Best College Basketball Coaching Job

Which Collegiate Program has had the most sustained success?

This week John Calipari, the Kentucky Head Coach chose to stay with the Wildcats for the foreseeable future. He has said in the past, when approached about jumping to the NBA, that being the Head Coach of Kentucky is all he wants to be. The Wildcats were motivated, supposedly, to offer him a “Lifetime” contract because another bigwig in the world of collegiate basketball came calling. Reportedly, UCLA offered Calipari a 6-year $48 million contract. This would have been a pay raise to the already highest paid collegiate basketball coach in the country.

This got us here, at A Sip of Sports thinking. What is the best job in college coaching for basketball? How do you determine that? Which programs offer the richest history and most storied success?

The Criteria

What we did NOT look at:

We are dismissing pay entirely. We are not basing the best job off of which team is willing to pay the highest. 

We are also dismissing locations in that if an individual was given the option of Los Angeles, California or Lawrence, Kansas to live in is entirely on personal preference.  

What we did take into account:

Programs Considered:

  • University of Kentucky
  • UCLA
  • University of North Carolina
  • Duke University
  • University of Kansas
  • Indiana University

Almost all college basketball fans understand these are the movers and shakers, the stalwart pillars of college basketball. If you think another should be considered, comment below and we can see how they stack up.

Here are the categories by which they were judged:

  • All Time Best College Basketball Teams
  • College Basketball Hall of Famers
  • Wooden Award Winners (or similar awards)
  • #1 Draft Picks
  • National Titles and Final 4

Results:

All Time Best Teams

Last year we went through a similar process of deciding the Greatest Individual College Basketball Teams (read all about that here). We took into account each programs appearance on this list.

  1. UCLA (11)
  2. University of North Carolina and Kentucky (3)
  3. Duke, Kansas and Indiana (1)

Not much surprise here, UCLA during John Wooden’s tenure was amazing. And when you line all those teams up individually the program far outpaces the rest of the greats. It is interesting that every single one of our elite programs had a team make it on to the All Time Best list.

College Basketball Hall of Famers

We totaled the players and coaches that have gone through each program that have been elected into the Naismith Hall of Fame. This proves which teams have consistently had the best players and coaches come through them.

  1. UNC (10)
  2. Kansas and UCLA (8)
  3. Kentucky and Indiana (7)
  4. Duke (6)

Conclusion

North Carolina’s presence in the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame is impressive. They have six athletes and 4 coaches make it. Kansas makes its highest appearance in this category with 5 players and 3 athletes.

There are some numbers that are a little misleading take for example UCLA’s 8 Hall of Famers. There are 5 players and 3 coaches. The coaches are John Wooden, Larry Brown and Gene Bartow. Larry Brown coached there for a year, he earned his Hall of Fame status at Kansas and elsewhere. Gene Bartow only coached for the Bruins for 2 seasons. So yes, UCLA has 3 coaches the coached for them in the Hall of Fame, but only Wooden results at UCLA put them in the Hall of Fame.

Wooden Award Winners (or similar award awarded to the best college basketball player)

We looked at which programs had the best college basketball player of the year.

  1. UCLA (6)
  2. Duke (5)
  3. UNC (4)
  4. Kansas and Indiana (3)
  5. Kentucky (1)

UCLA has 2 of the 4 greatest college basketball players of all time in Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Walton alone won the award 3 of his 4 years. But it wasn’t just Walton and Alcindor who were the best players, Marques Johnson and Ed O’Bannon both earned the award for the Bruins.

Though UNC only has 4 it is impressive that they have them in 4 different decades. In 1978 it was Phil Ford, 1984 Michael Jordan, 1998 Antawn Jamison and 2008 Tyler Hansbrough, certainly proof of extended success.

Most shocking is how few Kentucky has. Only Anthony Davis has been awarded the Best College Basketball Player of the Year and that was very recent, 2012.

#1 Draft Picks

Sometimes the best player of the year doesn’t receive the Wooden Award but is drafted first by the NBA. Thus, we included all the #1 Draft picks and what program they came from.

  1. Kentucky and Duke (3)
  2. UNC, Kansas, Indiana, UCLA (2)

What was most suprising here was how even this is with all the great programs and with how few each program has had. In some cases, like UCLA and Lew Alcindor, he was the best basketball player in the country when he was in college, so his jump to the NBA was a boost to the league.

