Tony Bennett’s five fellow NBA alumni in the 2021 NCAA tournament can only hope that Bennett has started a trend.
At Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers Ex-Charlotte Hornet became the youngest national college basketball champion in April 2019. She was only the fifth person to play minutes in a meaningful NBA game coaching a division I basketball champion for men along with Kevin Ollie (UConn) and Billy Donovan (Florida). , John Thompson (Georgetown) and Al McGuire (Marquette). (If you want to broaden the definition, Kansas title winner Larry Brown played for three franchises in the ABA, including the Denver Nuggets, during his playing career.)
Should Juwan Howard be well sown Michigan Wolverines or Patrick Ewings upstart Georgetown Hoyas Howard or Ewing would race for their first title since the 1980s in the next three weeks and become a fairly clear number 1 on the list of “best players among title-winning college coaches.”
Until then, they will have to settle for the best position on our list of careers for the 68 coaches who will work on the sidelines at the 2021 NCAA tournament. As always, this list was largely unscientific drawn up by the writer who knows no qualitative or quantitative method of comparing a Division III star with a D-II reserve with a D-I walkable.
First, the breakdown of the highest level of basketball was achieved:
NBA (regular season list): 6th
Other professional basketball experience: 10
College Basketball Division I: 23
Lower NCAA levels, NAIA or Junior College: 19th
High School (university roster): 8th
No varsity high school experience: 2
68. Will Wade, LSU Tiger – Wade is the only coach in this tournament who has never played high school basketball. He played golf and was a student manager at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville for four years. Wade’s entry into college coaching came at his alma mater in Clemson, where he worked as a student manager at Oliver Purnell before being hired as an assistant for the Tigers.
67. Scott Drew, Baylor bears – Drew’s game days ended with the JV team at Valparaiso, Indiana High School. Although his brother Bryce (who also trains in that tournament) played in the NBA, Scott Drew was a tennis player (he played on the team but did not write) and basketball manager at Butler.
66. Chris Beard, Texas Tech Red Raiders Beard was a regular at McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Texas, but did not play college basketball in Texas. The then Longhorns trainer Tom Penders gave Beard a managerial job and he eventually became a student assistant at the school.
65. Craig Smith, Utah State Aggies – Smith played at the high school level for Stephen-Argyle Central High School in Stephen, Minnesota, but not collegially at the University of North Dakota. As a student at UND, Smith met Tim Miles, then NAIA Mayville State, North Dakota coach, who started Smith’s coaching career by hiring him as an unpaid volunteer assistant.
64. Joe Pasternack, UC Santa Barbara gauchos Pasternack played college basketball at Metairie Park Country Day School in New Orleans for four years, but did not play college basketball. Pasternack was a student manager in Indiana during the final stages of the Bob Knight era and graduated from IU in 1999.
63. Dustin Kerns, Appalachian state climber – Kerns played power forward for the prestigious varsity basketball program at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tennessee (other alumni are the current starter of Tennessee Volunteers John Fulkerson), but his career as a player did not continue during his college days with Clemson. Instead, Kerns became a student assistant at Larry Shyatt, the Tigers’ trainer at the time, and started his career as a coach.
62.Brian Dutcher, San Diego State Aztecs – Dutcher played his final level in basketball for the varsity team at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minnesota. He later attended the University of Minnesota but did not play under his father, Jim Dutcher – the head coach of the Golden Gophers from 1975 to 1986.The younger Dutcher worked for his father in a non-playing role while at college before he began his coaching career at Apple Valley (Minn.) High School and later started at the University of Illinois.
61. Greg Gard, Wisconsin Badgers – Gard was a three-person athlete (including hoops) at Iowa Grant High in rural Livingston, Wisconsin, but did not play basketball in Wisconsin-Platteville. He played baseball at UW-Platteville in the 1990s, but was cut before his sophomore year.
60. Mick Cronin, UCLA Bruins – Despite his short stature (5-foot-7), Cronin was a good high school point guard under his father Hep at Cincinnati’s La Salle High. A knee injury was a factor in Cronin’s retirement before entering college in Cincinnati.
