Missouri Valley Basketball Coaches Rank the Best Jobs in the Conference

This is the latest in Stadium’s “Conference Chain of Command” series in which we polled a handful of veteran coaches in every league to determine the best JOBS in each league, all the way down to the ones that are the most difficult.

Here are the eight categories that were utilized to determine the overall rankings.

  • Tradition – The history of the program
  • Media Exposure – Games on national television
  • Game Atmosphere – Includes attendance
  • Budget/Resources – Includes coaches’ salaries, recruiting budget, travel budget, private planes, cost of attendance, etc.
  • Buy Games – Programs who are bought the fewest number of times will rank first
  • Geographical Recruiting Base – Proximity to players
  • Facilities – Not just the arena, but also practice facilities, weight room, locker rooms, etc.
  • Selling Pros – Being able to sell not only NBA players, but also those who play overseas

This is how polling in the Missouri Valley shook out among coaches who voted, with one being the best and 10 being the worst:

1. ILLINOIS STATE (71) – The Redbirds have gone to the NCAA tourney six times – in 1983, ’84, ’85, ’90, ’97 and ’98. The first three occurred under Bob Donewald, one in 1990 under Bob Bender and the final two with Kevin Stallings at the helm. However, the last four coaches – Tom Richardson, Porter Moser, Tim Jankovich and current coach Dan Muller – have been unable to get Illinois State back to the tourney.

Where they win: “Just solid in everything. Commitment, fan base, recruiting base, budget, and campus life.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “Expectations. They are a little out of whack. It’s the best job in the league … now. But that’s changed over the last few years with the loss of Wichita and Creighton.” – Missouri Valley assistant coach


2. BRADLEY (64) – Much of the history came in the 1950s, but this is a program that has gone to the NCAA tourney eight times, including the Final Four way back in 1950 and ’54. However, Bradley has gone just once since 1986. The Braves rank in the top three in six of the eight categories, including first in tradition/history.

Where they win: “They have the best overall facilities in the league, the history, the support from both fans and the administration — and also the recruiting budget.” – Missouri Valley coach

The knock: “The coaches haven’t lived up to the expectations of the program over the last decade.” – Missouri Valley assistant coach


3. NORTHERN IOWA (60) – The Panthers have gone to the NCAA tourney eight times, including four times (2009, ’10, ’15, ’16) under current coach Ben Jacobson. Northern Iowa ranks second in budget and first in TV exposure. The only categories in which the Panthers ranked in the middle were in game atmosphere and also in recruiting base.

Where they win: “Culture, tradition, the McLeod Center and they can dominate in Minnesota and Iowa with mid-major recruits.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “It’s Cedar Falls, Iowa. It’s hard to recruit talented players outside of their area … and also they don’t have a practice facility.” – Missouri Valley head coach


4. MISSOURI STATE (50) – The Bears have gone to the NCAA tourney six times – the first five coming under Charlie Spoonhour and the last one in 1999 under Steve Alford. Missouri State has arguably the best facilities in the league and also rank first in buy games, but the recruiting base and the history rank towards the bottom.

Where they win: “The arena is the best in the league, they can get anyone into school and it’s a huge campus.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “They just haven’t won much lately, but it’s a sleeping giant type of job in the league.” – Missouri Valley head coach


5. LOYOLA (49) – The Ramblers are best-known for their shocking run to the Final Four last season. There were also NCAA tourney appearances in 1963, ’64, ’66, ’68 and ’85. But it has been more than 30 years since Gene Sullivan took Loyola to the Sweet 16 in 1985. Loyola’s in one of the best areas in terms of recruiting base, and the atmosphere has also been elevated in recent years.

Where they win: “Location. It’s in Chicago with an incredible view on the water. Because of the location, it’s different than every other school in the league. They have a new practice facility and the resources have stepped up after the Final Four run.” – Missouri Valley assistant coach

The knock: “Location. There’s just so much to do in the city so it’s hard to get people to the games. The fans are interested now, but will it last?” – Missouri Valley assistant coach


6. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (48) – The Salukis have gone to the NCAA tourney 10 times at the D-1 level including a three-year stretch from 1993 to ’95 and also a six-year stretch from 2002 to ’07. Rich Herrin was the coach the first time around while Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery were at the helm for the success in the 2000s.

Where they win: “They are the show in the region. There’s nothing else to compete with in the area basketball-wise, so there’s great fan support around Carbondale.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “The school is really struggling financially, and enrollment has really taken a hit.” – Missouri Valley assistant coach


7. VALPARAISO (29) – The Crusaders have gone to the NCAA tourney six times. Homer Drew took them in 1996, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’02 and ’04. Bryce Drew took them in 2013 and 2015 while they were in the Horizon league. Valpo has some history, but the facilities and game atmosphere are ranked dead last.

Where they win: “It’s in a good spot, about an hour from Chicago and two from Indy. The program also has a national brand because of the Drew family and the fact they won a bunch in their previous league.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “Facilities. They suck.” – Missouri Valley assistant


8. INDIANA STATE (26) – The Sycamores are best-known for the Larry Bird-led Final Four run in 1979. There have been three other NCAA tourney appearances – in 2000, ’01 and ’11. Royce Waltman took them in 2000 and 2001 while current coach Greg Lansing did it in 2011. Indiana State ranks in the bottom four in seven of the eight categories, and dead last in resources.

Where they win: “Tradition of the 1979 team with Larry Bird and in a good location as far as it being in a basketball state.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “Budget, facilities, support are the worst in the league and Terre Haute is not exactly where you would want to be.” – Missouri Valley assistant


9. DRAKE (21) – There have been four NCAA tourney appearances – in 1969, ’70, ’71 and then in 2008. A ton of coaches have tried to get the Bulldogs to the NCAA tourney since 1971: Howard Stacey, Bob Ortegel, Gary Garner, Tom Abatemarco, Rudy Washington, Kurt Kanaskie, Tom Davis, Mark Phelps, Ray Giacoletti and Niko Medved. Keno Davis is the only one to do it – that was in 2008. Drake doesn’t rank in the top half of the league in any of the eight categories.

Where they win: “The city of Des Moines, the practice facility is one of the best in the league, the academics and also the geography. It’s close to Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City, Saint Louis and Chicago. It’s also one of four D-1 programs in the state and there are only two mid-majors, so you have a good shot at getting a mid-major in-state kid.” – Missouri Valley assistant coach

The knock: “Tradition and the game arena. Just not much in terms of history with the program.” – Missouri Valley head coach


10. EVANSVILLE (19) – The Purple Aces have gone to the NCAA tourney in 1982, ’89, ’92, ’93 and ’99. Dick Walters took them in ‘82, Jim Crews the other four times. Evansville ranks in the bottom three of the league in seven of the eight categories, with facilities the lone one in which it checks in outside of the bottom three.

Where they win: “Community support is terrific, there’s a commitment from the administration, one of the best practice facilities in the league and the Ford Center is big-time, even if it is off-campus.” – Missouri Valley head coach

The knock: “Lack of recent success. They haven’t been to the NCAA tournament in 20 years. They also haven’t been able to recruit high-level talent there.” – Missouri Valley assistant coach