True, all 68 head coaches in the NCAA tournament have feats to envy this season, but this isn’t about that. Here are 68 nuggets for 68 men that won’t show up in the box scores this week.
1. Kennesaw State’s Amir Abdur-Rahim
He’s one of 13 kids in his family and one of six brothers to play college basketball. That includes Shareef, who spent 13 years in the NBA and is now president of the G League.
2. Nevada’s Steve Alford
He was a native son and legend of Indiana, drawing more than 9,000 fans to his high school games and leading the Hoosiers to the 1987 national championship, making 90 percent of his career free throws and 53 percent of his 3-pointers. Everyone figured the home state NBA Pacers would draft him. So when the Pacers announced to a crowd on draft day that they were taking someone else, the place erupted in thunderous boos. Not that many would admit later they were doing the booing. The pick was Reggie Miller.
3. Fairleigh Dickinson’s Tobin Anderson
He came from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas this season and brought players Demetre Roberts and Grant Singleton with him. Now they’re the two leading scorers and one reason how the Knights went from 4-22 to the NCAA Tournament in 12 months.
4. Tennessee’s Rick Barnes
When he was fired at Texas — despite getting the Longhorns to 16 NCAA Tournaments in 17 seasons and their only Final Four in the past 75 years — he knew the Tennessee job was waiting for him. He walked out the door after his last press conference in Austin, went to a plane, and flew directly to Knoxville.
5. Vermont’s John Becker
His journey to Vermont, where he just set an America East record with his sixth title (passing Jim Calhoun, among others), included IT work in his younger days. He managed all the computer labs at Georgetown. He also was once an assistant tennis coach at Gallaudet, the famed school for the hearing impaired, even though he had never played the sport.
6. Saint Mary’s Randy Bennett
In 2001, coming off a 2-27 season, Saint Mary’s needed to find a new coach. Then a Saint Louis assistant, Bennett was interviewed by Saint Mary’s at the Final Four in Minneapolis sitting by an indoor swimming pool at a Comfort Inn with kids playing in the water. Must have gone well. Now he’s the school’s all-time leader in wins.
7. Virginia’s Tony Bennett
Win a national championship and what comes next for a coach? Sure, a hefty raise. Virginia offered Bennett as much after the 2019 title. He turned it down, telling the school to use the money for more staff and other improvements.
8. Howard’s Kenny Blakeney
He once co-founded a fashion sports accessories company called Sportin’ Styles and left coaching for several years to satisfy his passion for fashion and design. He just coached the Bison to their first NCAA tournament bid in 31 years.
9. Kentucky’s John Calipari
The man’s given a gazillion press conferences and still the most memorable is when he was at Massachusetts in 1994 and an enraged Temple coach John Chaney charged into the interview room and threatened to kill him. They reconciled and would even pose together for fans’ pictures, pretending to fight.
10. Pittsburgh’s Jeff Capel
He was the youngest head coach in Division I basketball in 2002 when VCU gave him the job at the age of 27. He was obviously ready. The Rams won 65.8 percent of their games and a conference championship in his four seasons.
11. Northwestern’s Chris Collins
Long before he coached in Evanston north of Chicago, he was a ball boy for the Bulls. His father Doug was Michael Jordan’s second NBA coach.
12. Providence’s Ed Cooley
Truly a hometown-boy-makes-good story. He grew up not far from the campus where he now is an established winner, one of nine kids with his mother on welfare, and neighbors often providing him food and a place to sleep.
13. UCLA’s Mick Cronin
He began his coaching career in charge of the freshman team at a Cincinnati high school. He was still an undergrad student at the University of Cincinnati at the time.
14. Drake’s Darian DeVries
He was hugely helped this season by a 6-7 forward who was Missouri Valley Conference player of the year and MVP of the league tournament. His son Tucker.
15. TCU’s Jamie Dixon
This being Oscars week, it should be mentioned he was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in several commercials when he was younger, including Rice Krispies and Mattel.
