College basketball is a sport with a long history and many huge personalities. Due to the high turnaround of college players, coaches are often the established faces of a program rather than their players. The 20th and 21st centuries have been filled with incredible coaches who are able to both lead and inspire and their players. However, in the world of college basketball winning, especially over a sustained period of time, is what truly matters. Here is a list of the 10 greatest college basketball coaches who ever lived.
1. John Wooden
John Wooden was an American basketball player and coach. Wooden was famously the coach of the UCLA Bruins between 1948 and 1975. During his time with the Bruins, Wooden reached the Final Four 12 different times and won 10 national titles, including seven straight between 1967 and 1973. Wooden also was a three-time All-American during his playing career at Purdue in the 1930’s and won a pre-NCAA Tournament national title in 1932. Wooden retired with a career coaching record of 664-162.
2. Dean Smith
Dean Smith was an American basketball coach who spent his entire head coaching career with the University of North Carolina between 1961-1997. During his time with the Tar Heels, Smith won two national titles and reached the Final Four 11 times. In his 36 years with UNC, Smith won the ACC 17 times and won the ACC tournament 13 times. Dean Smith also played for the University of Kansas and was coached by the legendary Phog Allen. Smith retired with a career coaching record of 879-254.
3. Mike Krzyzewski
Mike Krzyzewski, or Coach K as he is widely referred to, is an American college basketball coach who has coached both Army and Duke University. Despite a mediocre beginning at West Point (Coach K led Army to a 73-59 record and a single NIT berth in his five seasons there), Coach K was hired as the coach of Duke in 1980 and has turned the program into a powerhouse ever since. Coach K has won five national titles and reached the Final Four 12 times with Duke. He has also led the Blue Devils to 12 ACC wins and 14 ACC tournament wins. Coach K has also been the coach for Team USA in each of the last three Olympic Games, winning the gold medal each time. Coach K currently has a career coaching record of 1,100-338, the most wins by any college coach.
4. Bob Knight
Bob Knight is a retired American basketball player and coach. Knight is most famous for coaching Indiana University from 1971 until 2000. Knight was also the head coach of Army West Point and Texas Tech. During his time with Indiana, Knight won three national titles and reached the Final Four five times. Knight also won the Big Ten conference 11 times. During the 1984 Olympics, Knight led the US National Team to a gold medal. Despite his success with Indiana, Knight remains a controversial figure in college basketball. In 2000, a video of Knight choking one of his players during a practice surfaced and he was quickly dismissed from the university. In 2008, Knight retired with a career coaching record of 902-371.
5. Adolph Rupp
Adolph Rupp was an American college basketball coach and player. Rupp coached the University of Kentucky Wildcats from 1930 until 1972, winning four national titles and reaching the Final Four six times. Rupp also won the SEC 27 times during his coaching career and won the SEC tournament 13 times. Rupp also won two pre-NCAA tournament national titles as a player with the University of Kansas under coach Phog Allen. Rupp retired in 1972 with a career coaching record of 876-190, which remains the fifth most by a college basketball coach. The University of Kentucky’s home stadium, Rupp Arena, is named for him.
6. Jim Boeheim
Jim Boeheim is an American college basketball coach and former player. Boeheim has spent his entire career with Syracuse University, first as a player, then an assistant coach and finally the head coach starting in 1976. During his head coaching career, Boeheim has won one national title and reached the Final Four five times. Boeheim has also won the Big East eight times and won the Big East tournament five times. In his 42 years as a head coach, Boeheim has led Syracuse to either the NCAA tournament or NIT in every year except two, each of which the team was ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. Boeheim currently has a coaching record of 926-368.
7. Jim Calhoun
Jim Calhoun is a retired American basketball coach who coached both Northeastern University and the University of Connecticut. At UCONN, Calhoun won three national titles and reached the Final Four four times. Calhoun also led Connecticut to 10 Big East wins and seven Big East tournament wins. Calhoun retired in 2012 with a career record of 873-380.
8. Phog Allen
Phog Allen was a college basketball player and college coach of basketball, baseball and football. Most famously, Allen served as the head coach of the University of Kansas from 1919 until 1956. With Kansas, Allen won 24 conference titles and three national championships (two of which were pre-NCAA tournament). As a player, also with the University of Kansas, Allen was coached by James Naismith, the inventor of the sport of basketball. Allen also coached Warrensburg Teachers College (now called the University of Central Missouri) and led not only the basketball team to two conference titles but also coached the football team to four conference titles. Allen retired in 1956 with a career record 746-264. The Allen Fieldhouse, home stadium for the University of Kansas, is named for him.
9. Denny Crum
Denny Crum is a retired American college basketball coach known for coaching the University of Louisville from 1971 until 2001. During his time with Louisville, Crum led the team to two national titles and six Final Four appearances. Additionally, Crum won 15 conference titles and 11 conference tournaments while coaching at Louisville. In 2001, Crum retired with a career coaching record of 675-295.
10. Larry Brown
Larry Brown is an American retired basketball player and coach. Brown has coached three college teams and nine NBA teams during his career and remains the only coach to ever win the NCAA Tournament and an NBA Finals. As a player, Brown also won an Olympic gold medal, an ABA Championship and was a three-time All-Star. Despite only spending 11 years as a college head coach, Brown won a national title and reached the Final Four twice. Brown also made the NCAA tournament in every year but three (all with SMU). Brown also led the US National Team to a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic games. Brown has a college coaching record of 266-99 and a career coaching record of 1,593-1,110. Currently Brown is serving as head coach of Fiat Torino overseas.