College basketball coaches draft: Who would you pick to lead your team?

Rick Pitino, John Calipari (Getty Images)
Louisville's Rick Pitino and Kentucky's John Calipari were the top selections in our coaches draft. (Getty)

So our friends at ESPN launched a series a few weeks back in which they're ranking college basketball coaches in an attempt to determine who's best, and it's been fun to watch unfold but difficult at times to understand because -- and I write this with all due respect -- the rankings, in certain places, just don't make much sense.

Supposedly, credentials don't matter.

It's all about the present.

And yet multiple coaches who haven't accomplished anything notable in years and are hardly on an upward trajectory are ranked ahead of other coaches who currently run nationally relevant programs and/or have careers undeniably on the rise, and I was tempted to do what amounts to an offseason Poll Attacks but decided against it because I wouldn't even know whom to attack. That's because the ESPN rankings are the result of a survey taken by nearly 100 staffers, which means it's impossible to tie any questionable ranking to any one person ... although my guess, from past experiences, is that my pal Jeff Goodman is almost certainly responsible for the majority of the silliness.

Either way, it got me thinking.

How should "best coach" be defined?

Obviously, reasonable minds can disagree on that.

But here's the way I would go about trying to identify the "best" coach: 

If you could pick any man to run your college basketball program for the next five years, and you don't have to worry about that man retiring or changing jobs, which man would you pick? Forget credentials. Forget records and recent results. Only look forward. You can pick any man to run your program for the next five years. Which man would you pick?

With that in mind, I roped in some of my colleagues here at and suggested we have a fun little draft in which we select coaches with the guidance above in mind, and I requested that everybody explain their choices so that you'd know whom to call stupid if something stupid popped up. Gregg Doyel picked first because he's the baldest. What followed was a four-round "snake draft." Here's the result ...

Round 1

1. John Calipari

Team: Kentucky
Drafted by: Gregg Doyel
Why him? After carefu... CALIPARI. Sorry. I hate it when I blurt. You're telling me I have the entire country of college basketball coaches to consi CALIPARI. Sorry. To consider, and I can pick any of them, with the goal being the best guy to run a program for the next five years? Let me think ab... CALIPARI. I mean, come on. Look what he did at Kentucky, but the cynics out there are right -- it's Kentucky. Anyone not named Gillispie can win big there. So, fine. Look what he did at Memphis. Look how fast he did it there. And then look what he's done at Kentucky. Look how fast he's done it there. Give me Calipari, give me a school anywhere in the United States -- or Guam -- and my team is gonna visit the Final Four, and probably more than once, before his fifth year ends. Or starts. -- Doyel

2. Rick Pitino

Team: Louisville
Drafted by: Jeff Borzello
Why him? I assumed Doyel was taking Calipari (as I would have done the same thing), so I had my choice narrowed down to two: Sean Miller or Rick Pitino. I think Miller is the better recruiter, Pitino the better coach. After going back and forth, I went with Pitino -- primarily because our rules say I don't need to worry about him retiring or leaving during this five-year span. Pitino consistently trots out teams capable of making the Final Four, whether they're filled with five-star recruits or under-recruited prospects. To me, Pitino is still the complete package in a head coach. He recruits, he gets guys to buy in to his system, and he always has his team playing its best basketball at the right time. He can play different styles, he can recruit different levels. Miller was a close second in my mind, as I think he's going to be an absolute star for the next couple decades. -- Borzello

3. Bill Self

Team: Kansas
Drafted by: Gary Parrish
Why him? So I'm picking third but can still get a coach with a national championship who remains in his prime and has won at least a share of 10 consecutive power-conference championships? Deal! (This is like Andrew Wiggins falling to third in the NBA Draft or something.) Seriously, for me, Self is a no-brainer. He wins similarly to Calipari, has been, in recent years, recruiting similarly (if not better) than Calipari, and -- I'm just stating this as a matter of fact, nothing more -- he's never had a season vacated because of NCAA rules violations. So I'll take him. -- Parrish

