College Basketball Coach of the Year: The Final Five Candidates and Reader Poll

It’s a fluid process, with many meriting consideration, but as we motor toward March Madness 2014, here are the leading candidates, listed alphabetically, for the top college basketball coach this season.

The Final Five:

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett, Virginia

Though somehow they may be seeded lower than Duke and Syracuse in March Madness, Virginia won the ACC with a week to play. No “expert” expected this, and the Cavs have been under-appreciated  all season.

The Cavaliers finished the season with a 25-6 record and were 16-2 in the ACC.


Larry Brown

Larry Brown, SMU

An under-the-radar 2012 hiring of the only coach to win both an NCAA and NBA championship proved savvy. The 73-year-old took a campus more known for a 1987 football “death penalty” and the George W. Bush Presidential Library to a 23-win, Top 25 hoops team, which didn’t lose consecutive games until the final week of play.

The Mustangs finished 23-8 and were 12-6 in the American Athletic Conference.


Gregg Marshall

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Marshall’s team followed up a remarkable 2013 Final Four appearance with an undefeated 2014 season. In any conference that’s outstanding and a spot as a number one seed should require no additional information — unless you’re a sheltered member of the mainstream sports media.

Marshall led the Shockers to a 34-0 record and they finished 18-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference.


Greg McDermott

Greg McDermott, Creighton

Unranked preseason and picked fourth as new Big East members, Creighton was supposed to be down this year. Losing their starting center, and a knee injury to sixth-year point guard Grant Gibbs hurt, but with leadership from the best player in America, the Bluejays won 24 games. Also undefeated at home, the Bluejays could be on their way to a three seed Sunday.

The Bluejays finished 24-6, and were second in the Big East with a 14-4 record.


Tim Miles

Tim Miles, Nebraska

Nebraska was picked dead last in the B1G preseason poll. In just his second season, Miles brought the Huskers to the top half of arguably nation’s best conference, including many more impressive road wins than the Blue Devils or Orange. Downtown Lincoln’s beautiful new arena – where UNL lost just once – was packed every night in a city more known for clinging to its underachieving football program.

The Huskers finished the regular season with a 19-11 record and were 11-7 in the Big Ten.

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Honorable Mention;

John Beilein, Michigan: Winners of the nation’s toughest conference despite losing arguably their best player early in the season and two others to the 2013 NBA Draft.

Jim Crews, St. Louis: Though the Billikens, unranked preseason, struggled down the stretch, they were a Top 10 team deep into February and won a league that could get more teams in the field than the ACC.

Billy Donovan, Florida: With 23 straight triumphs, the Gators became the first to ever to go undefeated in SEC conference play, finishing 29-2 overall, in a year where nearly every other “major” team stumbled often.

Steve Fisher, San Diego State: Won 90 percent of his games, including a stirring finale, and another title in the rugged Mountain West. The Aztecs were also the only team to beat the Kansas in Lawrence this season.

Bo Ryan, Wisconsin: Undefeated in the non-conference, including a win in Charlottesville, second in the Big Ten, 26-5 overall.

Bill Self, Kansas:  Despite losing all five starters, KU won the nation’s deepest conference (for the 10th consecutive time), and have a decent shot at a No. 1 seed.

Jay Wright, Villanova: If Creighton didn’t exist, the Wildcats would have just one loss all season. They’re Big East champs despite being chosen fourth in October, and are headed for a one or two seed in NCAA Tournament.

About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. Dang, dang, dang. Great list. How am I supposed to pick just one?

  2. Kurt Crowley says:

    I will just assume ‘Other’ as a disguise for Bo Ryan:)

  3. Larry Brown is the Libertarian/Socialist candidate out of this group. Good to see Howard chime in, 45 home runs this year!

  4. A city more known for clinging to their underachieving football team? lol, next time, just list the poll options and leave your cheap jabs out of it chief.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      It’s in reference to Lincoln being a football town now embracing successful hoops, which will only get better. And yes, the football team is overhyped considering the outcomes the past decade or so don’t match the fan worship. I lived there until last summer. Enjoy your excellent hoops team, and hopefully baseball gets it together this spring. There’s so much more to college sports than football and tailgates seven Saturdays per fall.

  5. Husker Nation went thermonuclear with this piece! Miles is very hot property, hopefully the Kentucky job does not open up soon.

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