National Titles

  1. UCLA (11)
  2. Kentucky (8)
  3. UNC (6)
  4. Duke and Indiana (5)
  5. Kansas (3)

Let’s be honest, this is the most important criteria but not the ONLY criteria.

Here is where UCLA’s dominance under Wooden just shoots their way past the other programs. It is still amazing to see their numbers, especially when put next to the other elite programs. It is surprising how few National Titles Kansas has. But they have won throughout history, they have a title in 1952, 1988 and 2008. But Kentucky is more impressive in this way, they have wins in the 1940s, 1950s, 1970s, 1990s and 2010s.

Final 4 Appearances

  1. UNC (20)
  2. Kentucky and UCLA (17)
  3. Duke (16)
  4. Kansas (15)
  5. Indiana (8)

North Carolina really jumps out with their appearances in the last weekend of the Tournament. Only Indiana looks out of their league with half as many as most of the other elite programs.

Results:

When we took all their results and averaged them against each other this is how they ranked.

  1. UCLA (1.67)
  2. UNC (2.00)
  3. Kentucky (2.83)
  4. Duke (3.50)
  5. Kansas (4.00)
  6. Indiana (4.10)

UCLA obviously dominates when we do it like this. But how much of that is due to continued, historical success versus the success of maybe the greatest coach of all time? If we take John Wooden out of UCLA’s equation they average a 5.5 or last by quite a ways. That’s because Wooden can be credited with all but one of their Titles, the majority of the Final 4s, most of the Hall of Fame Players and all but one of the Greatest Teams. This is not a knock on UCLA , more it is trying to put in perspective how amazing John Wooden is. Without Wooden, UCLA has not had the historical success and prestige of the other programs.

Duke struggles with the same problem in relation to Mike Kryzyzewski. Duke had one Hall of Famer prior to Coach K, Dick Groat who played from 1948-52. They also had a #1 Draft Pick, Art Heyman in 1963. But most of their prestige and elite statues come since Coach K.

Kansas and Indiana just don’t have the presence in the win categories to compete with the other 2 which leaves us with University of North Carolina and Kentucky.

Here we chose Kentucky. Kentucky has been at the center of basketball since the 1940s and continues to hold elite statues. They have 3 different coaches in the Hall of Fame including two legends, Adolph Rupp (1931-1972) and Eddie Sutton (1985-89) as well as Joe Hall (1972-85). Not in the Hall of Fame but another great coach who coached for Kentucky was Rick Pitino. Pitino, Hall and Calipari have all led teams eligible for our All Time Greats Lists. And as we talked about before, Rupp had an undefeated team that didn’t play in the Tournament in the 1950s. Kentucky has 2 more National Titles than UNC.

Here is our final rankings of Best Basketball Team

  1. Kentucky
  2. University of North Carolina
  3. UCLA
  4. Duke
  5. Kansas
  6. Indiana

Below you can see the full stats of each program along with its pros and cons.

Kentucky

All Time Best Teams: 3

 (1977-1978, 1995-1996, 2011-2012)

                With 3 different coaches Joe Hall, Rick Pitino, John Calipari

College Basketball Hall of Famers

Frank Ramsey (51-54)

Daniel Issel (1968-70)

Clifford Hagan (1951-54)

Adolph Rupp Coach (1931-72)

Eddie Sutton Coach (1985-89)

Joe Hall Coach (1972-85)

Wooden Award Winners

Anthony Davis (2012)

#1 Draft Picks

John Wall (2010)

Anthony Davis (2012)

Karl-Anthony Towns (2015)

NBA Hall of Famers

National Titles

8 (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012)

Final 4:

17

Pros:

  • Ranked 1st in Draft Picks
  • Ranked 2nd in Titles and Final 4s and Best All Time Teams
  • Very successful over a long period of time
  • Average finish was 3rd at 2.83

Cons:

  • Only have had one player chosen as the best player in college basketball

Duke

All Time Greatest Teams List: (1)

1991-1992 34-2 Coach K

College Basketball Hall of Famers

Dick Groat (1948-52)

Christian Laettner (1989-92)

Grant Hill (1990-94)

Jay Williams (1999-2002)

Mike Krzyzewski (1982-present)

Charles Daly (1963-1969) Coach

Wooden Award Winners

Jay Williams (2002)

J.J. Redick (2006)

Shane Battier (2001)

Elton Brand (1999)

Christian Laettner (1992)

#1 Draft Picks

Art Heyman (1963)

Elton Brand (1999)

Kyrie Irving (2011)

NBA Hall of Famers

National Titles

5 (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015)