4. Sean Miller

Team: Arizona
Drafted by: Jon Rothstein
Why him? He has yet to take a school to the Final Four, but it's only a matter of time before Miller is coaching on the sport's most hallowed stage. Since arriving in Tucson in 2009, Miller has recruited better than anyone else in college basketball not named John Calipari. What's the most impressive thing about Miller's recent surge in the desert? He doesn't have West Coast roots. A Pittsburgh native, Miller cut his collegiate coaching teeth at Xavier where he led the Musketeers to an Elite Eight appearance in 2008. There's always a passage of sorts in sports and in five-to 10 years when Calipari, Pitino, Self and Tom Izzo move on, Miller will be the one to lead college basketball. His presence in this sport is similar to Jim Harbaugh's in the NFL. -- Rothstein

5. Mike Krzyzewski

Team: Duke
Drafted by: Matt Norlander
Why him? Wait, is this for real? Let's just lay this out. I'm picking fifth in this fun little offseason coaches draft. Fifth, guys. And inarguably the most respected active coach in the game -- and arguably the great college basketball coach ever -- is still on the board? Thanks, fellas, but at the same time I'm ashamed of all of you. No excuse to let Krzyzewski fall past No. 3, let alone to five. This is like some moron thinking Paul McCartney should only be worth $2 on bass in an all-time rock band or something. So I'll take Coach K -- who's gearing up to coach Team USA for a third time/win a third gold, oh by the way -- and is 17 wins shy of one freaking THOUSAND, to coach my team. Still recruiting at the highest of levels. Still at least five years from retiring. Still the most respected man in the game. Just a complete coach on every level. And he's mine. All mine. -- Norlander

6. Billy Donovan

Team: Florida
Drafted by: Chip Patterson
Why him? I thought picking at the turn would be easier, but there are still multiple Hall of Famers available and plenty of coaches that seem to have standing offers to bolt for the NBA. I'll get started with one that nearly did. Donovan has, moreso than any of the coaches listed above, been able to wake a "sleeping giant" in Florida basketball. The Gators had just one Final Four appearance before his arrival and have four since, including back-to-back national titles. Billy D is also starting to get recognition for his coaching tree (to be fair, Donovan's tree is a branch on Pitino's massive oak) and he has consistently produced NBA-bound talent. -- Patterson

Round 2

7. Tom Izzo

Team: Michigan State
Drafted by: Chip Patterson
Why him? Speaking of coaches who find themselves in the annual NBA coaching rumor mill... Five years with Izzo would toughen up any basketball team, and not just physical toughness stemming from practices. Izzo's teams at Michigan State find a way to adjust to injuries, personnel issues or to shake things up when a particular style or lineup is not working. Izzo falls short of some of these other first-round picks on the recruiting trail, but I'll feel much better about the development of players within my program. -- Patterson

8. Jim Boeheim

Team: Syracuse
Drafted by: Matt Norlander
Why him? I already took the winningest coach ever in college basketball. Now I'm taking the second-winningest. And not only is he that, he's also a confidant of Coach K, who keeps a pretty tight circle. So there's a strong bond/relationship there. Hello, Boeheim. Classic curmudgeon, eminent jacket-flapper and inventor of the most famous defensive scheme in college hoops history. Hate on Boeheim's patented version of the 2-3 if you like, but it has undoubtedly worked -- and in the winter of Boeheim's career, has produced 177 wins the last six seasons. I also look at it like this. It's virtually impossible to say Boeheim isn't an all-time top-10 college basketball coach. So if that's the case, how could he not be taken in the top 10 of this draft, which is only featuring only active coaches? And like Krzyzewski, Boeheim is showing no signs of slowing down. He's a true hoops lifer, a devoted coach. That's two Hall-of-Famers at the front of my bench. -- Norlander

9. Fred Hoiberg

Team: Iowa State
Drafted by: Jon Rothstein
Why him? No one gave Iowa State a thought five years ago. Today? The Cyclones are coming off three straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet 16 trip last March. Many wondered how Hoiberg would do when he returned to his alma mater in 2010 with zero head coaching experience, but he's quickly dismissed all doubters. "The Mayor" is as good an X's and O's coach as there is in college basketball and gives his players the freedom they so desperately crave on the offensive end. He treats his players like they're professionals, and that's something you don't see at most college programs. Another thing to like about Hoiberg? He's proven he can build a program through unconventional methods. Iowa State has taken 12 transfers since Hoiberg's arrival four years ago, but he's also quietly doing a good job with kids out of high school as well. Georges Niang should be in for an All-Big 12 first-team type season as a junior. Monte Morris led the nation in assist-turnover ratio as a freshman last year. There's only one type of trajectory right now in Ames -- upward. -- Rothstein