59. Mark Few, Gonzaga Bulldogs Few led Creswell, Oregon High to the state AAA semi-finals as senior point guard. Shoulder problems prevented him from playing at Linfield College, where he wanted to play basketball and baseball.
58. Paul Mills, Oral Roberts Golden Eagle – Mills was a good high school player at MacArthur Senior High School in Houston and was awarded a scholarship to the high-performing NAIA program at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. Mills did not write for the Bronchos due to a back injury in his freshman year and then moved to Texas A&M, where he did not play basketball.
57. Zach Spiker, Drexel kite – After playing basketball at Morgantown (W.Va.) High School and in prep at The Hill School (Pa.), Spiker served for two years as the backup point guard under head coach Jim Mullins at Division III Ithaca College Seasons, who eventually take on a role as a student assistant coach for the bombers. Spiker’s teammates at Ithaca included current William & Mary coach Dane Fischer (Spiker now faces him at the CAA), UMass AD Ryan Bamford and Kevin Connors, ESPN college basketball studio host.
56. Roy Williams, North Carolina tar heels – Williams won at T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, North Carolina, and was a non-scholarship member of the North Carolina freshman team under Bill Guthridge from 1968-69.
55. John Gallagher, Hartford Hawks – Gallagher began his college career at Catholic University, Division III, before joining Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph’s from 1996-1999. Born in Delaware County, Pa., Played 30 games over three seasons, including one in the 1997 NCAA tournament, scored 17 career points and distributed seven assists for Saint Joe’s. Gallagher left Hawk Hill with one year remaining to become a full-time assistant to Speedy Morris at Big 5 rivals La Salle.
54. Grant McCasland, North Texas Mean Green – McCasland was an undersized security guard in Baylor for four years during the Harry Miller era (1995-99). He scored 32 career points and distributed 34 templates.
53. Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech yellow jackets Pastner played four seasons as a walk-on for Lute Olson in Arizona (1996-2000), appeared in 42 games, and scored 40 career points. A freshman, Pastner was a member of the Miles Simon / Mike Bibby-led Wildcats team that angered Kentucky to win the 1997 Indianapolis National Championship. Pastner appeared in three NCAA tournament games during his career at U of A.
52. Preston Spradlin, Morehead State Eagles – Spradlin played four seasons (2005-09) in Shooting Guard for NAIA Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. Spradlin competed in 97 games in four seasons and scored 352 points while shooting 40.7% from the field and 37.2% from the 3-point line.
51. Mike Young, Virginia Tech Hokies – Young was a four-year-old letterman and point guard for Division III Emory & Henry from 1982 to 1986, and served as the Wasp team captain in his junior and senior seasons.
50. Rick Barnes, Tennessee Volunteers Barnes served primarily as the reserve guard under head coach Bob Hodges at D-II Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina from 1974 to 1977, never averaging more than three points per game. “He was good, but it didn’t lead to games,” Barnes’ team-mate John Lentz told the Dallas Morning News in 1998.
49.Dana Altman, Oregon ducks – – Altman was the guard and captain at Fairbury Junior College in Nebraska (now known as Southeast Community College) from 1976 to 1978 before moving to Division II at Eastern New Mexico University. Altman has referred to himself as a “poor player” for the greyhounds, but graduated magna cum laude in 1980.
48. Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars – Sampson was point guard and later team captain at NAIA Pembroke State (now UNC Pembroke) from 1973 to 1978 and was eventually inducted into the School of Athletics Hall of Fame with his father, Ned. Sampson also earned three college letters as a baseball player at Pembroke.
47. Nate Oats, Alabama Crimson Tide – Oats played at Maranatha Baptist University Division III in Watertown, Wisconsin from 1993 to 1997.
46.Brad Brownell, Clemson Tigers – If you made it this far, you’ll be interested to know Brownell had this Ball in his hands with a chance to win the 1990 Division III National Championship for DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Was Brownell fouled in the last game? You decide.
