Candid Coaches: Which college coach would you want coaching your own son?

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander spent the July evaluation period at NCAA-sanctioned events, where they talked with coaches from all levels. They asked for honest opinions on players, coaches and issues in the sport. They'll be sharing those opinions over a three-week period.

We've been doing our Candid Coaches series for several years and asked all sorts of questions -- most of them about basketball, some of them about social issues. But we've never asked this question, which popped into my head last month after ESPN asked various SEC and Big 12 football coaches to name the one football coach they'd most like to coach their sons. The leading vote-getter was Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. And I just remember thinking that must be about the best compliment a coach could get, to have his peers say they'd trust him with their own children. If I were a coach, that would make me proud. I bet that made Bob Stoops proud.

So who is the college basketball equivalent?

To find out, we asked more than 100 college coaches the following question:

Which college coach would you most like your son to play for?

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Coach, school Votes
Tom Izzo, Michigan State 18
Tony Bennett, Virginia 16
Bill Self, Kansas 10
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke 9
Lon Kruger, Oklahoma 7
Shaka Smart, Texas 6
Mark Few, Gonzaga 5
Bob McKillop, Davidson 4
Mike Brey, Notre Dame 3
John Calipari, Kentucky 3
Cuonzo Martin, California 3
Roy Williams, North Carolina 3
Tommy Amaker, Harvard 2
John Beilein, Michigan 2
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State 2
Sean Miller, Arizona 2
Tubby Smith, Memphis 2
Bruce Weber, Kansas State 2
Brad Brownell, Clemson 1
Rick Byrd, Belmont 1
Pat Chambers, Penn State 1
Mike Davis, Texas Southern 1
Steve Donahue, Penn 1
Scott Drew, Baylor 1
Matt Driscoll, North Florida 1
Allen Edwards, Wyoming 1
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State 1
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa 1
Chris Mooney, Richmond 1
Kevin Ollie, UConn 1
Matt Painter, Purdue 1
Rick Pitino, Louisville 1
Steve Prohm, Iowa State 1
Lorenzo Romar, Washington 1

FIVE QUOTES THAT STOOD OUT

  • "Tom Izzo might be the most likable big-time coach we have. Great coach. Great guy. I'd let my sons play for him any day. You won't find many people -- maybe not any people -- who don't respect Coach Izzo."
  • "Tony Bennett seems like he has a great rapport with his players. He gets the bigger picture that it's more than just basketball, and his players develop at a high level and become pros."
  • "Bill Self doesn't take himself too seriously and understands the entire experience is supposed to be fun."
  • "Coach K seems like the right answer. Why wouldn't I want my son to play for the best coach in the history of college basketball and a man who just won his third gold medal?
  • "Lon Kruger is one of the nicest coaches in our profession. Genuinely cares for his players. Kids are going to work hard, graduate, develop as players, and grow as young men under a guy with virtually no ego."
  • MY TAKEAWAY

    What I found most interesting about this question is that different coaches answered it in completely different ways. Some focused strictly on the type of man for whom their son would hypothetically be playing, which led to answers like Mark Few, Bob McKillop, Cuonzo Martin and Tubby Smith. I had one coach tell me he believes Few is probably the best at striking a balance between being a highly successful college coach and top-shelf husband and father. And, frankly, I think that's true. All coaches talk about needing proper balance in their lives, but the majority don't appear to have it. Few does, though. And his colleagues recognize that.

    Truth be told, if I were asked this question about my sons, I'd probably answer the way the coaches who said Few, McKillop, Martin or Smith answered. Or, at least, I'd try to think along those lines. I don't think I'd care as much about the basketball as I would care about the type of man I'd be sending my sons to be around almost daily for, presumably, four years. And that's the way I assumed most coaches would answer the question. But, like I said, some coaches answered from a completely different perspective and focused almost entirely on basketball, which led to answers like John Calipari.

    "Sixty-eight percent of his players that have finished their college career at Kentucky have been selected in the NBA Draft," one coach said. "Pretty simple math to me."

    The problem with this way of thinking, of course, is that nobody's son is likely to end up in the NBA simply because he plays for Calipari, which is why the "Nobody gets players prepared for the NBA better than Calipari" argument has always been a logical fallacy. To be clear, Calipari is really good -- and a better "coach" than some like to admit. But the majority of NBA players who have played under Calipari -- Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Karl-Anthony Towns, etc., -- would've been NBA players no matter where they attended college. In other words, Calipari doesn't create NBA players as much as he recruits NBA players. So if you want your son to play for him, that's certainly fine. I wouldn't mind my son playing for him. But if you think your moderately skilled son, or my moderately skilled son, is going to magically end up in the NBA because of any coach, well, that's silly.

    But I digress.

    Anyway ... coaches answered this question in completely different ways.

    That's the point I was trying to make.

    And that's precisely why it's unsurprising that Michigan State's Tom Izzo was the top vote-getter -- because he seems to check both boxes. You want a coach who is widely, if not universally, respected throughout the sport, away from the court, by both his peers and media members? That's Tom Izzo. You want a coach who wins, wins, wins no matter what to the point that he'll soon be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame? That's also Tom Izzo. He's a well-liked man and great basketball coach. Virginia's Tony Bennett is the same, which is why he finished just behind Izzo in the voting.

    Bottom line, there are lots of good and reasonable answers to this question.

    The feedback was fun.

    But the Tom Izzo and Tony Bennett answers make good sense.

    CBS Sports Insider

    Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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