SEC Basketball Media Day is here, and SEC Country will have wall-to-wall coverage of the proceedings, but what better way to kick things off than a totally scientific ranking of the league’s coaches? Unfortunately, we don’t have one of those, but we do have this highly subjective stab at it. Please leave your complaints in the comments:
14. JOHNNY JONES, LSU
He’s been a head coach 16 seasons and made just three NCAA Tournaments – only one in five years at LSU, where he’s squandered a staggering amount of talent. The Tigers failed to make the dance last season despite having the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Ben Simmons.
13. KIM ANDERSON, Missouri
The 2014 Division II National Coach of the Year (and national champion) seems a bit in over his head at his alma mater. He’s 19-44 in two seasons at Missouri, just 6-30 in league games. But to be fair, he inherited a mess from Frank Haith.
12. MIKE ANDERSON, Arkansas
He took UAB and Missouri to three straight NCAA Tournaments each, including an Elite Eight with the Tigers in 2009, but it’s been tough sledding at Arkansas. Like LSU under Jones, the Razorbacks have been far too talented to make just one dance in five years under Anderson.
11. AVERY JOHNSON, Alabama
We expect him to climb this list quickly. Johnson won an NBA title as a player, won NBA Coach of the Year in 2006 and enters Year 2 as a college coach with momentum. His Tide overachieved some last year in making the NIT.
10. MARK FOX, Georgia
The man can coach, but he must find a way to improve his talent. He went 123-43 at Nevada, including three straight NCAA Tournaments, but he’s made the dance just twice in seven seasons at UGA. Three consecutive 20-win seasons now, though, are a positive trend.
9. ANDY KENNEDY, Ole Miss
Entering his 10th season with the Rebels, he’s won 20-plus games eight times. But Ole Miss has reached the NCAA Tournament just twice in that span, despite must-watch stars Marshall Henderson and Stefan Moody.
8. MIKE WHITE, Florida
A former Ole Miss player and assistant, White won Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2015 and won 27-plus games three straight years at Louisiana Tech. He enters Year 2 as Billy Donovan’s replacement with higher expectations after a strong finish (NIT quarterfinals) last season.
7. BRYCE DREW, Vanderbilt
Famous for his 1998 buzzer-beater against Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament, Drew is pretty good with a whistle, too. He led his alma mater, Valparaiso, to four straight Horizon League regular-season titles and two NCAA Tournaments. After a 30-win season, he’s an exciting alternative to 17 seasons of blah under Kevin Stallings.
6. FRANK MARTIN, South Carolina
If this was a Fear Index, the man famous for terrifying stares and nuclear meltdowns on the sideline would be No. 1. He can coach, too, though. Martin took Kansas State to four straight NCAA Tournaments, including the 2010 Elite Eight, and won 25 games with the Gamecocks last season.
5. BILLY KENNEDY, Texas A&M
He has turned the Aggies into Kentucky’s primary competition in the league. The two-time OVC Coach of the Year won that same award in the SEC after leading A&M to a 28-9 season and Sweet 16 appearance in 2016. Expectations are high again.
4. BRUCE PEARL, Auburn
He’s learned after two years of a painful rebuild that coaching basketball at Auburn is no backyard cookout. The three-time Horizon League and two-time SEC Coach of the Year, a Division II national champion who also got Milwaukee to the Sweet 16 and Tennessee to an Elite Eight, will eventually win here.
3. RICK BARNES, Tennessee
Took Providence, Clemson and Texas to the NCAA Tournament a combined 22 times in 27 seasons, including six Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights and one Final Four. He won 25-plus games seven times and went dancing 16 of 17 years in Austin. Year 2 at UT.
2. BEN HOWLAND, Mississippi State
Only one other guy in the league has a better coaching resume than Howland’s three consecutive Final Fours (2006-08) at UCLA. He won league titles and coach of the year honors in the Pac-12, Big East (at Pitt) and Big Sky (Northern Arizona) and was Naismith Coach of the Year in 2002. His Bulldogs will improve in Year 2.
1. JOHN CALIPARI, Kentucky
No-brainer here. Calipari has led the Wildcats to five Elite Eights, four Final Fours, two NCAA title games, an undefeated regular season and a national championship in seven seasons. He’s coached 28 NBA draft picks and been enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame during that time. And guess what? His team is loaded again.