Skip to content

Which Final Four coach do you want? We state our cases

Mar 29, 2012, 9:02 AM EDT

Any coach who reaches the Final Four qualifies as a pretty good coach. Yes, even Rick Barnes.

But some of the coaches whose teams play in the NCAA tournament’s final weekend are a cut above their peers. They’re the best recruiters, Xs-and-Os guys, savvy managers of egos and smart enough to surround themselves to help them along the way.

That applies to the four guys in New Orleans: Kansas’ Bill Self, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Ohio State’s Thad Matta.

But which one would you want coaching your team for one game? We state our cases for each one.

source:

John Calipari

source:

You want John Calipari. He’s got the highest career win percentage of the four coaches, and while he may not have a national title to his credit like Rick Pitino or Bill Self it’s only a matter of time before he does. Of his 13 NCAA tournament teams ten have reached at least the Sweet 16, and that’s not something that happens solely because of the ability to recruit (I don’t worry about vacated records because that’s one of the dumbest punishments in all of sports).

He’s been able to get an immensely talented team to play together with no signs of ego taking over, and more times than not Kentucky ends up in a good position to be successful. The other three coaches may receive more praise for their work with a clipboard, but the judgment of Calipari in that regard seems to be more about perception than reality.

— Raphielle Johnson

*NCAA records. Does not include 42 wins, 2 losses, 2 league titles and 2 tourney titles that were vacated.

Thad Matta

source:

The youngest coach among the four, Matta’s also probably the most underrated. He’s been a head coach 12 years and won his conference title nine times, including five in the Big Ten, routinely one of the game’s three best leagues. He won an NCAA tournament game with Butler, took Xavier to the Elite Eight and was in the national title game in just his third year at Ohio State. That’s a career for most guys, not just the start of one.

Yet Matta’s proven himself to be an outstanding recruiter, developer of talent and has a flair for preparation and in-game tactics, too. His Buckeyes were more than ready for Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone last weekend, shredding it with interior passing. He’s made a football school into one of college basketball’s elite programs. That’s no accident. That’s a testament to how good he is and how his players respond to that excellence.

Mike Miller

Rick Pitino

source:

Would it surprise you to hear that, after a 29-point loss to Providence earlier this season, Cardinals fans were more likely to discuss the chances that their team missed the NCAA tournament entirely than that the possibility of winning the Big East tournament and reaching the Final Four? That’s the turnaround that Pitino has orchestrated, and he has done it while dealing with myriad of injuries to key players.

There’s more: Pitino has also proven to have a feel for this team, making in-game adjustments — like switching to a man-to-man defense against Florida — that have helped to spark this run. Most importantly, he has no pressure on him or his team. They are supposed to lose to heavily favored — and heated rival — Kentucky. John Calipari is the one with the pressure. Can you imagine the embarrassment of the best team he’s had getting upset by a rival coached by his personal rival? They always say the most dangerous person is the one with nothing to lose.

— Rob Dauster

Bill Self

source:

Bill Self and the Jayhawks did it again in 2011-12, despite losing the Morris twins and two more of his top five scorers from last season. They lost two top recruits, Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, to eligibility problems. They didn’t have a clear-cut star or go-to guy to begin the season.

He made long-term player development investments, notably Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, which finally paid off this season. In the short-term, as Pat Forde of Yahoo! points out, Self outdueled Roy Williams in Kansas’ Elite Eight win over North Carolina.

So, for reasons of consistency and the ability to build in both the short-term and long-term, Bill Self is the best coach in the Final Four.

— Daniel Martin

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Latest Posts
  1. Louisiana Tech lands impact guard transfer who can play immediately

    Apr 19, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    (Florida A&M athletics) (Florida A&M athletics)

    Louisiana Tech might have found its new starting point guard for next season.

  2. Highly-recruited Class of 2015 point guard lists eight schools

    Apr 19, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the best players left in the 2015 class is down to eight schools.

  3. E.C. Matthews will return to Rhode Island

    Apr 19, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    E.C. Matthews AP

    Rhode Island is getting E.C. Matthews back for his junior season.

  4. Former Vanderbilt guard finds a new home in the ACC

    Apr 19, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    A former top-100 player found a new home in the ACC.

  5. Former Alabama guard transfers to Georgia State

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    A former top-150 prospect is heading from the SEC to Georgia State.

  6. Mixtape of No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2017, DeAndre Ayton (VIDEO)

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    ayton

    DeAndre Ayton is one of the best prospects in high school basketball.

  7. UNLV awaiting two important personnel decisions in its front court

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:27 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Wood returning would ensure that this young but talented front line wouldn’t lack for experience.

  8. Missouri receives commitments from two John A. Logan College players

    Apr 18, 2015, 8:56 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Missouri is hopeful that these two junior college products can help them rebound from a tough 2014-15.

  9. Vermont signee injured in car crash speaks first words in more than ten weeks

    Apr 18, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT

    Vermont Athletics Vermont Athletics

    Josh Speidel hadn’t spoken since the crash February 1. His first word: “Mom.”

  10. Three-star forward Rapolas Ivanauskas becomes Northwestern’s first 2016 commitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Chris Collins and his staff have done a good job of recruiting local talent, and they reeled in another player Saturday.

  11. 2016 New Mexico commit Mitch Lightfoot decides to reopen recruitment

    Apr 18, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Craig Neal Craig Neal

    Lightfoot was on the receiving end of offers from Arizona State and Utah before committing to UNM, and the new staff at ASU has already reached out to him.

  12. Former Cornell forward Shonn Miller headed to UConn for final season of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpte4mwi1zmrlntq4ndc4yjfiywyzztq3zgnhzgfhmgu0 AP

    Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and he’s an important addition for the UConn front court.

  13. Five members of Iowa State’s 2014-15 team have been arrested after two more arrests this week

    Apr 18, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dustin Hogue AP

    More arrests at Iowa State as two more members of the 2014-15 roster were charged within the last week.

  14. Boise State star granted fifth year of eligibility

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Anthony Drmic AP

    Boise State received some encouraging news this week as Anthony Drmic is returning for another season.

  15. Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hammons’ decision to return makes the Boilermakers a Top 25 team.

  16. Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan will earn his degree this spring

    Apr 18, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Eddie Jordan AP

    Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan has been taking classes at the school in order to complete his degree.

  17. Storylines from the Jordan Brand Classic: Diallo claims another MVP; Briscoe wins over crowd

    Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    2015 Jordan Brand Classic Getty Images

    A look at the top storylines from the 14th annual Jordan Brand Classic.

  18. Illinois lands commitment from Charlotte graduate transfer big man Mike Thorne Jr.

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    Kacinas Thorne AP

    Illinois landed a huge graduate transfer on Saturday.

  19. Report: Coppin State graduate transfer Sterling Smith will visit four programs

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    Sterling Brown, Rashad Smith AP

    Coppin State junior guard Sterling Smith is looking like a prime graduate transfer.

  20. Five-star Kentucky commit believes the NCAA will clear him to play

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Kentucky five-star big man Skal Labissiere believes that the NCAA will allow him to play this season.