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Adam Hermann | NCAA.com | April 5, 2019

When do coaches reach their first Final Four?

The many faces of Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl

March Madness, the season of bluebloods and cinderella stories, doesn't just apply to the student-athletes -- it applies the head coaches as well. Some coaches, like Bo Ryan, endure decades at program after program before reaching the Final Four. Others, like Shaka Smart, get there in Year Two. Are there patterns? What about oddities?

There's plenty of both. Some figures before we look at the full data set:

  1. On average, it takes a head coach 10.4 years to reach their first Final Four.
  2. 18 coaches needed at least two decades to reach the Final Four.
  3. 80 coaches needed less than one decade to reach the Final Four.
  4. 47 coaches need five years or less to reach the Final Four.
  5. Eight coaches reached the Final Four in their first respective years at the helm: Ray Meyer, DePaul, 1943; Bill Hodges, Indiana State, 1979; Dick Harp, Kansas, 1957; Denny Crum, Louisville, 1972; Steve Fisher, Michigan, 1989; Bruce Drake, Oklahoma, 1939; Bully Gilstrap, Texas, 1943; Gary Thompson, Wichita State, 1965

 

Here's a look at the years of experience (as a head coach) it took each NCAA coach to reach the Final Four, dating all the way back to the first NCAA tournament in 1939, in descending order:

