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Is Jay Wright underrated?

A recent ranking of head coaches had Villanova's Jay Wright at No. 22 in the country.

Is Jay Wright underrated?

One of the nice things about the summer lull in college sports news is that I get to catch up on all the magazines I didn’t have time to read during the spring.

That includes the April issue of Basketball Times, in which Hoop Scoop’s Clark Francis ranked the 50 best head coaches in college basketball. Lists like these are always great for starting conversations, so let’s have at it.

Francis doesn’t say much about his criteria, except that Rick Pitino tops the list “based on the way the Cardinals played this season.” The column was also written before the NCAA Tournament, which might be why Roy Williams came in second.

Mike Krzyzewski is third, Jim Calhoun is fourth and John Calipari is fifth. The top-ranked local coach is Villanova’s Jay Wright, who comes in 22nd. That seems a bit low to me, and I suspect it might to some of you as well.

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Coaches also ranked ahead of Wright include Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, a Chester native, at No. 12, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith at No. 13 and UNLV’s Lon Kruger at No. 18.

The coaches immediately ahead of Wright are Michigan’s John Beilein at No. 19, Gonzaga’s Mark Few at No. 20 and George Mason’s Jim Larranaga at 21. Davidson’s Bob McKillop follows Wright at No. 23, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl is No. 24 and Georgetown’s John Thompson III at No. 25.

I personally think Kruger, Smith and Larranaga are too high. Kruger has got UNLV back on the winning track, but not anywhere close to where it was under Jerry Tarkanian, and Smith’s greatest successes came when he was at Kentucky. And I like what Larranaga has done a lot, but VCU has been the better team in the CAA since Mason’s Final Four run.

Wright, on the other hand, is ushering Villanova through a sustained period of success, and it looks like that will continue with the incoming recruiting class. I’m sure the rankings would have been different had they been conducted after the NCAA Tournament, but even without that I think Wright deserves more credit than Francis gave him.

Two other local coaches made Francis’ ranking: Temple’s Fran Dunphy at No. 48 and Phil Martelli of St. Joseph’s at No. 50. I think those ratings are fair.

Some other notable names on the list: Maryland’s Gary Williams at No. 26, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey (formerly of Delaware) at No. 36 and Siena’s Fran McCaffery at 46.

I also can’t help noting that now-former USC coach Tim Floyd was ranked No. 29. I think we can safely say that Floyd wouldn’t deserve to be in this list if it was assembled today. We don’t deal with the Pac-10 that much on here, but I think we can agree that we won’t miss him or his recruiting methods all that much.


After ranking the Top 50 coaches, Francis ranked what he called the “Next 50.” He ranked 30 “Coaches in Mid-Career” and 20 “Up-and-Coming Coaches.”

La Salle’s John Giannini made it to No. 25 on the Mid-Career list, and Penn State’s Ed DeChellis was No. 28.

Notable names included Dayton’s Bryan Gregory at No. 5; Rhode Island’s Jim Baron at No. 8; Northwestern’s Bill Carmody (formerly of Princeton) at No. 10; Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin at No. 16; American’s Jeff Jones at No. 19 and Cornell’s Steve Donahue at No. 23.

I’m not sure about Mick Cronin. Maybe he can turn Cincinnati around, but the Bearcats’ 8-10 record in the Big East this season was underwhelming. They also haven’t beaten local rival Xavier since the 2004-05 season.

Anthony Grant, who moved from VCU to Alabama in March, is the at the top of the Up-and-Coming list. Notable names include Marquette’s Buzz Williams at No. 3, Providene’s Keno Davis at No. 5, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson (Barack Obama’s brother-in-law) at No. 11.

Two former St. Joe’s assistants are on that list as well: Mike Rice (now at Robert Morris) at No. 12 and Matt Brady (James Madison) at No. 20.

One name not listed: Drexel's Bruiser Flint. Surprising? I think you can make a case for him to be somewhere in the "Next 50."


But wait, there’s more. Francis also ranked the Top 100 assistant coaches and the Top 50 “Low-to-Mid-Major” assistant coaches.

Notable names on the first list include West Virginia’s Billy Hahn, the former La Salle head coach, at No. 3; now-former Villanova assistant Pat Chambers at No. 31; Rutgers’ Jim Carr at No. 50; Temple’s Dave Duke at No. 60; Penn State’s Kurt Kanaskie at No. 81; Villanova’s Jason Donnelly at No. 83; Geoff Arnold of St. Joe’s at No. 92 and La Salle’s Walt Fuller at No. 96.

Notable names on the second list include Drexel’s Tony Chiles at No. 21; Penn’s John Gallagher at No. 32; Robert Morris’ Andy Toole (who played at Penn) at No. 36; and Delaware’s R.C. Kehoe at No. 37.

Yes, there are a lot of local names on those lists, and we know some better than others.

What do you think of all this, especially the head coach rankings?

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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