College basketball: These coaches had the best playing careers
Sure, college basketball coaches can attract talented players, design effective plays and run a program.
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It’s difficult to measure, but I’d put the team compiled here against any group of coaches from a previous era in Division I basketball. The first team alone scored more than 11,000 points in 20 seasons combined, and there’s a Naismith Award winner on the second team.
I selected the current coaches by position, focusing on their college career but taking into account a lengthy professional run. While most are probably a pound or ten above their ideal playing weight, rest assured they can still swish a shot or run a play to prove a point in practice, if necessary.
PG - Bobby Hurley, Arizona State (Duke ‘89-93)
Hurley was a four-year starter at point guard, and one of the first Blue Devils opposing fans loved to hate. He scored 1,731 points, handed out 1,076 assists (second all-time in ACC) and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers during an outstanding career with the Blue Devils, helping coach Mike Krzyzewski to his first two national championships in 1991 and 1992. Hurley capped his career as a first-team All-American in 1992-93.
Last season was his first as coach at Arizona State and ended with a 15-17 record.
SG - Steve Alford, UCLA (Indiana ‘84-87)
Perimeter firepower wouldn’t be a problem on this squad.
Alford, who has more career victories than any coach on our team, was a two-time first-team All-American under coach Bobby Knight at Indiana, capping his career with a national title. Alford averaged 19.5 points per game in his career and just imagine those numbers if he’d enjoyed the 3-point line all four years. It only existed during his senior season, and he took advantage, drilling 107 of 202 from beyond-the-arc (53 percent).
Alford has 450 wins in 21 seasons with nine NCAA tournament appearances.
SF - Chris Mullin, St. John’s (St. John’s ‘82-85)
Mullin is rebuilding his alma mater. The Red Storm struggled to an 8-24 record last season, which was Mullin’s first as a head coach at any level.
His players might want to listen because he was a star during the program’s glory days under coach Lou Carnesecca.
Mullin scored 2,440 points at St. John’s on 55 percent shooting and was a three-time Big East Player of the Year. He also averaged 37.3 minutes per game.
As a senior, Mullin averaged 19.8 ppg and led St. John’s to a 31-4 record and Final Four appearance, earning first-team All-American honors.
PF - Danny Manning, Wake Forest (Kansas ‘84-88)
A two-time first-team All-American, the 6-10 forward was a skilled big man. The 1988 Kansas team - dubbed Danny and the Miracles - marched all the way to the national championship under coach Larry Brown.
Manning, a three-time Big 8 Player of the Year, averaged 24.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg as a senior, winning the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
He scored 2,951 career points.
Manning is 62-68 in four seasons at Tulsa and Wake Forest.
C - Larry Krystkowiak, Utah (Montana ‘83-86)
After two NCAA tournament appearances in two seasons at his alma mater, the other coach K has overhauled the Utah program, taking it from a 6-25 team in '11-12 to 53 total wins in the last two seasons.
He was the beast of the Big Sky when he played.
The 6-9, 220-pound center averaged a double-double each of his last three seasons and shot 55 percent from the floor as the conference’s premier player.
Krystkowiak played 420 games in the NBA.
PG - Mark Price, Charlotte (Ga. Tech ‘82-86)
The Yellow Jackets were cellar dwellers in the ACC when Price, a 6-foot point guard, arrived from Oklahoma. By the time he left, they’d won their first conference championship.
Price averaged 17.4 points and 4.0 assists per game in his career as a four-year starter. He was also teased by the 3-point line, hitting 73 of 166 with the ACC’s experimental line during his freshman season only to see the line removed for the remainder of his career.
Price, who played 12 seasons in the NBA, directed Charlotte to a 14-19 mark in his debut season but returns one of the top backcourts in Conference USA.
SG - Johnny Dawkins, UCF (Duke ‘82-86)
Our team’s backup backcourt mates know each other well. They battled for four years in the ACC during a Golden Era for the conference. When Dawkins graduated he was the Blue Devils career scoring leader (2,556 points) after starting all 133 games as the key ingredient in the class that kickstarted coach K’s amazing three-decade run.
Dawkins won the 1986 Naismith Award.
After eight seasons and one NCAA tournament appearance at Stanford, he headed east to lead UCF.
SF - Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon (Central Michigan ‘84-88)
Majerle flew under-the-radar in college, scoring 2,095 points for the Central Michigan Chippewas of the Mid-American Conference. As a senior, he averaged 23.8 ppg and 10.7 rpg.
Thunder Dan became a household name, however, during the early and mid-90s when he starred on the terrific Phoenix Suns teams in the NBA.
After starting several successful businesses in Phoenix, he decided to try coaching. He’s 59-37 in three seasons as Grand Canyon continues its five-year transition to Division I.
PF - Cuonzo Martin, Cal (Purdue ‘91-95)
In this slot, we went with another combo forward who can stretch the defense. Martin shot 47 percent on 3-pointers as a senior for coach Gene Keady.
Young players dissatisfied with their early production should pay aim to emulate Martin’s career arc. He averaged 5.8 ppg as a freshman and 18.4 ppg as a senior.
Martin, entering his third season at Cal, has won 165 games in eight years as a head coach.
C - Mark Pope, Utah Valley (Washington / Kentucky ‘92-96)
A 6-10, 235-pound center during his playing days, Pope transferred from Washington to Kentucky after two seasons, and the move paid off with a national championship ring.
He scored 1,182 points and snagged 848 rebounds in four seasons of college basketball.
Pope had four points and three rebounds as Kentucky beat Syracuse 76-67 in the national finals to give coach Rick Pitino his first title.
Pope also played 153 games in the NBA.
He led Utah Valley to a 12-18 mark in his first season.