When the question of the best coach in men’s college basketball gets asked, many immediately respond with Coach Mike Krzyzewski. He has over 1,000 career wins, five NCAA Championships and is currently the man leading USA Men’s Basketball at the Olympics.
His career numbers are impressive — since the 1983-84 season he has only missed one NCAA Tournament. There’s been 12 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season championships and 13 ACC conference tournament championships.
From the 96-97 to 00-01 seasons Duke won five straight regular season titles. The final three years of that stretch included three straight ACC tournament championships to go with the regular season titles. There were two Final Four’s, with an NCAA Championship in 00-01.
That was easily the most dominant stretch of Coach K’s coaching career.
While Duke won the NCAA Tournament in the 2014-15 season, it’s been six years since they’ve won the ACC regular season, and five since they’ve won the ACC Tournament. That’s a decent drought for a coach considered head and shoulders above his peers.
Back to the question — Who is the best coach in men’s college basketball? How many names were brought up before Roy Williams? I personally don’t put him in my top 5, which is telling since North Carolina is one of three teams I follow closely.
He’s often labeled as a coach who gets by with the talent on his roster, one who lacks the ability to make in-game adjustments. Sometimes it seems as if UNC finishes games with more timeouts than they started with.
Furthermore, there’s criticism that he’s been unable to land top-tier high school prospects in recent years. It’s pretty impressive when you can be accused of relying on your team’s talent, while also being blasted for the lack of it.
Williams has won 16 regular season conference championships, including seven as the head coach of UNC. He has two national championships in eight trips to the Final Four.
Yet, he’s overlooked by the public, underrated amongst his own fan base.
Where Coach K and Duke don’t have an ACC regular season championship in six years, Williams and UNC have three. That’s telling for two elite coaches in the same conference — with a large gap in how they’re perceived by the public.
Coach K very may well be the best coach around, but good ol’ Roy deserves some respect as well.
For what it’s worth, here is my top 5 list of active men’s college basketball coaches:
- Rick Pitino (7 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
- Tom Izzo (7 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
- Mike Krzyzewski (12 Final Fours, 5 National Championships)
- John Calipari (4 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
- Jim Boeheim (5 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
Active wins leaders:
- Mike Krzyzewski, 1043
- Jim Boeheim, 989
- Roy Williams, 783 (8 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
- Rick Pitino, 743
- Bob Huggins, 719 (2 Final Fours)
While I applaud Krzyzewski for building Duke into the power it is today, I still can’t shake the feeling that too many of his teams in recent memory have underperformed. Top-level talent should produce consistent top-level results — both in the regular season and postseason.
This is why I give Pitino and Izzo the top spots, they’ve done more with less.
Coach K is overrated — somehow the coach who has won more games than anyone, hasn’t won enough. Roy Williams is underrated — viewed as a man just trying not to screw up a program that runs itself.
‘Tis how it goes when you’re the head men at Duke and North Carolina.
E-mail Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bryan Horowitz