With Indiana facing certain sanctions from the NCAA for the next several years, the Hooisers were still able to land Tom Crean. Roy Williams left the Kansas Jayhawks for North Carolina in 2003. Kansas was able to replace him with Bill Self, from Illinois, who just recently turned down Oklahoma State to stay at Kansas.
It makes you wonder, what are the Top 10 coaching jobs in college basketball? We here at Drinking the Forty consulted with some of the finest basketball experts in the country to find out. Hey, if ESPN can pull random people off the street and call them experts, then we can too.
Here is our Top 10, based on a program’s national persona, recent success, fan base, facilities, history and tradition, and potential for future success.
#5.) Kentucky Wildcats
Another storied program that is in a period of transition. Things had started to come unraveled in Lexington under coach Tubby Smith, who grew tired of the extreme expectations of the Big Blue and saw the writing on the wall. With Smith heading to Minnesota, he left the Kentucky program depleted and in need of a minor rebuilding job.
After a disastrous hiring search, Kentucky was able to make a great hire in Texas A&M coach Billy Gillespie. He immediately came in and instilled his defensive minded, tough, winning attitude and was able to salvage what was a very sub-par Kentucky team. Under Gillespie you could see the transformation taking place during the season, as he began to put his imprint on the program.
Kentucky is a program where 20 wins and tournament appearances aren’t enough. Over the last seven seasons the Wildcats have posted 169 wins and a .728 winning percentage. But that wasn’t enough for Big Blue. One of the most demanding and rabid fan bases in all of college basketball, the Wildcat faithful expects Final Four appearances and National Titles.
Under Adolph Rupp, the Kentucky Wildcats became one of the most successful and storied programs in the game. That tradition grew even more under the championship teams of Rick Pitino. With seven championships and 13 final four appearances, Kentucky is one of the most historic programs in college basketball. They are nationally known and respected.
But in the last several years, recruiting has been down, and Kentucky has fallen behind Tennessee and Florida in the SEC. Kentucky hasn’t been able to maintain the level reached by Rick Pitino, and Tubby Smith became burned out with the expectations and pressure that this Kentucky job brings. Whether it is warranted or not, there’s the Derby and Wildcat basketball in Kentucky, and that’s it. The scrutiny and pressure that comes with this job is second to none, and Billy Gillespie will have to work hard to please his critics.
Gillespie has a style of basketball that wins in the NCAA Tournament and is a proven recruiter. He’s young and highly motivated and is probably the type of hire that could end up getting the Kentucky program back on top. While the Kentucky program has been down the past few years, it won’t stay there for long. And that’s why they come in on our list at number five.
#6.) Indiana Hooisers
#7.) Florida Gators
#8) Michigan State Spartans
#9.) Connecticut Huskies
#10.) Arizona Wildcats