Coach School First Final Four Experience
Phog Allen Kansas 1940 34
John Beilein Michigan 2013 31
Bo Ryan Wisconsin 2014 31
Nat Holman CCNY 1947 28
Dana Altman Oregon 2017 28
Jim Calhoun Connecticut 1999 27
Harry Rabenhorst LSU 1953 25
Dick Bennett Wisconsin 2000 24
Gary Williams Maryland 2001 23
Nibs Price California 1946 22
Jim Larrañaga George Mason 2006 22
Norm Sloan NC State 1974 22
Howard Cann NYU 1945 22
Sam Barry USC 1940 22
Harold Olsen Ohio State 1939 21
Slats Gill Oregon State 1949 21
Everett Dean Stanford 1942 21
Mike Montgomery Stanford 1998 20
Ken Loeffler La Salle 1954 19
Kelvin Sampson Oklahoma 2002 19
Clifford Carlson Pittsburgh 1941 19
Bill Foster Duke 1978 18
Mark Few Gonzaga 2017 18
Al McGuire Marquette 1974 17
Lou Carnesecca St. John's 1985 17
Vadal Peterson Utah 1944 17
Ozzie Cowles Dartmouth 1942 16
Chick Davies Duquesne 1940 16
Elmer Ripley Georgetown 1943 16
Louis Menze Iowa State 1944 16
Henry Iba Oklahoma State 1945 16
Tom Young Rutgers 1976 16
Rick Barnes Texas 2003 16
Jim Harrick UCLA 1995 16
John Wooden UCLA 1962 16
Pete Newell California 1959 15
Bobby Cremins Georgia Tech 1990 15
Bill Self Kansas 2008 15
Peck Hickman Louisville 1959 15
John Brady LSU 2006 15
Jay Wright Villanova 2009 15
Gregg Marshall Wichita State 2013 15
Porter Moser Loyola-Chicago 2018 14
Nolan Richardson Arkansas 1994 14
Butch van Breda Kolff Princeton 1965 14
Rick Majerus Utah 1998 14
Rollie Massimino Villanova 1985 14
Jack Friel Washington State 1941 13
Lon Kruger Florida 1994 12
Adolph Rupp Kentucky 1942 12
George Ireland Loyola 1963 12
Gene Bartow Memphis 1973 12
Jim Valvano NC State 1983 12
Billy Tubbs Oklahoma 1988 12
Ben Howland UCLA 2006 12
Terry Holland Virginia 1981 12
Bob Huggins Cincinnati 1992 11
Maury John Drake 1969 11
Mike Krzyzewski Duke 1986 11
Doggie Julian Holy Cross 1947 11
Guy Lewis Houston 1967 11
Johnny Orr Michigan 1976 11
Jim Boeheim Syracuse 1987 11
John Thompson Georgetown 1982 10
Branch McCracken Indiana 1940 10
Richard Williams Mississippi State 1996 10
Lou Rossini NYU 1960 10
Frank Martin South Carolina 2017 10
Forrest Twogood USC 1954 10
Eddie Sutton Arkansas 1978 9
Dale Brown LSU 1981 9
Doc Hayes SMU 1956 9
Larry Weise St. Bonaventure 1970 9
Jerry Tarkanian UNLV 1977 9
Glen Rose Arkansas 1941 8
Bebe Lee Colorado 1955 8
Bob Knight Indiana 1973 8
John Calipari Massachusetts 1996 8
Jud Heathcote Michigan State 1979 8
Lou Henson New Mexico State 1970 8
Digger Phelps Notre Dame 1978 8
Rick Pitino Providence 1987 8
P.J. Carlesimo Seton Hall 1989 8
Jack Gray Texas 1947 8
Tippy Dye Washington 1953 8
George Smith Cincinnati 1959 7
Frosty Cox Colorado 1942 7
John Thompson III Georgetown 2007 7
Paul Hewitt Georgia Tech 2004 7
Bruce Weber Illinois 2005 7
Lute Olson Iowa 1980 7
Ted Owens Kansas 1971 7
Tex Winter Kansas State 1958 7
Tubby Smith Kentucky 1998 7
Thad Matta Ohio State 2007 7
Howard Hobson Oregon 1939 7
Roy Danforth Syracuse 1975 7
Harold E. Foster Wisconsin 1941 7
Billy Donovan Florida 2000 6
Hugh Durham Florida State 1972 6
Dean Smith North Carolina 1967 6
Dave Gavitt Providence 1973 6
Eugene Lambert Arkansas 1945 5
Bill Henderson Baylor 1948 5
Bucky O'Connor Iowa 1955 5
Jack Gardner Kansas State 1948 5
Dave Strack Michigan 1964 5
Elmer Gross Penn State 1954 5
Phil Woolpert San Francisco 1955 5
Frank McGuire St. John's 1952 5
Don Haskins Texas Western 1966 5
Larry Brown UCLA 1986 5
Fred Schaus West Virginia 1959 5
Forddy Anderson Bradley 1950 4
Vic Bubas Duke 1963 4
Joe Williams Jacksonville 1970 4
Tom Crean Marquette 2003 4
Tom Izzo Michigan State 1999 4
Everett Case NC State 1950 4
Harry Litwack Temple 1956 4
Bones McKinney Wake Forest 1962 4
Everett Shelton Wyoming 1943 4
Brad Stevens Butler 2010 3
Ed Jucker Cincinnati 1961 3
Earl Brown Dartmouth 1944 3
Don Donoher Dayton 1967 3
Roy Williams Kansas 1991 3
Joe B. Hall Kentucky 1975 3
Bill Guthridge North Carolina 2000 3
George King Purdue 1969 3
John Castellani Seattle 1958 3
Alex Severance Villanova 1939 3
Lee Rose Charlotte 1977 2
Kevin Ollie Connecticut 2014 2
Harry Combes Illinois 1949 2
Mike Davis Indiana 2002 2
Ben Carnevale North Carolina 1946 2
Fred Taylor Ohio State 1960 2
Bob Weinhauer Penn 1979 2
Bob Feerick Santa Clara 1952 2
Shaka Smart VCU 2011 2
Ray Meyer DePaul 1943 1
Bill Hodges Indiana State 1979 1
Dick Harp Kansas 1957 1
Denny Crum Louisville 1972 1
Steve Fisher Michigan 1989 1
Bruce Drake Oklahoma 1939 1
Bully Gilstrap Texas 1943 1
Gary Thompson Wichita State 1965 1

That's a lot of coaches.

A few more fun facts:

  • 49 coaches have made their Final Four debuts since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The average experience for those coaches is 12.4 years.
  • 33 coaches made their Final Four debuts in the first decade of the NCAA tournament (1939-1948). The average experience was 12.1 years.
  • Three very good coaches — Phog Allen, Bo Ryan, John Beilein — took a combined 96 years to get to their first Final Fours. They are the only three coaches to require three decades of experience to reach the Final Four.
  • Kansas is the only school with five different head coaches to reach the Final Four — Bill Self (15, 2008), Roy Williams (3, 1991), Ted Owens (7, 1971), Dick Harp (1, 1957), Phog Allen (34, 1940).

 

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