Despite that heartbreak, the record should reflect that Brownell was a three-year starter for the Tigers from 1988-1991, finishing his career among the school’s front runners in assists (332) and free throws (0.782).
45. Dan Engelstad, Mount St. Mary’s climber – Engelstad was a four-time letter winner at St. Mary’s College, Division III in Maryland (a different school from Mount St. Mary’s), played point guard under coach Chris Harney, and graduated as an assistant to the school (419). .
44. Eric Musselman, Arkansas Razorbacks – Musselman was an under-sized reserve guard at the University of San Diego (1983-87) who only earned limited playing time but appeared as a player in two NCAA tournaments. Upon graduation, Musselman was a fifth round election of the CBA Albany Patroons, who were coached by his father Bill at the time.
43. Tom Izzo, Michigan State Spartans – Izzo played point guard in Division II Northern Michigan from 1974 to 1977, captaining the team and winning awards as a senior for all conferences and MVP teams.
42. Shaka Smart, Texas Longhorns – – Smart was a four year runner and three year captain at Kenyon College Division III in Gambier, Ohio. He made the All-North Coast Athletic Conference Team during his senior season and remains the school’s career assistant by a wide margin (542).
41. Robert Jones, Norfolk State Spartans – Jones was a quality division III player for SUNY New Paltz (1997-2001), won three All-SUNYAC citations, and received the D-III All-American Honors for the Hawks in 2000. Jones is the All of New Paltz time leader in blocks (140) and remains top 10 in school annals in points (1,321) and rebounds (875).
40. Chris Holtmann, Ohio State Buckeyes – Holtmann was a NAIA All-American Guard at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. His best year was in 1993-94 when he led the Trojans to a 25-9 record, a # 1 national rankings, and a berth in the NAIA tournament.
39. Pat Kelsey, Winthrop Eagles – Kelsey played in Wyoming (1993-94) and then Xavier (1995-98) and served as reserve guard on two NCAA tournament teams under Skip Prosser. Kelsey, who later started his college coaching career when hired for Prosser’s staff at Wake Forest, scored 122 points and distributed 131 assists throughout his college career.
38. Joe Golding, Abilene Christian Wildcats Golding was a four-year point guard with Abilene Christian (1994-98) who averaged 4.3 points and 4.2 assists per game during his career for a program that was then at the Division II level.
37. Andy Enfield, USC trojan – Enfield was a Division III All-American at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where he still holds the school’s career record (2,025 points) and has also competed in two NCAA tournaments. Enfield was particularly legendary on the line – he graduated and held the NCAA free throw record in all divisions (92.5, 431 of 466 shots).
36. Jeff Boals, Ohio Bobcats – Boals was a four-year-old player and two-time Ohio captain under Larry Hunter (1991-95). During his career as a 6-foot-7 striker, he averaged 5.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. Boals was a part-time starter of the 1993-94 Gary Trent-run Bobcats team that went 25-8 and made it to the NCAA tournament, losing to Indiana in the first round.
35. Porter Moser, Loyola Chicago Ramblers – Moser played guard for Creighton for four seasons (1986-1990) and started in the team that reached the NCAA tournament in 1989 under coach Tony Barone. Moser, who averaged 4.6 points and 1.7 assists per game as a colleague, ended his career with a defeat against DePaul in the NIT in 1990.
34. Mike Rhoades, VCU rams – – Not only did Rhoades play Division III basketball, he was the best Division III player, 1995 National Player of the Year, and two All-America quotes from Lebanon Valley (Pa.) College. The Rifle Guard, which also led the team to a national title in 1994, holds school records for points, assists, thefts and free-throw percentages, and its jersey has been withdrawn from school.
33. Ritchie McKay, Freedom flames – – McKay was a good player in Division II, graduating from Seattle Pacific’s single season and career record holder for steals. McKay also dropped out of school at number 3 on their list of all-time assists.
32. Tad Boyle, Colorado Buffalo – Boyle was primarily reserve guard in Kansas for four years under Ted Owens, then Larry Brown. He played on NCAA tournament teams in 1984 and 1985, and was the captain in his senior year. Two of Boyle’s teammates on the 1985 KU team – Mark Turgeon (currently in Maryland) and Danny Manning (formerly Wake Forest) – would join him as Division I head coach.
