The Greatest NCAA Tournament Coaches
At Oddschecker we love March Madness and we'll be giving you analysis, picks, previews and so much more, every day until the champion is crowned. Don't forget to use Oddschecker to find the best possible odds and special sportsbook deals.
Coaching in the NCAA Tournament is no easy feat, as coaches have to get their teams ready for new opponents every couple of days if they want to move onto the next round. And with so much on the line for both the players and coaches in the single-elimination format, there is more pressure to perform in these games than in any other situation in the sport. These coaches have managed to rise above that pressure to win games and become the best tournament coaches the sport has ever seen.
1. John Wooden - UCLA
When John Wooden was coaching at UCLA, college basketball was vastly different than it is today. The best players in the sport stayed in college for their four years, and there just weren't as many great teams and programs as there are in the present day. But what John Wooden did in the NCAA Tournament is one of the most impressive things that any coach has done in any sport, winning a whopping ten titles during his tenure in Los Angeles.
Wooden had some great players in his career, such as Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. But Wooden being able to lead his team to consistently great play in college basketball, where no player is able to play for more than four years, was what set him apart. Even the best coaches have to rebuild or reload after losing their top talent, but Wooden managed to keep UCLA at the top of college basketball no matter who was there in a given season. That is what will always put him in a list of the best coaches in college basketball history.
2. Mike Krzyzewski - Duke
In addition to having one a name that is an accomplishment to spell, Mike Krzyzewski has piled up more accomplishments in the NCAA Tournament than virtually anyone else. His five NCAA Tournament titles are second only to Wooden in the history of the event, and he's done that in a college basketball landscape that is much tougher to navigate. Coach K's pivot from looking for four-year players to being able to recruit the best one-and-done players is one of the most impressive things the sport has seen.
Coach K has the most wins in the history of the tournament, locking down over 90 victories, which is something that nobody else has done. The expansion of the field to 64 teams gave him more chances to win games than coaches who have come before him, but even his present-day competition has paled in comparison to his Duke teams in the win column.
3. Dean Smith - North Carolina
There are many reasons that North Carolina is one of the biggest brands in college basketball today, and one of those reasons is absolutely Dean Smith. Smith paved the way for future generations of Tar Heel basketball by helping the team win a couple of championships during his tenure as their head coach. More importantly, he racked up a ton of NCAA Tournament wins, 65 of them to be exact, to put him in the top-three all-time in coaching wins during March Madness.
Perhaps his best team was his 1981-1982 squad, which featured NBA greats Sam Perkins, James Worthy, and Michael Jordan. Coaching the player who ended up becoming the greatest in the history of the sport is always going to reflect well on the coach, but that season might not have been Smith's most memorable championship experience. That honor might just go to his 1993 championship season, in which he coached the Tar Heels to a championship game victory over Michigan in the infamous Chris Webber timeout game.