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Zach Pekale | | September 29, 2020

These 9 active Division I men's basketball coaches won the NCAA tournament as players

The 9 active coaches who won the NCAA tournament as players

When the 2020-21 college basketball season tips off Nov. 25, there will be nine head coaches roaming the sidelines who better understand the grind of a full season than most. That's because these coaches won NCAA championships as players. Here's a little refresher on the nine active coaches who cut the nets down at the Final Four.

First a TL/DR version:

  • Steve Alford, Indiana (1987) — Nevada head coach
  • Kenny Blakeney, Duke (1992) — Howard head coach
  • Juan Dixon, Maryland (2002) — Coppin State head coach
  • Patrick Ewing, Georgetown (1984) — Georgetown head coach
  • Bobby Hurley, Duke (1991,1992) — Arizona State head coach
  • Steve Masiello, Kentucky (1998) — Manhattan head coach
  • Wes Miller, North Carolina (2005) — UNC Greensboro head coach
  • Josh Pastner, Arizona (1997) — Georgia Tech head coach
  • Mark Pope, Kentucky (1996) — BYU head coach

Steve Alford, Indiana (1987) — Nevada head coach (2019-present)

Steve Alford was a NCAA champion at IndianaNevada head coach Steve Alford helped Indiana win the 1987 NCAA tournament.

Alford is in his second season at Nevada, the fifth stop of a coaching career spanning more than two decades. The Wolf Pack are seeking a return to the NCAA tournament, a place Alford had major success as a player. As a senior, Alford was an All-American and Indiana earned a No. 1 seed in the 1987 NCAA tournament. The sharpshooter thrived in March, averaging a tournament-best 23 points per game during the Hoosiers' postseason run, including two contests with more than 30 points — first after drilling seven 3-pointers in the round of 32 before an encore performance with 33 points in a Final Four win over UNLV. Alford also went for a game-high 23 points in Indiana's championship-clinching victory over Syracuse, earning a spot on the All-Tournament team.

Kenny Blakeney, Duke (1992) — Howard head coach (2019-present)

Kenny Blakeney won the 1992 NCAA tournament at DukeHoward head coach Kenny Blakeney was a freshman on Duke's 1992 NCAA championship team.

Blakeney's second year at Howard could come with some lofty expectations after landing highly touted freshman Makur Maker and Purdue transfer Nojel Eastern. The Bison might not be NCAA tournament-ready right away, but Blakeney probably understands patience after coming off the bench for a NCAA champion Duke team. The 1991-92 Blue Devils were giants in college basketball, becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles since John Wooden's UCLA dynasty. Blakeney, then a freshman, recorded one start during the season before receiving limited minutes during the 1992 NCAA tournament. He made more than 25 appearances for Duke in three of his four seasons.

Juan Dixon, Maryland (2002) — Coppin State head coach (2017-present)

Juan Dixon won the 2002 NCAA tournament at Maryland.Coppin State head coach Juan Dixon was the Most Outstanding Player at the 2002 Final Four.

Dixon enters his fourth season at Coppin State and will try to get the Eagles back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. The former Maryland point guard got his first taste of coaching in College Park, the same place he brought home a March Madness title years before. Dixon was a four-year player for the Terrapins and reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament three times. But none of those runs can top 2002, when the Terps won the program's first championship. Dixon, the ACC Player of the Year and a first team All-American, led the tournament with 25.8 points per game. He never scored fewer than 18 in a contest while going for more than 25 points in four of six games. Maryland beat Indiana 64-52 for the national championship with Dixon taking home MOP honors.

Patrick Ewing, Georgetown (1984) — Georgetown head coach (2017-present)

Patrick Ewing won the 1984 NCAA tournament at Georgetown.Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing won the 1984 NCAA tournament while starring for the Hoyas.

Ewing is the only coach on this list currently working with his alma mater, entering Year 4 with the Hoyas. Georgetown has not yet been to the postseason under Ewing, though he knows the feeling of cutting the nets down for the Hoyas well. In Ewing's four years, Georgetown was one of the more dominant programs in college basketball, earning a No. 1 seed and reaching the national final three times. Only once, in 1984, were the Hoyas the last team standing. That year, Ewing was a force in the paint and played over 30 minutes in all five games — the tournament expanded to 64 teams the following year — as Georgetown held its first four opponents below 50 points. The Hoyas edged Houston 84-75 for the championship as Ewing clashed with fellow future Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon . Ewing was named Most Outstanding Player.

Bobby Hurley, Duke (1991, 1992) — Arizona State head coach (2015-present)

Bobby Hurley won back-to-back NCAA tournament titles at Duke.Arizona State's Bobby Hurley is the only active head coach to win two NCAA titles as a player.

Hurley has turned Arizona State into a NCAA tournament team and Pac-12 contender during his first five years in Tempe. With a strong cast of returners and a highly-touted freshman class to match, this could be the Sun Devils's best chance to make a tournament run, something Hurley experienced regularly during his playing days at Duke. In four collegiate seasons, Hurley went to the Final Four three times and won two national championships with the Blue Devils, winning back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992. As a sophomore, he dished out 43 assists to 10 turnovers — Hurley is college basketball's all-time leader in assists— while playing 36.5 minutes per game during Duke's tournament run. Hurley became even more important the following year, when he averaged over 38 minutes per contest in March. He had at least seven assists in five games and went for more than 20 points twice, including a 22-point outing in a 1992 Elite Eight thriller over Kentucky. Hurley followed that with 26 points in a Final Four win over Indiana and was named Final Four MOP after Duke beat Michigan for the title.

Steve Masiello, Kentucky (1998) — Manhattan head coach (2011-present)

Steve Masiello won the 1998 NCAA tournament at Kentucky.Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello was a reserve on Kentucky's 1998 championship team.

Masiello is the first member of this list currently with the same team for a decade. This is his tenth season as the head coach at Manhattan, where he's led the Jaspers to two NCAA tournament appearances. Masiello previously spent four years with Manhattan as an assistant coach shortly after his college career ended. Masiello was a four-year player at Kentucky and was on the team when the Wildcats captured the 1998 NCAA tournament title. Kentucky went 35-4 that season had six future professional players on its roster. In March, the Wildcats breezed into the Elite Eight before winning its next two games by three points and clinching the title with a 78-69 win over Utah. Masiello made 18 appearances during the year, including three brief stints during the NCAA tournament.

Wes Miller, North Carolina (2005) — UNC Greensboro head coach (2011-present)

Wes Miller won the 2005 NCAA tournament at North Carolina.UNC Greensboro head coach Wes Miller won the 2005 NCAA tournament at North Carolina.

Like Masiello at Manhattan, Miller will hit the decade mark at UNC Greensboro this year. The Spartans made the NCAA tournament in 2018 and have won more than 20 games in each of the past four seasons. Miller won his NCAA championship with North Carolina in 2005, when the Tar Heels went 33-4 and downed Illinois 75-70 for the title. Miller showed flashes of his sharpshooting abilities in limited minutes throughout the season, though he only played a few minutes during the Tar Heels' championship run. However, Miller became a starter during the second half of the following year and was regarded as one of the top shooters in the ACC after knocking down 64 3-pointers at a 44 percent clip.

Josh Pastner, Arizona (1997) — Georgia Tech head coach (2016-present)

Josh Pastner won the 1997 NCAA tournament at Arizona.Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner won the 1997 NCAA tournament at Arizona.

Pastner heads into his fifth year at Georgia Tech looking for his first NCAA tournament appearance with the Yellow Jackets. Pastner reached the postseason in all four years he played at Arizona, though none can compare to the Wildcats' championship run in 1997. Arizona became the first champion to topple three No. 1 seeds, including an 84-79 win over Kentucky for the title. Pastner didn't record court time during the Wildcats' postseason run, but the program recognized his contributions in breaking down film, scouting opponents and helping teammates with their shots during the 1997 season.

Mark Pope, Kentucky (1996) — BYU head coach (2019-present)

Mark Pope won the 1996 NCAA tournament with Kentucky.BYU coach Mark Pope won the 1996 NCAA tournament with Kentucky.

Pope won 24 games — the most wins by a first-year coach in program history— during his first year at BYU. The Cougars were in position for a postseason bid, a milestone that could be reached in Pope's second season. As a player, Pope played in two NCAA tournaments, winning the 1996 NCAA tournament as a senior with Kentucky. The big man came off the bench for the Wildcats during their championship run, averaging six points and 3.3 rebounds in just over 20 minutes per game. Pope had a strong opening round with eight points, six rebounds and four blocks against San Jose State. He also put together a strong showing in the Final Four, when he scored eight points in his tournament-high 23 minutes against UMass. Two days later, the top-seeded Wildcats beat Syracuse 76-67 for the championship.

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