Final 4:

16

Pros:

  • First in Draft Picks
  • 2nd in Best Player in College Basketball
  • Do have a history of success

Cons:

  • Most of their success come in the Coach K era
  • Last in Hall of Fame Players
  • 4th place finish of 3.5

UCLA

All Time Greatest Teams List (11)

1963-64 30-0

1964-65 28-2

1966-67 30-0

1967-68 29-1

1968-69 29-1

1969-70 28-2

1970-71 29-1

1971-72 30-0

1972-73 30-0

1974-75 28-3

1994-95 31-2 Jim Harrick

College Basketball Hall of Famers

John Wooden

Bill Walton

Lew Alcindar (1967-69)

Sidney Wicks (1968-71)

Marques Johnson (74-77)

Jamaal Wilkes (1971-74)

Larry Brown Coach (1980-81)

Gene Bartow Coach (1975-77)

Wooden Award Winners

Bill Walton (x3, 1974, 1973, 1972)

Marques Johnson (1977)

Ed O’Bannon (1995)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969)

#1 Draft Picks

Bill Walton (1974)

Lew Alcindar (1969)

NBA Hall of Famers

National Titles

11 (194, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995)

Final 4:

17

Pros:

  • Best average finish at 1.67
  • Holds records for most titles and Best Teams as well as Best Players

Cons:

  • Without 3 people their whole argument falls apart (John Wooden, Lew Alcindor, and Bill Walton) and would be ranked last
  • Most of their success comes during the John Wooden Era.

Kansas

All Time Greatest Teams List (1)

2007-2008, 37-3 Bill Self

College Basketball Hall of Famers

Clyde Lovellette (1950-52)

William Johnson (1929-33)

Paul Endacott (1919-23)

Wilt Chamberlain (1957-58)

Danny Manning (1985-88)

Roy Williams

Larry Brown Coach (1984-88)

Forrest Allen Coach (1808-09, 1920-56)

Wooden Award Winners

Clyde Lovellette (1952)

Frank Mason (2017)

Danny Manning (1988)

#1 Draft Picks

Danny Manning (1988)

Andrew Wiggins

NBA Hall of Famers

National Titles

3 (1952, 1988, 2008)

Final 4:

15

Pros:

  • Second in the Hall of Fame representation
  • They are the home of basketball and where Naismith started it all

Cons:

  • Finished 5th in the averages at 4.00
  • They led in the none of the categories.

North Carolina

All Time Greatest Teams List (3)

1956-57, 32-0 Frank Mc Gure

1973-74 30-0 Norm Sloan

1981-82 32-2 Dean Smith

College Basketball Hall of Famers

James Worthy

William Cunningham (1963-65)

Robert McAdoo (1972-72)

Phil Ford (74-77)

Charlie Scott (1967-70)

Sam Perkins (1980-84)

Roy Williams

Dean Smith (1962-1997)

Frank McGuire (1953-61)

Coach Bernard Carnevale (1954-46)

Wooden Award Winners

Tyler Hansbrough (2008)

Antawn Jamison (1998)

Michael Jordon (1984)

Phil Ford (1978)

#1 Draft Picks

James Worthy (1982)

Brad Daugherty (1986)

NBA Hall of Famers

National Titles

6 (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2017)

Final 4:

20

Pros:

  • 2nd in average finish at 2.00.
  • Lead in Final 4 appearances and Hall of Fame representation.
  • They are 2nd in Best Player in Basketball
  • They have had sustained success under multiple coaches and multiple generations

Cons:

  • They are third in National Titles, arguably the most important category.

Indiana

All Time Greatest Teams List (1)

1975-76 32-0 Bobby Knight

College Basketball Hall of Famers

Isiah Thomas

Branch McCracken (1926-30)

Walter Bellamy (1959-61)

Quinn Buckner (1972-76)

Scott May (1972-76)

Bob Knight (1972-2000)

Everett Dean (1925-1938)

Wooden Award Winners

Scott May (1976)

Calbert Cheaney (1993)

Scott May (1976)

#1 Draft Picks

Walt Bellamy (1961)

Kent Benson (1977)

NBA Hall of Famers

Branch McCraken (1960)

National Titles

5 (1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987)

Final 4:

8

Pros:

  • Made the list

Cons:

  • They had the last place average finish at 4.1
  • They led in no categories.
  • Most of their success comes at the hands of one coach, Bobby Knight and his success was not nearly as good as either Wooden nor Coach K.

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