I’m in the middle of a text-message flurry with friends as we watch the Final Four—the second half of Michigan State-Duke just started as this post goes online, and the question is this—who is the Mount Rushmore of current college basketball coaches?
The foursome in Indianapolis was proposed, although consensus seems to be moving Bo Ryan and even John Calipari off the list (and this group is Wisconsin-heavy, so moving Ryan off is done with greater duress than would be anywhere else in the country). In throwing out some names, I’ve decided to be more generous and expand the list to nine coaches—the Notebook Nine. Here’s my choices:
1) Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)—there is no credible argument for anyone else to be on top of the list.
2) Rick Pitino (Louisville)
3) Roy Williams (North Carolina)
4) Tom Izzo (Michigan State)
5) Billy Donovan (Florida)
6) John Calipari (Kentucky)
Our prisoner-of-the-moment media has forgotten Donovan, off a tough year in Florida. Let’s not forget that just last year he was in the Final Four as the #1 overall seed, reached the final eight each of the three previous years, made three other Final Fours and is the last coach to win back-to-back national national championships (2006-07). Having said that, he and Calipari will flip places in a few hours if Kentucky gets to the final game yet again.
I see Pitino being a clear #2 in that I don’t have any doubt about putting him there. But he’s closer to the rest of the group than he is to Coach K. The same principle applies to Donovan, who I see as closer to Pitino than to anyone below him. Izzo and Williams, I’m okay with flipping the rankings. If you’re a Michigan State fan, I honestly want to be persuaded for Izzo because I like him far more.
7) Bill Self (Kansas)
8) Bo Ryan (Wisconsin)
Self has a much fuller trophy case, but also a blueblood program to recruit from. Ryan has turned Wisconsin into a legitimate national power. His ranking could be outdated by late Monday night if he wins a couple more, but no matter what happens in a few hours, he’s secure at #7. Either way, I can see the Self/Ryan parlay in any order.
9) Gregg Marshall (Wichita State)
Marshall’s star is on the rise, he’s taken a midmajor team to a Final Four, an undefeated regular season and #1 seed, and this year, an upset of Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.
The head coaches I hated to leave off were Tony Bennett at Virginia, with back-to-back ACC titles, and Thad Matta at Ohio State, with a couple Final Four runs.
This was done off the top of my head, so did I miss anybody? Who’s your nine?