31. Brad Underwood, Illinois Fighting Illinois – Underwood began his college career with what was then Division I Hardin-Simmons (1982-83) in Abilene, Texas, before moving to Independence (Kansas) Community College (1983-84) and then to Kansas State for two seasons (1984) changed -86). Underwood was an occasional starter under head coach Jack Hartman, scoring 105 points in two seasons in the Big Eight.
30. Rick Pitino, Iona Gaels – Pitino played as point guard at UMass (1972-74), distributing 329 assists throughout his career on teams that included future NBA player (and eventually Rhode Island, Boston College and Kennesaw State coach) Al Skinner.
29. Jay Wright, Villanova wild cats – Wright played three seasons with Bucknell (1980-83) and was the bison’s top scorer as a junior. For the remainder of his career with bison, however, he was an RPG player.
28. Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure Bonnies – Schmidt played for Boston College for four years (1981-85) under coaches Tom Davis and Gary Williams. Despite not being a successful goalscorer (Schmidt scored 63 career points), he appeared in a total of seven NCAA tournament games in two separate games. The Eagles’ NCAA tournament took place in 1982 and 1985. Some of the personalities Schmidt shared a seat with in the tournament included the vaunted Phi Slama Jama (BC lost the Elite Eight to Houston in 1982) and the 1985 Duke team, including Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas and others (BC defeated Duke in Round of 16.
27. Dennis Gates, Cleveland State Vikings – Gates played four seasons at Cal (1998-2002) under Ben Braun and appeared in 114 games (34 starts) on the guard, including two NCAA tournaments. Gates averaged 3.8 points per game in his college career and was a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic election.
26. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers Scarlet Knights Born in Bristol, Connecticut, Pikiell stayed at home in 1986 to play for UConn’s newly hired coach Jim Calhoun. Eventually, he played on two NCAA tournament teams and posted 165 career assistants as part-time starters at Point Guard. Pikiell’s last career game as Husky was a Sweet 16 loss to the Duke team in 1991, which later upset the UNLV and won Coach K’s first national title.
25. Johnny Jones, Texas Southern Tigers – Jones played four seasons point guard at LSU under Dale Brown (1980-84), averaging 4.4 points and 2.2 assists per game over a career of 121 games, and played as Tiger in two NCAA tournaments. Jones is one of six coaches in this tournament with Final Four experience – he played nine minutes in the loss of LSU to eventual champions Indiana in the 1981 Final Four in Philadelphia.
24. Mike Boynton, Oklahoma State Cowboys – Boynton played four seasons in South Carolina (2000-04) under Eddie Fogler and Dave Odom, averaging 4.3 points per game and 129 3-point points for his career. Boynton was a full-time starter at USC in its 2003-04 season, helping to lead the Gamecocks to the NCAA tournament.
23. Fran McCaffery, Iowa Hawkeyes McCaffery began his career in the ACC averaging 5.3 points as a freshman at Wake Forest (1977-78) before joining Penn for his final three college seasons. As a senior (1981-82), McCaffery distributed 105 templates for a Quaker team that made it to the NCAA tournament.
22. Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks – Played himself in Oklahoma State from 1981 to 1985, starting point guard during his final two seasons in Stillwater. Self also played in the second year NCAA tournament at OSU in 1983 and scored eight points in the first round in a 5-12 loss to Princeton.
21. Greg McDermott, Creighton Bluejays – McDermott was a reliable center in Northern Iowa (1984-88), scoring 1,033 points (or about 2,000 less than his son, Creighton legend Doug McDermott) and was elected a junior on the All-Mid-Continent Conference team . After graduating, McDermott briefly played professional basketball in Switzerland.
20. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State Seminoles – Hamilton was a star at UT Martin (1969-71) graduating with the school record in assists, averaging 11.7 points per game, and being named to the first team of all conferences as a senior. Hamilton, a UTM Hall of Famer, was the first black student athlete in the university’s history.