16. Grand Canyon’s Bryce Drew
Never mind he’s the younger brother of Scott Drew. Certainly that’s notable lineage but what about this? His father-in-law played Little Ricky in I Love Lucy,
17. Baylor’s Scott Drew
When he coached Baylor to the 2021 national championship in Indianapolis, his second round and Sweet 16 games were in Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus, just down the street from his old Delta Tau Delta fraternity house. He played tennis at Butler, not basketball.
18. San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher
As a Michigan assistant in the 1990s, he was renowned for his recruiting skills, especially after he signed a particularly intriguing gaggle of freshmen one year. History would know them as the Fab Five.
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19. USC’s Andy Enfield
High school valedictorian, economics degree from Johns Hopkins, MBA from Maryland. No opposing coach would want to take on this guy in a written test. Or at the free throw line. He still holds the Division III career record 92.5 percentage. He took 466 free throws at Johns Hopkins. He missed 35.
20. Gonzaga’s Mark Few
He was married 29 years ago in a wedding ceremony officiated by the Rev. Norm Few. His father.
21. Missouri’s Dennis Gates
He showed his academic flair by graduating in three years from California. He was also a three-year team captain at Berkeley.
22. Memphis’ Penny Hardaway
He returned to Memphis during his NBA days and finished his degree. He became a college graduate at the age of 31.
23. Princeton’s Mitch Henderson
He was the first 12-time letter winner — basketball, baseball and football — in the history of Indiana’s Culver Military Academy, whose alums include Yankees owners George Steinbrenner. The Yankees drafted him in the 29th round as a pitcher but he elected to play basketball at Princeton. He had eight points and four steals in the Tigers’ famous NCAA tournament first round upset of defending national champion UCLA in 1996.
24. Northern Kentucky’s Darrin Horn
As a player he led Western Kentucky to NCAA tournament upsets of Memphis (with Penny Hardaway). Seton Hall and Michigan. He also once beat Louisville with a late 3-pointer.
25. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins
He might have given the most poignant hug in Final Four history. When West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler lay on the floor sobbing in agony after badly injuring his knee in during a 2010 semifinal a loss to Duke, Huggins came on the floor, got to his knees, and consoled his senior, whispering into his ear. The film clip ran everywhere.
26. Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley
His rookie year for the Sacramento Kings in the NBA in 1993 was going fine until the December evening he was headed home after a game and was blindsided by a station wagon being driven without headlights. Thrown 100 feet from his car and sustaining life-threatening injuries, he was never the same player again.
27. Connecticut’s Dan Hurley
In the 1992 Sweet 16, Hurley was 0-for-4 and scoreless for Seton Hall in an 81-69 loss to Duke. Scoring four points for the Blue Devils was his older brother Bobby. Two days later, Duke beat Kentucky in their epic game and Dan Hurley has joked that if he had shot better, Christian Laettner may never have had the chance for his famous shot.
28. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo
He grew up in the Michigan Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain, which averages 61 inches of snowfall a year and once hit 39 degrees below zero. It is known for a giant bat cave, a renowned ski jump and the hometown of best pals Izzo and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci.
29. Mississippi State’s Chris Jans
It was bombs away when he was a player at Loras College in Iowa. He made 133 3-pointers his senior season, more than any college player in the nation. Nobody on his team this season has more than 37.
30. Texas Southern’s Johnny Jones
Not many guys can say this. He played in the last third place game in Final Four history. He scored four points off the bench for LSU in its 78-74 loss to Virginia in 1981. LSU had lost to Indiana, Virginia to North Carolina. The third place game was forever scrubbed in 1982.
31. North Carolina State’s Kevin Keatts
He quickly won over the program when he arrived back in 2017 in at least two ways. One, he was the first Wolfpack coach in 99 years to beat Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest his first try. Two, ice cream for everyone in the traveling party after road wins!
