The best tourney coach by results

How do you judge whether your coach is a good or bad tourney performer? For most people, it’s all about the bottom line: how often have you won—and how deep into the dance have you gone.

On that basis, it should be no surprise that the top active tourney coach is Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has the best winning percentage, most Elite Eight appearances, most Final Four trips and most championships of any active coach. Take a look at this:

The only way that Coach K could relinquish his lead in winning percentage is if Duke bowed out in the first of second round and either Williams, Calipari or Donovan cut down the nets. None of this is out of the realm of possibility. Duke has failed to reach the second week in three of the last six tourneys. And North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida all figure to be strong this year. Coach K’s lead in Final Four trips and championships is safe, however. The only guy who has a chance to equal Mike’s four crowns was Jim Calhoun—and he retired.

Calhoun’s departure wasn’t the only thing that shook up the overall rankings of the winningest active coaches. John Calipari’s run to the 2012 championship vaulted him from seventh place in last year’s ranking to third this year. You hardly ever see the sort of movement in this winning percentage list. The only other coach to move more than one position was Ben Howland. And he didn’t even play in 2012 to accomplish the feat. Calhoun’s retirement and Steve Fisher’s first-round loss pushed Howland from tenth to eighth on the list—never mind all the turmoil UCLA suffered last year.

A few more observations:

  • Calipari shed the stigma of being the winningest coach without a championship. That dubious distinction now belongs to Ben Howland. Of course, Howland’s only had nine years to earn a crown.
  • The two coaches with the most dance trips and no trophy are Bob Huggins and Rick Barnes. Both have been to the tourney 20 times. Huggins has reached the Final Four twice, Barnes only once.
  • When you fill out your bracket this year, if you’re considering advancing Duke or Michigan State to the Elite Eight, you may as well advance them to the Final Four too. Coach K is 11 for 12 in Elite Eight games. Izzo is six for seven. On the other hand, Calipari is more of a coin toss (four for eight), while Bill Self is a bit of a disaster (just two for seven in quarterfinal tilts).
  • If we included retired coaches in our analysis, four would make this top ten list. Dean Smith would be second to Coach K (.755), Jim Calhoun would be fifth (.738), Rollie Massimino would come in eighth (.733) and Tark the Shark would be ninth (.733)
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