19. Darian DeVries, Drake Bulldogs – DeVries was a 1,000-point goalscorer and two-time captain in Northern Iowa (1994-98). Over the past two seasons at UNI, he has become a double-digit top scorer and assistant to the team. DeVries led the Panthers three times in 3-point shooting, including 44% of 3 as a senior. DeVries didn’t play professional basketball, but has a professional in the family – his younger brother Jared was an NFL defensive end with the Detroit Lions for 10 years.
18. Matt Painter, Purdue Boiler Manufacturers – Painter was a four-year-old letterman at Purdue (1989-93), played on three NCAA tournament teams, and became a full-time starter as a senior. The painter received an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 1992-93 when he averaged 8.6 points and 4.5 assists per game.
17. Mark Turgeon, Maryland Terrapins Turgeon played point guard under Larry Brown in Kansas for four years (1983-87), was captained in Lawrence in his last two years, and became the first player in team history to enter four direct NCAA tournaments. Turgeon is one of six coaches in this tournament with Final Four experience. He posted five assists in a national semi-final defeat to Duke in 1986.
16. Isaac Brown, Wichita State Shockers – After Brown began his career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, he played at Texas A&M under Kermit Davis from 1990-91. He averaged 12 points per game, but moved to Davis (now head coach at Louisiana Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana University) to Louisiana Monroe Ole Miss) was involved in a recruitment scandal and forced to resign. Brown averaged 11.1 points per game in his lonely season at Monroe, including a 14-point performance in a loss to Iowa in the 1993 NCAA tournament.
15. Dan Hurley, UConn Huskies Though Brother Bobby was more in the spotlight for his heroics at Duke, the younger Hurley was also a noted college point guard. Hurley played 121 games in five seasons at Seton Hall (1991-96), appeared in two NCAA tournaments, and later developed into a double-digit goalscorer in his final two seasons at school. Hurley’s 437 assists are among the top 10 in Seton Hall history.
14. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse orange – Boeheim played three seasons in Syracuse (1963-66) and came off the bench in the first two seasons before becoming a starter as a senior. During the 1965/66 season he averaged 14.6 points and 3.1 assists, which led the Orange to the Elite Eight. Boeheim played professionally with the ABL’s Scranton Miners.
13. Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro Spartans Miller began his college career with James Madison in 2002 but moved to North Carolina after his first season and left Chapel Hill after playing for Roy Williams (2004-07) in 93 games, mostly as a key reserve. . The Charlottean native was known for his 3-point accomplishments – 96 of his 104 career goals at UNC came from beyond the arc. He is one of six coaches in the tournament with Final Four experience – he appeared in the UNC’s 2005 Final Four win over Michigan State and would help the heels cut the nets in St. Louis two nights later. After college, Miller played a professional season in the London capital of the British Basketball League.
12. Shantay Legans, Eastern Washington Eagles – Legans started for four years in Division I for Cal (1999-2002) and Fresno State (2003-04) and as College Point Guard put on a career total of 1,294 points, 548 assists and 172 steals. Legans played with the Golden Bears in two NCAA tournaments where he was a teammate of Dennis Gates (see above), but his best statistical season was as a senior with the Bulldogs. Legans scored an average of 15 points and 5.6 assists with the FSU in the 2003/04 season. Legans played professionally in the Netherlands before starting his coaching career.
11. Matt Langel, Colgate Raiders – Langel was a very good player on several high profile teams at Penn (1996-2000). He started on two NCAA tournament teams under Fran Dunphy and was honored as a senior on the All-Ivy first team. Langel went to rookie camp with the NBA Seattle SuperSonics and was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers squad prior to the summer. He also played for a number of teams in Europe before starting his coaching career.
10. Mike White, Florida Gators – White was a four year old starter on Point Guard for Ole Miss (1995-99) who led the Rebels to three NCAA tournament appearances and landed in the top 10 of the school’s all-time assists list. After completing his college career, White played professionally in the short-lived International Basketball League as well as in England.