10. Brad Stevens

Team: Boston Celtics
Drafted by: Gary Parrish
Why him? You clowns should've done a little thinking outside of the so-called (college basketball) box because you just let me grab the most heavily pursued coach in recent memory -- and a man who took a Horizon League school to the title game of the NCAA Tournament TWICE! -- in what amounts to the second round here. Shame on you all for a lack of vision. The only thing better than Stevens' credentials is his reputation. Give him a top-shelf program with a staff of assistants built to collect players, and there'd be no ceiling for what could be accomplished. Plus, Stevens would represent my school with tremendous class and humility, meaning he's a total-package hire. Smart. Successful. Humble. Decent. And I got him with the 10th pick. -- Parrish

11. John Beilein

Team: Michigan
Drafted by: Jeff Borzello
Why him? My second pick came down to two veteran Big Ten coaches: Bo Ryan and Beilein. Ryan just flat-out wins every year, but I'm giving the edge to Beilein due to his recruiting ability. He's also a terrific X's and O's coach, recruiting players to his system while also giving more dynamic players the freedom to create on their own. In his system, Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas went from fringe top-100 prospects to lottery picks, but Beilein has also shown the ability to land five-star recruits. His style has worked at a variety of levels, and it doesn't show any sign of stopping. Just look at last season. Burke was gone, Tim Hardaway Jr. was gone, and Mitch McGary was hurt. So Michigan went out and won the Big Ten regular-season title. On the recruiting trail, he's landed nine four-star recruits and one five-star recruit since the class of 2011 (Burke's class). He's not going to go out and get a handful of top-10 kids every year, but he'll get very talented guys who can play in his perimeter-based system. Pitino and Beilein give me plenty of experience, so I can go young with my final two picks. -- Borzello

12. Thad Matta

Team: Ohio State
Drafted by: Gregg Doyel
Why him? Suckers. With the 12th overall pick in the draft I'll take a guy who has been a head coach for 14 years, is still several years short of 50, has averaged 27 victories per season and has been to two Final Fours, two more Elite Eights and two more Sweet 16s. I'll take a guy who won at a tiny school, a mid-sized school and a huge school. I'll take a guy who has recruited a No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick, been to every NCAA Tournament that his school was eligible for except once, when he went to the NIT ... and won the damn thing. I'll take a guy who never should have made it this far without being drafted. I'll take Ohio State's Thad Matta. -- Doyel

Round 3

13. Shaka Smart

Team: Virginia Commonwealth
Drafted by: Gregg Doyel
Why him? Here are some pretty good No. 13 picks in basketball history: Karl Malone in 1985. Kobe Bryant in 1996. Shaka Smart in 2014. Are you kidding me? Shaka is still here? I'm grabbing my phone and screaming this pick into the line so loud, Shaka can hear me down in Richmond, where he has led Virginia Commonwealth to the heights of college basketball. In five years there he has never won less than 26 games. In five years there he has won seven NCAA Tournament games. In five years there he has reached the Final Four, gone 62-24 in two different competitive conferences and reached the NCAA Tournament four times. Why not five times? Because he's at VCU, and in his first season there he won 27 games but was relegated to the College Basketball Invitational. Which VCU won, because Shaka Smart's a monster. -- Doyel

14. Tony Bennett

Team: Virginia
Drafted by: Jeff Borzello
Why him? So when I took Beilein with my second pick, I said it was between him and Ryan. And Ryan is still available ... but I'm not going to take him. I'm going with a guy that runs a similar defensive system, and could be Ryan's heir apparent one day. I know last season was Bennett's first really great season in Charlottesville, but I think he's a star. His teams have ranked in the top 25 nationally in defensive efficiency each of the past three seasons, with his pack-line approach forcing teams to take shots outside the 3-point line. He hasn't recruited a long list of five-star recruits, but he's averaged 25 wins a year over the past three seasons and picks his spots on the recruiting trail. He has brought in transfers and also landed guys like London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon -- late-risers or under-recruited players that fit what Bennett wanted to do. I thought about Ryan, I thought about Jay Wright and Kevin Ollie, but I think Bennett has the best mix of experience and future potential. -- Borzello