32. Charleston’s Pat Kelsey
He once used a post-game press conference to give such an impassioned response to the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting massacre, the parents of one of the victims called to tell him what it meant to them. They reached him when he was on a recruiting trip.
33. Southeast Missouri State’s Brad Korn
At 6-9, he’s one of the tallest coaches in Division I. He played in three NCAA Tournaments for Southern Illinois.
34. Colgate’s Matt Langel
He was once an assistant coach in Holland for a team called the Eiffel Towers.
35. Miami’s Jim Larranaga
When he wasn’t leading George Mason on a Cinderella run to the 2006 Final Four he was an associate professor for the schools’ executive MBA program.
36. Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd
Not many other Power 5 coaches have a degree in biology.
37. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Steve Lutz
He spent 26 years as an assistant in six different places before he got his chance to be a college head coach last season. First thing he did was bring in 10 transfers. He’s made the NCAA Tournament both years.
38. Louisiana’s Bob Marlin
During his tenure, he’s coached 36 players who have been recognized by the Sun Belt for academics. Nine of the 10 highest Cajuns’ semester grade point averages in the past 40 years have come on his watch.
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39. Florida Atlantic’s Dusty May
A special connection landed him a student manager’s spot for Bob Knight’s Indiana teams, and an opportunity to learn a lot about coaching basketball. The connection? He mowed the team doctor’s lawn. And while we’re on the subject . . .
40. UC Santa Barbara’s Joe Pasternack
He was a student manager at Indiana the same time as May and graduated one year ahead of him in 1999. Probably fitting their teams qualified for the 2023 NCAA tournament on the same day. Another Indiana manager who graduated a year ahead of Pasternack is Mike Schrage, who is on Jon Scheyer’s staff at Duke. Knight apparently had some pretty smart guys breaking down game film back then.
41. Iowa’s Fran McCaffery
In 2014, he had to rush from Iowa City to get to the arena in Dayton, Ohio in time to coach the Hawkeyes’ First Four game. He had stayed back in Iowa that morning to be with son Patrick, who was having a tumor near his thyroid removed. The tumor turned out to be cancerous. Now Patrick plays for his father.
42. Creighton’s Greg McDermott
You can’t get more Midwestern than this: He grew up on a farm in Cascade, Iowa. Just 16 miles up the road is Dyersville, the baseball setting for Field of Dreams.
43. Xavier’s Sean Miller
He was such a deft ballhandler as a kid, he appeared on the Johnny Carson show and as a dribbling phenom in a movie The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.
44. Oral Roberts’ Paul Mills
He has a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. So yeah, the Golden Eagles should have a prayer against Duke.
45. UNC Asheville’s Mike Morrell
He was all-conference at Milligan College. In golf. Also scored 1,000 points in basketball.
46. Arkansas’ Eric Musselman
The Rapid City Thrillers, the Florida Beach Dogs, the Reno Bighorns . . . he worked for them all, and a half-dozen NBA franchises, too, before he moved into college coaching at the age of 47.
47. Alabama’s Nate Oats
He might be coaching one of the nation’s top teams now – and dealing with the fallout of the Brandon Miller situation – but it was only 10 years ago he was teaching five math classes a day at a Michigan high school.
48. Utah State’s Ryan Odom
He was only in his second year as a Division I head coach in 2018 when he took No. 16 seed UMBC into the NCAA Tournament with virtually no chance against mighty No. 1 Virginia. You probably know the rest.
49. Iowa State’s T.J. Otzelberger
Wonder who wins a game of h-o-r-s-e in that house? His wife Alison was a three-time all-Big 12 selection for Iowa State and played for the Seattle Storm in the WNBA.
50. Purdue’s Matt Painter
At the age of nine he’d write to his favorite baseball stars and be thrilled if they answered because he could see their handwriting on the return address. The prize names in his killer autograph collection are Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Al Kaline.