9. Bob Huggins, West Virginia climber – Huggins began his college career at Ohio University in 1972 and later moved three seasons to West Virginia under Joedy Gardner (1974-77). Huggins averaged 13.2 points and 3.8 assists as a senior. He then attended the NBA training camp with the 76ers before he was cut. Suffered a knee injury when Huggins was hit by a car while cycling weeks prior to the 1977 NBA draft, limiting his career as a player.
8. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State Beavers – Tinkle played Montana from 1986-89 and was honored as an All-Big Sky forward in his last three seasons in Missoula. He still ranks in the Griz Top 10 in points (1,500) and rebounds (836). Tinkle played professionally for 12 years, including time in the CBA and in Europe, and went to training camp with the Seattle SuperSonics.
7. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma Sooners – Kruger was the Kansas state two-time Big Eight Player of the Year Point Guard (1973 and 1974) and led the Wildcats to two NCAA tournament appearances during his college career. He was a selection of the Atlanta Hawks in the ninth round of the NBA draft (Kruger also tried the Detroit Pistons) and played professionally in Israel. He also played minor league baseball for one season in the St. Louis Cardinals Organization and was invited to training camp with the Dallas Cowboys as a quarterback.
6. Cuonzo Martin, Missouri Tiger – Martin played for four years under Gene Keady in Purdue (1991-95), where he was a good defensive player and a good outside shooter. Martin was an All-Big Ten player as a senior and then played briefly in the NBA with the Grizzlies and Bucks. Martin was playing professionally in Italy when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which ended his playing career.
5. Tony Bennett, Virginia Cavaliers – While playing for his father Dick at Green Bay, Bennett was a two-time Player of the Year in the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League), leading the Phoenix to three postseason berths while graduating as conference leader in points and assists . Bennett played 152 NBA games as backup guard for the Charlotte Hornets before injuries sped the end of his career.
4. Mark Pope, BYU cougars – Pope began his career in Washington (1991-93), winning the Pac-10 Rookie of the Year award, averaging more than 10 points and eight rebounds per game, before joining UW after the resignation of coach Lynn Nance moved to Kentucky. At Lexington, Pope was an important reserve for two very good Wildcats teams, the second of which won the national title in 1996. Pope played as a center with the Pacers, Bucks, and Nuggets in 153 NBA games before attending Columbia medical school for three years and eventually settling for a career as a coach.
3. Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon antelopes Former Valparaiso star Drew is best known for his iconic summer beater against Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA tournament, also known as “The Shot.” But Drew was much more than that on the floor, a two-time Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year who finished as Valpo’s top scorer and was voted 16th overall by the Houston Rockets in the 1998 NBA draft. Drew played in 243 NBA games from 1998 to 2004 as a member of the Rockets, Bulls and Hornets.
2. Juwan Howard, Michigan Wolverines – Howard was a decorated piece by Michigan’s fabled “Fab 5” teams of the ’90s that joined Chris Webber and Chris Webber Jalen Rose Upon Webber’s departure, Howard became an All-American for the Wolverines from 1993–94, averaging 20.8 points and 8.9 rebounds for a group that lost to eventual Arkansas champion in the elite eight. Howard was subsequently selected at number 5 in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets and played in 1,208 NBA career games that are in the league’s top 50 of all time. Howard’s pro achievements include his selection for the 1996 All-Star Game and an NBA title won with the 2011-12 Miami Heat.
1. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown Hoyas – Ewing was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice (both as an individual and as a member of the US Olympic Dream Team) and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996. Not only is he the best former player in the tournament, but arguably the best player ever to serve as the head coach in the history of college basketball. (Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas, and Chris Mullin are among the other realistic competitors.)
Ewing’s legend began in Georgetown (1981-85), where his successes included three consensus All-America quotes, three trips to the Final Four (1982, 1984, 1985), and a national title in 1984. The No. 1 NBA draft in 1985, Ewing was an 11-time NBA All-Star as a member of the New York Knicks, and his No. 33 hangs on the rafters of Madison Square Garden. He also won Olympic gold twice, both in 1984 as a colleague and in 1992 as a member of the vaunted Dream Team.