15. Gregg Marshall

Team: Wichita State
Drafted by: Gary Parrish
Why him? Bennett was on my short-list of options here before Borzello selected him, and my love of Ryan is well-documented. But I just can't pass on Marshall because he has replaced Stevens (and pulled neck-and-neck with Smart) on the list of the nation's most heavily pursued coaches. Why has he done that? Because he's terrific -- a true "coach" who has literally achieved an unprecedented amount of success at the only two places he's ever worked as a head coach. He could be at countless big-conference programs right now if he wanted, and he could be making in excess of $2.5 million at multiple schools. But Marshall has decided to stay at Wichita State for now because he's built a Missouri Valley Conference monster in seven years, and it's reasonable to suggest he could make his second Final Four in three years next season, at which point all of the so-called power-conference schools with openings will come calling all over again. -- Parrish

16. Jay Wright

Team: Villanova
Drafted by: Jon Rothstein
Why him? There's not many coaches in America who handle all the different aspects of a program better than Wright. He's great with the media, terrific with alumni, and has proven that he can sustain a national program. Another thing about Wright? He might be the most underrated defensive coach in college basketball. Year after year, people praise Villanova because of its elite guard play, but where the Wildcats really separate themselves is with the way they guard people. After a 13-19 season two years ago, Villanova is back as a Top 10 program and looks primed to stay there. -- Rothstein

17. Bo Ryan

Team: Wisconsin
Drafted by: Matt Norlander
Why him? Yes, yes, I will take Ryan. Don't call him a throwback. Being able to coach X-and-O basketball shouldn't be considered old school; it should be the norm. Ryan's just a shrewd basketball mind. He's efficient and a proven winner at the D-III and D-I levels. He simply coaches the hell out of his guys, no matter his personnel. He's sent three players to the NBA, with at least another two (Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker) prepping for the pros on his current roster. Bo has a lot of experience, runs his practices as pristinely as just about anyone in the game, and is seldom outcoached. Have to like that. He's got a nice chance at getting back to another Final Four next year, by the way. -- Norlander

18. Steve Fisher

Team: San Diego State
Drafted by: Chip Patterson
Why him? In a coach-driven sport like college basketball, where programs must use the sideline as the poster due to the short shelf life of players, it is hard to find a coach with a better combination of "successful" and "selfless" than Fisher. San Diego State is currently on an unprecedented (by the Aztecs' own standards) five-year NCAA tournament streak that includes the school's only two Sweet 16 appearances. The rebuilding project has brought out the best in Fisher, a 69-year-old coach who is showing no signs of slowing down despite persistent retirement rumors. Fisher has only one year left on his contract with SDSU, but this Coaches Draft guarantees me five years. Judging by Fisher's comments at a KPBS function in May -- where Fisher promised to be at SDSU "until I'm no longer bouncing the ball" -- San Diego State might get lucky and have him for five more years as well. -- Patterson

Round 4

19. Roy Williams

Team: North Carolina
Drafted by: Chip Patterson
Why him? There is no need to get too creative here. Passing up Williams, a Hall of Famer with two NCAA titles in the last decade, in the final round would be a silly move on my part. Williams is well-known for the secondary break, but recently he has been playing a lot of defense in the public relations world after Rashad McCants shared his academic experience with ESPN's Outside the Lines -- one reason, perhaps, that my colleagues have let him slide this far. But the point of this draft has been to look at the coach and what he could do with a program during a five-year period. Williams' star-studded 2014 class adds to his lengthy and distinguished track record on the recruiting trail, and the late-season success of the 2013-14 team suggests Williams is a better coach than even some UNC fans care to admit. Williams' first five seasons at Kansas included two Final Four appearances; he reached the Final Four twice during his first five seasons in Chapel Hill as well, cutting down the nets in 2005 and again in 2009 -- his sixth season with the program. Given the parameters of this draft, I'll gladly take Williams and know the winning will come soon. -- Patterson

