CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander spent July on the road talking to college coaches at multiple major NCAA-sanctioned recruiting events. In the weeks since, they've followed up with more than 110 coaches at all levels of Division I for our annual Candid Coaches series. As always, the series features a fun array of questions about college basketball, but also touches on broader issues in society. In exchange for complete anonymity, they give us unfiltered honesty. Throughout August we'll be posting the results of the poll questions posed to coaches.
Let's talk about beer.
And let's talk about college coaches throwing back a few and sharing war stories, because no major American sport has a better crew of coaches who are willing to yuck it up and socialize within the fraternity like college basketball. Plenty of these guys are wound tight, especially in-season, but from what I gather, there's not a more approachable and more interconnected group of coaches in any sport like there is in college hoops.
Every July, when Parrish and I hit the road to cover all things on the recruiting trail, it inevitably means we'll wind up in a bar after midnight with college coaches. Sometimes by plan, sometimes by accident. Funny things -- things not for publication -- often transpire. July is truly a grind, but the late nights can be rewarding and hysterical in their own right.
So when you're in Augusta, Ga., and it's a Thursday night and there are maybe six viable options for late-night food and drink, you're bound to run into many coaches, and see other coaches fraternizing with their confrères. That was, in part, the inspiration for this light-hearted poll question.
Who are the coaches that can really hold court, the guys who can put some back, have a great time and are some of the best hangs in the business? Let's find out. We polled more than 110 coaches and asked:
Who's the college coach you'd most like to have a beer with?
|Bob Huggins, West Virginia||29 percent|
|Bill Self, Kansas||15 percent|
|Tom Izzo, Michigan State||10 percent|
Note: Other coaches who received at least three or more votes: John Calipari (Kentucky), Tim Miles (Nebraska), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Mike Brey (Notre Dame).
QUOTES THAT STOOD OUT
UPDATE: Credit to Kentucky Sports Radio's Tyler Thompson, who did a mashup Norm-from-Cheers-and-Huggins Photoshop after this story was pubbed. Fairly seamless.
As for the results and question at hand, we've had a number of hard-hitting questions in the series this year, so we had to mix it up and throw out one that was just for fun. And this was the one where coaches were eager and excited to offer up some barroom stories and have a laugh.
To no shock, Huggins in an absolute runaway. His reputation in college basketball is unmatched.
(Huggins, who was charged with DUI in 2004 while he was at Cincinnati and was subsequently fired after pleading no contest to the charge, has had the occasional drinking-related incident since.)
Still, he's managed to pull off this combination of being an intense, intimidating in-game coach while also having a dry wit that's irresistible. And he's a gregarious social associate to so many in his business. Coaches who responded by answering with his name were either speaking from experience or had heard the stories and wanted in on the carousing.
I also went about asking coaches which kind of beer or drink they'd prefer. I got everything from straight scotch to Blue Moon to Miller Lite to Bud heavy. The most common answer? Beers of the pale ale variety -- though I did have five coaches tell me they'd choose vodka and cranberry. That was not expected. One coach told me he'd like to wear a fedora while having a Corona on the beach with Buzz Williams. Let that image sink in.
I've got a a couple of interesting anecdotes: Two coaches said Tony Bennett would be their choice, but they said they weren't sure he'd want to have a beer -- so they picked iced tea. Random, perhaps appropriate.
You know who got three votes? A legend. Someone who's long since retired: the great John Thompson. I found that pretty interesting.
Brey, Few and Miles are absolutely some names I expected to hear. All of those guys are really good to deal with -- win or lose.
But Huggins, Self and Izzo take the top three. The common thread? All are successful, longtime coaches, sure, but they also are among the most down-to-earth coaches out there. There's an appeal with those three coaches in that, according to some of the coaches I spoke with, they'll belly up to a bar and have a conversation with you no matter who you are.