College basketball: The 9 best NBA players who are now NCAA head coaches
Georgetown’s hiring of college hoops and NBA legend Patrick Ewing made headlines this offseason, and rightfully so. But he’s not the only head coach that played at the highest level.
Yes, he was the best. But he has company.
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Here are nine Division I head coaches that had the best NBA playing careers.
Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
Ewing’s Basketball-Reference page runs very long. It features some gaudy numbers. That’s a way of saying Ewing was a great NBA player for an extended period of time.
He played 15 seasons in the NBA, 13 with the Knicks. He was an 11-time All-Star and a six-time All-NBA second-teamer. The one thing that eluded him: a championship.
At the professional level, anyway. Ewing led Georgetown to the NCAA tournament crown in 1984. We’ll see if he can do the same thing as a coach 30-plus years later.
Chris Mullin, St. John’s
It may take some time for Georgetown and St. John’s to return to their former dominance, but regardless of the on-court product, it’s going to be a blast watching Ewing and Mullin go head-to-head coaching their alma maters.
Mullin might be one of the most underrated NBA players ever. He was ahead of his time, a knockdown 3-point shooter that, in today’s game, would have averaged more than the 2.2 3s he launched per night. The ex-Warrior made 38 percent of those for his career and notched five consecutive seasons averaging 25 points or higher. Mullin was a five-time All-Star.
He’s about to enter his third season on the bench for the Red Storm, and things are trending upward. Mullin won six more games in his second year than he did in his first, and his 2017-18 roster is easily his best yet.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest
In college, Manning was the ultimate winner. He won a national title at Kansas and earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors in 1988. He was a three-time conference player of the year.
In the NBA, he didn’t win as much, but his numbers were awfully impressive. He averaged 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Clippers in 1993-94; early in his career, he was an efficient, reliable top-scoring option.
Manning inherited a rough situation at Wake Forest, but he’s turning things around. After finishing below .500 in each of his first two seasons, the Demon Deacons made the NCAA tournament in 2017 behind stud big man John Collins, a player who, coincidence or not, looked like the evolutionary Manning.
Avery Johnson, Alabama
You just knew Johnson would end up as a head coach one day. He was never a star as an NBA player — he averaged 8.4 points for his career — but Johnson was always a leader. A winner. “The Little General,” as they called him, won a championship in 1999 with San Antonio. His No. 6 jersey is retired by the Spurs.
Like Mullin and Manning, he hasn’t experienced a great deal of success in the college coaching ranks, but Alabama is coming. Johnson has his most talented roster yet and his teams have finished above .500 the last two seasons. The Crimson Tide appear poised to do so.
Mark Price, Charlotte
Like Mullin, Price was ahead of his time. The nine-year NBA veteran was a two-time 3-point contest winner and made better than 40 percent of his triples during his career. A four-time All-Star, Price’s No. 25 is retired by the Cavaliers.
A stat that doesn’t get much recognition but is impressive nonetheless, in 1992-93 and 1993-94, Price made 95 percent of his free-throws on 590 attempts. He is one of the most accurate shooters in NBA history.
Price took the Charlotte job in 2015 and hasn’t had much success, winning 27 games in his first two seasons. Like a few others on this list, it’s probably too early to judge him at this point.
Reggie Theus, Cal State Northridge
The elder statesman of this group, Theus began his NBA career in 1978 with the Bulls. He was a pure scorer. Theus was always near the 20 points per game threshold as a pro with Chicago, Sacramento, Atlanta, Orlando and New Jersey. He made All-Star teams in 1981 and 1983.
Unlike most of these guys, Theus has been in the college coaching industry for a while. He began as an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville in 2003. He was the head coach of New Mexico State from 2005-07, winning the WAC Tournament in 2007.
Donyell Marshall, Central Connecticut
Marshall was a 15-year pro with the Warriors, Cavaliers, Jazz, Raptors, Bulls, Timberwolves, 76ers and Sonics. Whew! Marshall was never on the level of guys like Ewing, Mullin or Price, but he put together some nice years, particularly in 1999-00, when he averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds. Marshall was a stretch power forward who compiled a few seasons of 40 percent shooting from distance.
On the bench, Marshall is paying his dues. He’s been an assistant coach at George Washington, Maine, Rider and Buffalo. He got his first head coaching gig with Central Connecticut in 2016.
It’s going to be a rebuilding project. The Blue Devils won six games in his first season. We’ll see if Marshall can turn it around.
Damon Stoudamire, Pacific
The player nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” was fun to watch in the NBA. Standing (generously) at 5-foot-10, Stoudamire was a solid pro — he was the Rookie of the Year in 1996 — and finished his career with 11,763 points. Stoudamire spent the bulk of his career with the Trail Blazers, but his best years may have been in Toronto, where he averaged 20 points a game in his sophomore season with the Raptors.
Stoudamire’s coaching path is similar to Marshall’s. He’s in his first year at Pacific. The Tigers won 11 games in 2016-17. He previously served as an assistant at Memphis and Arizona.
Terry Porter, Portland
Porter was an excellent NBA point guard, primarily for the Trail Blazers. He was a two-time All-Star, making the squad in 1991 and 1993, and scored more than 15,000 points while dishing out over 7,000 assists in his career. His No. 30 is hanging in the rafters of the Moda Center.
Porter earned most of his coaching chops on the NBA level. He served as the head coach of the Bucks and Suns for brief stints. Now, he’s back where he had the best days of his playing career. Porter won 11 games in his first season at the helm for the Pilots.