Head of the class (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday April 11, 2007 11:45AM; Updated: Wednesday April 11, 2007 6:36PM
6. Tom Izzo, Michigan State: It's been a rough couple years for Izzo's program since he lost the core of the 2005 Final Four team (Izzo's fourth trip in seven years), but even so the Spartans have maximized their talent, reaching the NCAAs both years, and should be back in contention for a Big Ten title next season.
7. Ben Howland, UCLA: He pretty much fits all the aforementioned criteria, having rebuilt the Bruins with a clearly defined, defense-oriented philosophy and has reached consecutive Final Fours with a talented but hardly loaded group of players. With star recruit Kevin Love joining the mix this fall, UCLA will certainly have a shot at another.
8. John Calipari, Memphis: Say what you want about the guy's recruiting tactics, or his failed NBA tenure, but Calipari can flat-out coach college basketball, as proven again this past season when, despite losing two first-round draft picks and his starting point guard, he still led a young Tigers team to its second-consecutive Elite Eight.
9. Thad Matta, Ohio State: In seven years as a head coach, Matta has been to seven NCAA tournaments, reached a national-title game with the Buckeyes, the Elite Eight with Xavier and managed to sign one of the most impressive recruiting classes in history despite the Buckeyes enduring NCAA sanctions at the time. More to come.
10. Billy Gillispie, Kentucky: He would have made this list whether Kentucky hired him or not. Gillispie has demonstrated a remarkable ability to make an immediate impact on a program with quick turnarounds at both UTEP (from 6-24 to 24-8) and Texas A&M (from 7-21 the year before his arrival to the NCAAs in his second season and Sweet 16 this year).
Just missed: Michigan's John Beilein, Kansas' Bill Self, USC's Tim Floyd, Gonzaga's Mark Few, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan.
Also considered (in alphabetical order): Texas' Rick Barnes, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon, Texas Tech's Bob Knight, Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, Indiana's Kelvin Sampson, Georgetown's John Thompson III.
In case you're curious why I didn't compile a list of the "five worst" like I do for football -- it's because there are 336 Division I teams, for crying out loud. I'd be lying if I told you I even knew the names of the bottom 150.
But that doesn't mean I won't accept nominations.