51. Auburn’s Bruce Pearl
He never played high school basketball, not even junior varsity. A football knee injury when he was a freshman ended his athletic career.
52. Iona’s Rick Pitino
He’s 70 years old. He’s coached a Final Four team in four different decades. He’s one of three men to lead five different schools into the NCAA Tournament. But to get a real feel for his longevity, consider this: His first game as head coach, actually an Hawaii interim, was 47 years ago. There have been nine U.S. presidents since then.
53. VCU’s Mike Rhoades
Here’s the record book for Lebanon Valley. Notice one name gets mentioned a lot. Nearly 30 years later, Rhoades is still the career leader in free throw percentage, steals and assists. He was Division III national player of the year in 1995.
54. Boise State’s Leon Rice
He once promised to cross the Boise River if fans sold out the arena for a San Diego State game. They did. He was soon in the water with his walking stick.
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55. Furman’s Bob Richey
He graduated summa cum laude from North Greenville with a degree in business management. Summa is as high as it gets, so Furman is probably summa excited right now with its first NCAA Tournament bid in 43 years.
56. Houston’s Kelvin Sampson
He comes from the Lumbee Native American community. His father John was one of several Lumbee who made national news by breaking up a North Carolina Ku Klux Klan rally in the 1950s.
57. Duke’s Jon Scheyer
His stat line was 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Blue Devils’ 61-59 win over Butler for the 2010 national championship. Later that spring he had to miss his college graduation because of mono.
58. Kansas’ Bill Self
Well, he can say at least two things none of the other 67 can. He’s the defending champion and has the chance to do what only seven other men have done – repeat. And he’s the only coach in the field with two new heart stents.
59. Kent State’s Rob Senderoff
Back in 2012 when ESPN had its 24-hour marathon of games early in the season, Kent State was assigned a weekday home noon game against Temple. Trying to raise a crowd, Senderoff tweeted out an offer than he would personally email the professor of any student who missed class to come to the game, and get a doctor’s excuse note for any working adults who took off from their jobs. Kent State lost 80-66 before 2,415 fans.
60. Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry
Graduated from the same small college – Hanover in Indiana – as Mike Pence. Pence was destined for the vice presidency but it was Shrewsberry who led the conference in free throw shooting and assists. He also coached in some capacity at six different colleges in his home state of Indiana.
61. Marquette’s Shaka Smart
When it was time for him to make his college choice, he turned down Harvard in favor of Division III Kenyon but did fine for himself academically, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in history. In 2017 he returned to Kenyon to deliver the commencement address.
62. Montana State’s Danny Sprinkle
He coaches at his alma mater. In 1996 he scored 30 points in the Big Sky tournament championship game to get the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament.
63. Kansas State’s Jerome Tang
He once scraped up the last $10.81 he and his wife had to buy food for dinner when Baylor’s Scott Drew visited to size him up for a possible assistant’s job at Baylor.
64. Texas’ Rodney Terry
Sporting News has named a national college basketball coach of the year since 1964 and this is the first season the award went to a Texas Longhorn. And to think, Terry is an interim who didn’t even have the job three months ago.
65. Illinois’ Brad Underwood
To get his first basketball coaching job as a graduate assistant at Hardin-Simmons, he had to agree to coach the school’s cross-country program. Before that he took at a whack at working in an insurance company.
66. Texas A&M’s Buzz Williams
Last fall he delivered four lectures to Texas A&M students in course 380 of the School of Military Science. An avid reader, he finishes four to five books a month.
67. Maryland’s Kevin Willard
He has told the story about his days as an assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville and while traveling on a recruiting trip, Pitino offered to teach Willard the card game of gin on the flight home. By the time the plane landed, Willard was down $400.
68. Indiana’s Mike Woodson
In 1980, Woodson returned from a back injury and played only six league games. He made such an impact he was named Big Ten most valuable player despite being active for only a third of the conference season.