A Winning Game Plan: the 5 Greatest Men’s College Basketball Coaches of All Time

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Who are the Top 5 Greatest Men’s College Basketball Coaches? They are men who not only won a bunch of conferences and national championships, but coaches who knew how to mold a player into a great man and keep them out of trouble and jail. The coaches listed here are all hall of famers, are so legendary and have such a reputation that some even have their school’s arenas are named after them.

Their teams are always so good that they make students and alumni forget how lousy their football teams are. Like so many other coaches who go after greener pastures in the NBA, these great coaches all figured their time was better serves at their respective school, and figure that coaching kids in college was a much better option than coaching adults in the NBA who often act like kids. Top 5 gives you the list of the greatest men’s college basketball coaches of all time.

5 Adolph Rupp – Kentucky (1930-1972)

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Rupp spent his entire 41 year coaching career at Kentucky where he won four national championships, 876 games, and coached 32 All-Americans, seven Olympians and 44 NBA draft picks. But for Top 5, the four-time National Coach of the Year and hall of famer will always be best remembered for getting his head brought to him on a platter when he sent his all-white starting Wildcats team to face the all-black starting team in Texas Western in the 1996 title game. Coached by Don Haskins, Texas Western humbled Rupp and the entire South in a 72-65 win. Rupp was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969.

4 Bobby Knight – Army; Indiana; Texas Tech (1965-2008)

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Knight was a borderline psychopath who was known to lose his temper for something as big as a bad call by a referee to a harmless dog barking in the middle of the night. Knight has been arrested for assault and nearly created an international incident. But man could he coach! “The General” as he was known to most, had a record of 902-317 as the head coach at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech. Knight gained all of his fame and lost most of his sanity at Indiana from 1971-2000 where he won three national championships in 1976, 1981 and 1987. His Hoosiers appeared in the Final Four 11 times, won 11 Big Ten regular season titles, and was National Coach of the Year in 1987. Knight coached the last undefeated Division I team in 1976. He always ran a clean program and his players usually graduated. Knight was so much of a badass that when he was named the coach of the 1984 Men’s Olympic Basketball Team, he cut a couple of college kids named John Stockton and Charles Barkley and still won the gold medal. Knight was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.

3 Dean Smith – North Carolina (1961-1997)

Smith’s first and only head coaching job was at North Carolina and he and it became legendary from 1961 until his retirement in 1997. Smith won two national championships, had 11 Final Four appearances and won 879 games while losing just 254. Smith also coached the men’s Olympic basketball team to a gold medal in 1976. Like many great coaches, Smith ran a clean program at North Carolina with 96.6% graduation rate. He was also the first coach at North Carolina to recruit an African-American player in Charlie Scott. And you can’t blame Smith if he just happened to be coaching at North Carolina and some guy named Michael Jordan just fell into his lap in the early 1980s. Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

2 Mike Krzyzewski – Army; Duke (1975-Present)

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One of two active coaches on this list.Krzyzewski is a great coach with a last name that is so hard to pronounce and spell, chances are when you do misspell it, no one would notice. Krzyzewski got as star as an assistant under Bobby Knight at Army and lived to tell about it. Like Wooden at UCLA, no one paid any attention to Duke as North Carolina ran the show and the entire state until Krzyzewskiarrived there in 1980. With a five year tour of duty as head coach at Army, Krzyzewski has won four national titles at Duke and is the winningest coach in Division I history, piling on more wins even as we speak. He even took a team of divas in Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant and won two Olympic medals in 2008 and 2012. Krzyzewski was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

1 John Wooden – Indiana State; UCLA (1946-1975)

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The Bruins have been playing basketball since 1920 and pretty much sucked until a wizard arrived from Indiana State in 1945. The late, great John Wooden changed the face of college basketball forever with his style of coaching and his no nonsense attitude toward his players. That made him not only the greatest, but the most respected coach of all time. His record ten national titles from 1964-75 and seven straight isn’t likely to be broken by any coach any time soon. Wooden became such a legend at UCLA that many forget, or even care that he coached at Indiana State from 1946-48. Wooden had an amazing win-loss record of 664-162. The Bruins also won a record 88 straight games under Wooden, that was later broken by some chick team from Connecticut, but that doesn’t count. Wooden even has an award named after him given to the best men’s player in the country. Wooden was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Honorable Mention

Jim Calhoun – Northeastern; Connecticut(1972-2012)
Calhoun was partly responsible for turning the Big East Conference into a national power at the University of Connecticut. He had a record of 866-369 at Northeastern and Connecticut, winning national titles with the UConn Huskies in 1999, 2004 and 2011. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, Calhoun had to call it a career due to health problems in 2012. His last national championship made Calhoun the oldest coach to win a title at 68.


Don Haskins – University of Texas El Paso(1961-1999)
Haskins had a coaching record of 719-353 all at Texas Western from 1961-1999, which later became the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP). His only national championship was one of the most important culturally as he took his 23-1 all-black starting lineup and defeated the much heralded all-white Kentucky Wildcats in the heart of the Civil Right Movement.


Eddie Sutton – Creighton; Arkansas; Kentucky; Oklahoma State; San Francisco(1969-2008)
In 39 years of coaching, the 2011 hall of famer compiled a record of 804-327 at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco. Sutton never won a national championship, but reached the Final Four three times. He was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1978 and 1986, and won a combined 16 conference regular season and tournament titles.

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