20. Geno Auriemma

Team: UConn (Women)
Drafted by: Matt Norlander
Why him? At first I wanted to call Parrish out for his random Stevens pick. I mean, he's not a college coach anymore. But if we're getting semantic about it, he did play within the rules. So if he can pick an NBA coach, I can pick a women's coach. And so I'll pick the coach with more than twice as many national titles as any men's coach. Auriemma has built one of the most successful programs, in any sport, at any level, in the history of college athletics. You could argue his construction in Storrs rivals or eclipses what any of his previous or current men's hoops contemporaries have ever done. UConn is still streets ahead of all other competition; there is no men's hoops comparison to how much bigger Huskies women's hoops is to the rest of the sport. Nine titles and 15 trips to the Final Four. More than half of his career has seen seasons end on the ultimate stage. Ridiculous. So now I've got the most successful men's and women's coaches in the game. Thanks for playing, errbuddy. -- Norlander

21. Buzz Williams

Team: Virginia Tech
Drafted by: Jon Rothstein
Why him? Williams hasn't coached a game yet at Virginia Tech but he's already put the rest of the ACC on notice. The former head coach at Marquette has brought two key recruits from Milwaukee to Blacksburg (Ahmed Hill and Satchel Paige) and also added a major talent in Maryland transfer Seth Allen. Williams went to five NCAA Tournaments in six years in Milwaukee and made it all the way to the Elite Eight in 2013. A relentless worker, the former junior-college coach is comfortable in virtually any surroundings and gets his team to play harder than its opponent on a regular basis. It says here he'll have Virginia Tech in the field of 68 sooner than people expect. -- Rothstein

22. Kevin Ollie

Team: UConn
Drafted by: Gary Parrish
Why him? It's cute that Norlander is excited about selecting a man who has never recruited a men's basketball player in his life. (Or coached one, far as I know.) But whatever. The good that comes from that is how it highlighted for me that UConn's other basketball coach -- you know, the one with a national title in MEN'S BASKETBALL, the one NBA FRANCHISES are interested in hiring -- remains available, which seems silly considering Ollie's accomplishments already and reputation within the sport. By all accounts, players love him. Combine that with the fact that he's shown on a pretty big stage that he can X-and-O with anybody and inspire like few others -- I mean, seriously, he just took a backcourt built to win the AAU nationals and won the NCAA Tournament! -- and Ollie seems like a steal 22 picks into this thing. -- Parrish

23. Mark Few

Team: Gonzaga
Drafted by: Jeff Borzello
Why him? Few still doesn't get the respect he deserves as a head coach. Maybe it's because he's in the West Coast Conference, maybe it's because he hasn't been past the Sweet 16, maybe it's because he lost to Wichita State as a top seedin 2013, maybe it's because he's pretty much made it clear he doesn't want to leave Gonzaga any time soon (or maybe ever). I'm not sure why he doesn't, but I'll gladly take him with the next-to-last pick in the draft. The guy flat-out wins games. He's won at least a share of 13 of the last 14 WCC titles and has been to 15 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Keep in mind, he's been a Division-I head coach for 15 seasons. So that's 15-for-15. Few has been to four Sweet 16s and has lost double-digit games in a season just twice. He's averaged 26.9 wins in his 15 seasons at Gonzaga and has never won fewer than 24 games. And Few has proven he can recruit high-level talent, talented overseas prospects, or develop under-recruited players. If Few wasn't so comfortable in Spokane, he would be mentioned with nearly every available big-time job in the country every offseason -- but he's not, so he gets somewhat forgotten in these sorts of discussions. But maybe that's the key to this whole thing: he's built Gonzaga up to the point where most high-major jobs aren't more attractive than the one he has now. -- Borzello

24. Archie Miller

Team: Dayton
Drafted by: Gregg Doyel
Why him? Swear, I was going to trade up to take my guy. He wouldn't make it this far, would he? One of the youngest, most promising coaches in America, falling all the way to 24th? Miller won't be here still, right? Probably not, no -- until people got cute and took an NBA coach and a women's coach and a couple of 60-something-year-old coaches, and lo and behold, Archie Miller is sitting here at No. 24, perky and feisty and magical. He has the Sean Miller genes, which is to say he was born with a basketball in his crib and never pushed the damn thing away. Decades later Archie Miller knows the game like Sean knows it, which is to say, like a basketball lifer knows it, only Archie Miller is 35 years old. He can recruit and relate like a young man, but he knows the game like an old man. His best basketball is ahead of him, but guess what is behind him? A spot in the Elite Eight. Took him just three years to lead Dayton to the 2014 Elite Eight. What's he going to do for an encore over the next five years? Don't know, but I can't wait to find out. He's mine, with the 24th pick. Suckers. -- Doyel

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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