Villanova's season came to an end on Saturday night in an 81-69 loss to Kansas. With that also came the end of the careers of seniors Jermaine Samuels and one of the best to ever wear the Villanova uniform, Collin Gillespie.
That is the nature of college sports. The players leave, but the program remains. Sometimes the coaches leave too, either of their own volition or because they have been asked to go.
One coach here just saw his career come to an end. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, arguably the greatest college basketball coach in the modern era of the sport, is off to retirement after his team lost to North Carolina 81-77 in one of the most memorable NCAA tournament games of all time.
With Coach K riding off into the sunset, who is now the best active coach in college basketball? While postseason success is not the only measuring stick of a great coach, let's look at that aspect of some of the current active coaches.
When it comes to championships, the active leader will be none other than Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose Villanova teams won the title in 2016 and 2018. Wright has led the Wildcats to two other Final Fours in 2009 and, of course, this season.
Rick Pitino has also won two NCAA Tournaments, one at Kentucky in 1996 and one with Louisville in 2013, but that title with the Cardinals was vacated by the NCAA. Pitino was persona non grata for a while but is now the coach at Iona.
When it comes to longevity, Jim Boeheim can't be beat. He has been to 35 NCAA Tournaments in his time at Syracuse and won a championship in 2003.
Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans have made every NCAA Tournament since Izzo took over in 1998, 24 in total including this season. He's been to eight Final Fours and won the championship in 2000, the last time any Big Ten team has won it.
Bill Self has also been to the NCAA Tournament every season he has been a head coach. Self has been to 22 consecutive tournaments with Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas. This is his fourth Final Four and his team will try to win his second national championship on Monday night against North Carolina.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been to the NCAA Tournament all 22 seasons he has been at the helm. He has been to two Final Fours, but is still looking for his first championship. You could reasonably argue that doing what he has done at Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference was more difficult that doing so at a place like Michigan State or Kansas.
Arguably one of the most remarkable program building projects of all time has happened at Baylor under Scott Drew. Drew took over a program plagued with scandal and NCAA sanctions in 2003. He slowly built the Bears program up, making the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2008. In 2010 and 2012, he had them in the Elite Eight. Consistent success in the regular season followed, if not always in the NCAA tournament, but in 2021, Baylor won its first ever national championship. It's truly remarkable considering where that program was when Drew took over.
There are other great coaches worthy of debate. Kentucky's John Calipari, for example, has been to four Final Fours at Kentucky and won the title in 2012. For me, the top five are Izzo, Wright, Drew, Few and Self.