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Top NCAA Coaches Of Past Five Years

There are a lot of complicated ways to evaluate coaches. (If you want a more complicated measure, here is something I wrote about this back in the Fall.) But sometimes the simplest measure is the best measure. Who has the most NCAA titles? Who has the most wins? And using the Pomeroy Rankings we can break it down to an even simpler level. Who wins the most possessions? If you outscore your opponent on more trips down the floor, eventually good things will happen. 

Today, I look at the coaches with the best per possession numbers over the last five years. If you’ve followed my writing for the last few years, you’ve seen this table frequently. But I thought it was time to update the table with the data from the 2011-12 season. I’ve also decided to focus on the last five years to allow some of the recent success stories to climb the list. (I include the 10-year table at the end for the curious.)

The following table shows the

AAO = Average Adjusted Offense

AAD = Average Adjusted Defense

AEM = Average Efficiency Margin (Offense – Defense)

Here are the coaches with the top efficiency margins over the last five years:

AEM

Rank

Coach

AAO

Rank

AAD

Rank

Teams

33.0

1

Bill Self

119.2

2

86.1

1

Kansas

31.2

2

John Calipari

117.3

3

86.1

2

Kentucky, Memphis

30.4

3

Mike Krzyzewski

120.1

1

89.7

9

Duke

28.6

4

Thad Matta

116.7

5

88.1

5

Ohio St.

27.3

5

Bo Ryan

115.8

9

88.5

6

Wisconsin

27.0

6

Roy Williams

116.5

6

89.5

8

North Carolina

25.8

7

Jim Boeheim

116.5

7

90.6

15

Syracuse

24.7

8

Rick Barnes

115.4

11

90.6

14

Texas

24.4

9

Tom Izzo

114.3

15

89.9

11

Michigan St.

24.4

10

Bob Huggins

115.1

13

90.7

16

West Virginia

23.4

11

Rick Pitino

111.2

31

87.8

4

Louisville

23.1

12

Jim Calhoun

113.9

16

90.9

19

Connecticut

23.0

13

John Thompson III

113.8

17

90.8

17

Georgetown

22.6

14

Jamie Dixon

116.5

8

93.9

41

Pittsburgh

22.5

15

Matt Painter

111.4

30

88.9

7

Purdue

22.1

16

Frank Martin

112.9

19

90.8

18

Kansas St.

21.6

17

Dave Rose

113.0

18

91.4

20

BYU

21.2

18

Billy Donovan

116.9

4

95.6

56

Florida

20.6

19

Mark Few

112.9

20

92.3

23

Gonzaga

20.5

20

Scott Drew

115.3

12

94.7

49

Baylor

19.8

21

Frank Haith

114.7

14

94.9

52

Missouri, Miami (FL)

19.4

22

Mike Brey

115.7

10

96.2

58

Notre Dame

19.4

23

Mike Anderson

111.9

27

92.6

26

Arkansas, Missouri

19.3

24

Ben Howland

112.7

22

93.4

35

UCLA

19.2

25

Jay Wright

112.8

21

93.6

36

Villanova

18.8

26

Lorenzo Romar

112.0

25

93.1

28

Washington

18.4

27

Sean Miller

111.7

29

93.2

30

Arizona, Xavier

18.3

28

Bruce Weber

108.4

47

90.0

12

Illinois

18.1

29

Steve Alford

111.9

26

93.9

40

New Mexico

18.0

30

Leonard Hamilton

105.6

75

87.6

3

Florida St.

17.2

31

Randy Bennett

112.7

23

95.5

54

St. Mary's

17.0

32

Kevin Stallings

112.2

24

95.2

53

Vanderbilt

17.0

33

Tony Bennett

106.8

65

89.8

10

Virginia, Washington St.

16.9

34

Seth Greenberg

108.5

44

91.6

21

Virginia Tech

16.7

35

Steve Fisher

108.4

45

91.7

22

San Diego St.

