LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn.