ATLANTA – The 2021 Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year candidates have narrowed to four, but it’s a certainty that the winner will claim his first one. The Atlanta Tipoff Club today announced the four finalists, and they include top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Baylor’s Scott Drew and a couple of second-year coaches at their respective schools - Juwan Howard from Michigan and Alabama’s Nate Oats.
The finalists emerged from a group of 10 semifinalists and were selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom base their selections on outstanding on-court performances during the 2020-21 regular college basketball season. The next round of voting runs from March 19-31, with the winner being announced live on CBS Sports Network’s NCAA® March Madness® 360 studio show on April 2.
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“We’re fortunate to have advanced to this point of the season, given the challenges brought on by the global pandemic, and it’s been remarkable to see the coaches prepare their teams for a tournament run,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “All college coaches should be acknowledged for their guidance and leadership this season, but these four in particular have been remarkable and certainly worthy of consideration to win the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year award.”
Once again fans will have a say in who wins the top coaching honor by participating in the Naismith Awards Fan Vote presented by Jersey Mike’s. By visiting naismithfanvote.com from March 19-31, fans will have the opportunity to cast a ballot daily for the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year Awards and the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy for the Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year. There will also be opportunities to vote on the @NaismithTrophy and NCAA @MarchMadness Twitter pages. The fan vote accounts for five percent of the overall vote, which will be tabulated and certified by Aprio, a premier CPA-led business advisory firm, headquartered in Atlanta.
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Later this year the winner will be presented with a Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year commemorative trophy designed by nationally acclaimed sculptor Brian Hanlon. The bronze trophy features Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, holding the original peach basket and ball used to play the first game.
About the Finalists:
Scott Drew, Baylor
- Drew led the Bears to their first regular-season conference championship since sharing the 1950 Southwest Conference title.
- He was selected as the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.
- In his 18th season as head coach, he guided the Bears to a 13-1 conference record and 22-2 overall.
- Baylor opens as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament South Region.
Mark Few, Gonzaga
- Few led Gonzaga to its first-ever unbeaten regular season finish in program history (24-0) and claimed both the West Coast Conference regular season and conference tournament championships bringing their overall record to 26-0.
- The Zags now have 14 consecutive seasons, all under Few, with at least 25 wins.
- He was named the conference coach of the year for the 14th time and previously won this award in 2017.
- Gonzaga is the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, becoming the fifth team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since Indiana went wire-to-wire in 1975-76.
Juwan Howard, Michigan
- In just his second year at his alma mater, Howard led the Wolverines to a 19-3 regular season record, 14-3 in conference play.
- The Wolverines won their first 11 games of the season and 18 of their first 19.
- He was named the consensus Big Ten Coach of the Year, becoming the first Michigan coach to earn the award since John Beilein during the 2013-14 season and the fourth in program history to receive the award.
- Michigan opens as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament East Region.
Nate Oats, Alabama
- After finishing last season with a 16-15 record and 8-10 mark in SEC play, Oats has guided Alabama to a 24-6 overall record in 2020-21 and a 16-2 mark in the SEC in just his second season at the helm.
- The Tide clinched the program's first regular season title in 19 years, since earning the 2002 regular season crown, and Oats also led the team to the championship title in the SEC Tournament, a first for the program in the past 30 years.
- Alabama's 10-game winning streak earlier in the year was the longest in 25 years dating back to the 1996-97 campaign, and their 16 league wins is tied for the most in program history (1986-87).
- Alabama opens as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament East Region.
“Werner is honored to be associated with the Naismith Coach of the Year Award,” said Stacy Gardella, vice president of brand marketing for Werner Co. “To be able to recognize the incredible accomplishments of these college basketball coaches and watch how they lead their teams throughout this unprecedented season is truly amazing.” For more information, visit www.naismithtrophy.com.
ABOUT THE ATLANTA TIPOFF CLUB Founded during the 1956-57 season, the Atlanta Tipoff Club is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club administers the Naismith Awards, the most prestigious national honors in all of college and high school basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, the family of Naismith Awards annually recognizes the most outstanding men’s and women’s college and high school basketball players and coaches. Other Naismith Awards are presented to the men’s and women’s college basketball defensive players of the year, as well as lifetime achievement awards to basketball officials and outstanding contributors to the game. UCLA’s Lew Alcindor received the first Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy in 1969, while the late Anne Donovan (Old Dominion) was the inaugural women’s recipient in 1983. Corporate partners of the Naismith Awards include Jersey Mike’s and Werner Ladder.
ABOUT WERNER WERNER, a WernerCo brand, is the official ladder of NCAA® March Madness® and the world leader in ladders with a complete line of climbing products designed for working at heights. The portfolio includes ladders, attic ladders, scaffolding, pump jacks, stages, planks, stepstools, accessories and fall protection equipment including harnesses, lanyards, anchors and compliance kits. From ladders to fall protection, Werner provides a full line of climbing equipment that’s engineered to give you maximum safety, durability and productivity at every height. For more information, visit www.wernerladder.com.