16.6

36

Fran Dunphy

109.9

35

93.3

31

Temple

16.5

37

Brad Stevens

109.0

40

92.5

25

Butler

16.3

38

Mark Turgeon

110.4

34

94.2

45

Maryland, Texas A&M

16.3

39

Tubby Smith

109.4

38

93.1

29

Minnesota

15.6

40

Anthony Grant

106.0

72

90.4

13

Alabama, VCU 

For the first time since I’ve been tracking these stats, Bill Self has taken over the top spot in the coach rankings. And this season might be Self’s finest performance. Thomas Robinson has always been an explosive player. But Self has groomed him from an inconsistent freshman into the national player-of-the-year favorite. Tyshawn Taylor’s emergence as a polished player is equally remarkable. But it is Self’s consistent commitment to defense that has allowed his team to win conference titles year after year.

Bo Ryan remains a bit of an enigma on this list due to a lack of postseason success, but other coaches have posted great regular season numbers without post-season success too. Rick Barnes teams are frequently viewed as NCAA tournament disappointments. And John Thompson III is an even more extreme example. This table includes data from 2007-08 to 2011-12, and JT3 is the 13th best coach in that span. But John Thompson III has one NCAA tournament win in that span.

Because the college basketball postseason is single-elimination, the best teams frequently do not advance. But you have to believe the coaches at the top of this list, by winning the possession battle consistently, won’t be disappointed in the postseason forever.

I decided to cut the list off at 40 coaches because the list was starting to look a lot less elite. Tubby Smith has been more of a compiler at Minnesota than a winner. His teams have been ranked in the 40s, 50s and 60s nationally in his five-year tenure with the Gophers. Because they’ve never been terrible (even beating North Carolina and Purdue before things went south last year), his average places him at 39th nationally over the five-year span. But he has yet to have a single dominant season. Coaches with single great years (think Tom Crean) have too many losing years dragging down their numbers. But the coaches listed above have been remarkably consistent over the last 5 years.

Who to Hire?

You might think this type of list would be a good roadmap to hiring a new coach. But the problem is that many of these coaches are not in a hurry to leave. Mark Few is quite happy at Gonzaga thank you very much. And Brad Stevens has almost certainly turned down some attractive opportunities to stay at Butler. 

Still, I think if I had a BCS opening, I would be running to offer BYU’s Dave Rose a huge contract. Not only has Rose posted great efficiency stats, his teams almost always play at a fun fast-pace. BYU’s trip across the country to beat Virginia Tech on Wednesday night might not mean a lot if Virginia Tech continues to struggle in the ACC, but it impressed me immensely.  How many coaches could take their team from coast-to-coast and win a game where they shot 33%?

Steve Alford might also deserve another shot at a BCS gig. It isn’t that he can’t win at New Mexico or that the Lobos don’t pay well enough, but given the unstable membership in the MWC, he might welcome another opportunity to show his stuff in a top league once again.

Offense or Defense

As I have noted in previous years, there are a number of one-dimensional coaches on the list. Leonard Hamilton, Tony Bennett and Bruce Weber have all succeeded almost entirely by teaching defense. Meanwhile Mike Brey and Scott Drew depend on their offenses to carry their teams. Jamie Dixon is also a bit of a one-dimensional offensive coach. But it is still surprising how bad Dixon’s defense has been this season. 

Here are the coaches with the top efficiency margins over the last 10 years:

AEM

Rank

Coach

AAO

Rank

AAD

Rank

Teams

31.2

1

Bill Self

117.4

4

86.3

1

Kansas, Illinois

30.5

2

Mike Krzyzewski

118.9

1

88.4

3

Duke

30.2

3

Roy Williams

118.6

2

88.5

5

North Carolina, Kansas

26.9

4

John Calipari

115.0

12

88.1

2

Kentucky, Memphis

26.7

5

Thad Matta

115.8

7

89.1

7

Ohio St., Xavier

26.5

6

Bo Ryan

115.2

8

88.7

6

Wisconsin

25.5

7

Billy Donovan

118.2

3

92.7

19

Florida

25.5

8

Rick Barnes

116.7

5

91.2

14

Texas

24.6

9

Jim Calhoun

114.0

13

89.4

8

Connecticut

24.1

10

Rick Pitino

112.6

18

88.4

4

Louisville

24.1

11

Tom Izzo

115.0

10

91.0

11

Michigan St.

24.0

12

Jim Boeheim

115.1

9

91.1

13

Syracuse

 

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