|The Big Ten was voted to have the most coveted player (Cody Zeller) and coach (Tom Izzo). (US Presswire)|
CBSSports.com's college basketball quartet spent the July open recruiting period hobnobbing with nearly 100 coaches, brain-picking them on some of college basketball's current issues. From the best players to their comrades in coaching; from the AAU programs to the agents' involvement; from the rule changes to the NCAA as a whole. Today, the final entry. If you missed any of our previous questions -- 15 in all -- go here to see them.
Today, we come full circle. Our series began with us asking about the most coveted player, and today, we find out the most coveted coach. It's hardly an easy question with so many factors into play. On-court coaching, recruiting, character, age, etc. However, we tossed out the question of which coach you'd want to lead your college program -- from a generic sense. There are plenty of candidates, but two guys clearly stood out above the rest. If this had been done a handful of years ago, Mike Krzyzewski would have garnered more votes, maybe even finished on top. But heading into the twilight of his career, many coaches went with a guy with more staying power.
The question is: If you could pick any active coach to lead your program, who would it be?
- Tom Izzo (Michigan State): 27 percent
- Bill Self (Kansas): 23 percent
- Mike Krzyzewski (Duke): 10 percent
- Rick Pitino (Louisville): 8 percent
- Billy Donovan (Florida): 8 percent
- John Calipari (Kentucky): 6 percent
- Sean Miller (Arizona): 6 percent
- Brad Stevens (Butler): 4 percent
- Roy Williams (North Carolina): 4 percent
Others receiving votes: Ben Howland (UCLA); Thad Matta (Ohio State); Bob Huggins (West Virginia); Fran Dunphy (Temple); Tom Crean (Indiana)
Quotes that stuck:
On Izzo: "He's clean, he wins and he can really, really coach. If coach K were a few years younger, it might be a tough call. But you've got to go with Izzo because he has the whole package."
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On Self: "He's so underrated as a guy who can coach. Everyone has always thought of him as a recruiter and nothing more, put him in the same category as Calipari. But Self can really coach -- and he showed it last season by getting to the national title game with that team."
On Donovan: "Look at what he's done at a football school. My guess is everyone else on this list is at a basketball school. Donovan won two national titles at Florida. Let's see any of these other guys do that."
On Coach K: "I don't care if he's in his mid-60s. The guy is the winningest coach in history. I'll take him running my program -- even if it's just for a few more years. He adapts better than anyone, has coached the greatest players in the world and will also get plenty of calls."
On Calipari: "Sure, he's shady -- but he wins. If that's ultimately what you want, then he's your guy -- and that's what I want. To be able to compete for national titles every single year."
Takeaway (by Jeff Goodman):
I've always maintained that I'd start my program with Tom Izzo -- and evidently, the vast majority of college basketball coaches agree with me.
"They must have been voting from the bar," Izzo joked after learning he received the most tallies. "Seriously, though. That's a big honor coming from the coaches, one of the best you can get. There are so many great coaches out there and I honestly am just fortunate to be in their company."
Izzo, 57, edged out Kansas' Bill Self -- which was a bit of a surprise. Self, 49, beat out guys like Coach K, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino and John Calipari. Then again, after the job Self did this past season in getting the Jayhawks to the national championship game, he's certainly got recent momentum. He's proven he's not just a recruiter, but can also coach a bit as well.
But Izzo pulled away from Self and everyone else. He's got a national title under his belt (in 2000), has gone to a half-dozen Final Fours and made 10 Sweet 16 appearances since taking over in 1995 He's one of the elite X's and O's guys in the country, he works as hard as just about any head coach -- and he has the reputation of playing by the rules.
Izzo flat-out gets it, in just about every area. He can always be counted upon to play a hellacious non-conference schedule, he's often honest to a fault -- and he often gets the most out of his talent. It's not as if Michigan State has been putting players into the NBA at an excessive rate, but Izzo still finds a way to get just about everything he can out of his teams and go deep into March on a regular basis.
Michigan State is a great program, but it's not Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina -- or even Duke or UCLA. It's probably somewhere in the 10 to 15 range when ranking the overall programs, but Izzo has helped turn it into elite. Want further proof? the Spartans were included in the Champions Classic, the recent three-year round-robin event that also boasts Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.
The biggest shocker for me, actually, was that Calipari didn't receive more votes coming off his first national title and that Brad Stevens wasn't mentioned more prominently. The combo of Calipari and Kentucky has no peer when it comes to recruiting, but obviously many coaches didn't feel as though Calipari was at the same level when it comes to on-court X's and O's. My guess is if this poll were held a year ago, Stevens would have finished somewhere around the top five.
But it was clear 1-2 punch with Izzo and Self. Difficult to argue with those results.