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May 5, 2011
Regular-Season Masters
Best Coaches of the Last Five Years

by John Gasaway

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Now that we've reached the month of May, the annual round of coaching changes has at last wrapped up. We now have 74 major-conference coaches in place and ready to go for next season. Of that number, however, just 30 coaches have been in their current position for the past five seasons.

Today I want to look at those 30 head coaches. Having logged five years or more running a major program, these coaches represent the pinnacle of the profession. They have the jobs that many if not all head coaches and assistant coaches aspire to obtain someday. How well have these 30 coaches performed over the past five seasons?

To answer that question I've put together a five-season version of the "Tuesday Truths" feature that I post on a weekly basis during the regular season. But where Tuesday Truths has always looked at how well a team is doing on a per-possession basis, today we'll measure how well the coach's program has done, possession by possession, over the past five seasons in conference play.

Let's start with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

ACC: The real news is who's not here

Conference games only, 2007-2011
PPP: Points per possession
Opp. PPP: Opponent PPP
EM: Efficiency Margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

                                     PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke             1.09    0.97    +0.12
2. Roy Williams, North Carolina      1.09    0.99    +0.10
3. Gary Williams, Maryland           1.05    1.03    +0.02
4. Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech     1.03    1.02    +0.01
5. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State   1.01    1.01     0.00

He doesn't appear on this list, but former Miami coach Frank Haith also coached the past five seasons in the ACC, just like all of the above. And Haith should wake up every morning and thank his lucky stars for Missouri athletic director Mike Alden. It was Alden who chose Haith to replace Mike Anderson in Columbia. Maybe Haith will take the Tigers to new heights as a program. Certainly stranger things have happened, like a 9-9 Big East team winning the national championship. But even if Haith somehow proves to be successful at Missouri, the initial decision to hire a coach whose Miami teams were outscored by 0.05 points per trip over the past five years was, to say the very least, singular.

Big 12: Kansas is pretty good in January and February

                                     PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Bill Self, Kansas                 1.14    0.94    +0.20
2. Rick Barnes, Texas                1.10    1.00    +0.10
3. Scott Drew, Baylor                1.06    1.08    -0.02

Like the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12), the Big 12 (now with ten teams) has seen a good deal of coaching turnover the past few years. Doc Sadler (-0.06) has been at his post at Nebraska for the past five years, but he's shipping out to the Big Ten. That leaves just Bill Self, Rick Barnes, and Scott Drew as current Big 12 coaches who were in their present positions five seasons ago. As seen here, Self's Kansas teams have been every bit as good on a per-possession basis as a 70-10 record would suggest. Every year that kind of domination results in great expectations for March. In 2008 those expectations were realized. The last two years, however, those hopes were dashed -- first by Northern Iowa, and then by Virginia Commonwealth. No one knows better than Jayhawk fans that regular-season domination does not guarantee March success.

Big East: Being good at something for five years doesn't change the stereotype

                                     PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Jamie Dixon, Pitt                 1.11    1.01    +0.10
2. Rick Pitino, Louisville           1.07    0.97    +0.10
3. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse             1.07    1.00    +0.07
4. John Thompson, Georgetown         1.06    1.00    +0.06
5. Jim Calhoun, Connecticut          1.04    0.99    +0.05
6. Mike Brey, Notre Dame             1.11    1.06    +0.05
7. Jay Wright, Villanova             1.07    1.03    +0.04
8. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati           1.00    1.06    -0.06

Over the course of five years and more than 5,000 possessions, Jamie Dixon's Panthers have scored more than 1.1 points per trip. And yet I'll bet you any amount of money that next year some writer will still worry about whether Pitt's offense is good enough to win in March. I can't explain it, it's just what writers do when they see "PITT" on a jersey. Go figure.

Big Ten: Give that man a new contract!

                                     PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin                1.11    0.97    +0.14
2. Thad Matta, Ohio State            1.09    0.98    +0.11
3. Matt Painter, Purdue              1.05    0.96    +0.09
4. Tom Izzo, Michigan State          1.04    0.97    +0.07
5. Bruce Weber, Illinois             1.00    0.98    +0.02
6. Ed DeChellis, Penn State          1.02    1.10    -0.08
7. Bill Carmody, Northwestern        1.01    1.12    -0.11

Last week Wisconsin extended Bo Ryan's contract to run through 2015-16, and the numbers shown here suggest that was a good move. On a per-possession basis, only Kansas has been more successful in major-conference play than the Badgers over the past five seasons. Indeed if Wisconsin could just be assured of seeing only major-conference opponents in the NCAA tournament, they would likely reach the Final Four every year. Instead Ryan's team has been sent home by a mid-major in each of the past five tournaments (Butler, Cornell, Xavier, Davidson, and UNLV). There's only one solution for a hex like this. If I were a Wisconsin fan I would not rest until the six major conferences had expanded to include every team in Division I.

Pac-12: Numbers can be deceiving

                                     PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Ben Howland, UCLA                 1.09    0.99    +0.10
2. Lorenzo Romar, Washington         1.07    1.02    +0.05
3. Herb Sendek, Arizona State        1.01    1.03    -0.02

Did I mention this league has seen a lot of coaching turnover lately? To some of us it doesn't seem like all that long ago when Herb Sendek was at NC State. Now look: Sendek's practically the dean of Pac-12 coaches. Meanwhile note that Romar's closing the per-possession gap on Howland. Over the past two seasons the Huskies have outscored the league formerly known as the Pac-10 by 0.10 points per trip, while the Bruins have been just 0.01 points per trip better than the rest of the conference over that same time frame.

SEC: The Gators know how to score

                                     PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Billy Donovan, Florida            1.11    1.04    +0.07
2. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt       1.07    1.05    +0.02
3. Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State 1.04    1.02    +0.02
4. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss            1.05    1.06    -0.01

The numbers here for Florida include one year's worth of national championship-level play (2007), but even in years where the Gators have missed the NCAA tournament entirely the problem has never been on offense. That being said, Billy Donovan better keep scoring points if he wants to stay atop this list in future years. Over at Kentucky, John Calipari (+0.13 in his first two seasons) is off to an awfully strong start.

A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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