Pac-12 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

[MORE: Jeff Goodman’s College Basketball Preseason Top 25]

This is how polling in the Pac-12 shook out among coaches who voted, with one being the best and 12 being the worst:

1. ARIZONA (86) – Lute Olson basically built the program in Tucson into a national power, leading the Wildcats to their lone national title in 1997. Arizona has gone to the Final Four a total of four times and went to the NCAA tourney 25 consecutive seasons from 1985 to 2009. They have also produced a countless number of NBA players and rank either first or second in every category except recruiting base.

Where they win: “History, facilities and support. It’s the only game in town and they love it in Tucson.” – Pac-12 head coach

The knock: “Location. Tucson. It’s not a great city, and there just aren’t a lot of players in the immediate area. It’s tough to get to.” – Pac-12 assistant


2. UCLA (84) – No program has won as many national titles as the Bruins, who have claimed 11. John Wooden won 10 of them, and seven straight from 1967 to ’73. Jim Harrick won the other in 1995, and Ben Howland took UCLA to three straight Final Four appearances in 2006-08. UCLA also has some of the best players to ever play the game in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. The program ranks first in history, recruiting base and also selling pros.

Where they win: “Tradition, the campus, the weather and the recruiting base. Kids in LA want to play at UCLA, and it’s an easy sell with the campus and so much to do in LA.” – Pac-12 assistant

The knock: “Tradition. The expectations are ridiculous. I don’t envy Mick Cronin and those guys. They fired Ben Howland after going to three straight Final Fours. It’s also tough to be relevant in LA with so many other things to do, and pro teams.” – Pac-12 head coach


3. OREGON (77) – There were a lot of lean years in Eugene in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Since then, Ernie Kent had some success and Dana Altman has taken the Ducks to the NCAA tourney in six of the last seven years — including a Final Four berth. Oregon has gone to 16 NCAA tourneys in all, seven Sweet 16s and even a national title way back in 1939. Oregon ranks first in facilities and buy games, second in game-day atmosphere and budget.

Where they win: “Nike. It’s real. That’s how and why they get a lot of their players.” – Pac-12 head coach

The knock: “Eugene. It’s not exactly the place to be.” – Pac-12 assistant


4. WASHINGTON (68) – The Huskies have gone to the NCAA tourney 17 times and have advanced to the Sweet 16 on seven occasions, but it’s been hit-or-miss. Washington ranks in the top four in five categories: history, TV exposure, game atmosphere, recruiting base and selling pros.

Where they win: “Recruiting base. Seattle is basketball-crazy. They have a ton of pros that have come out of there, so the recruiting base is strong.” – Pac-12 assistant

The knock: “No practice facility just for men’s basketball and the perception about the weather from recruits. It’s beautiful from May to November, but it gets dark and rainy during the winter months.” Pac-12 assistant


5. USC (58) – The Trojans have been to the NCAA tourney 18 times and have gone to the Sweet 16 four times, but they have been inconsistent. USC ranks towards the bottom in atmosphere. Current coach Andy Enfield has gone to the NCAA tournament twice in six years, and the coach who had the most success in the last three decades is Tim Floyd, who went three times in four seasons.

Where they win: “They are in LA and have a great recruiting base. Facilities are towards the top of the league, and they have the money to support it.” – Pac-12 head coach

The knock: “No real history and no one comes to the games. No one really wants to go there from Southern California.” – Pac-12 assistant


6. UTAH (57) – There have only been a trio of NCAA tourney appearances for the Utes since 2005, but there have been nearly 30 NCAA tournament appearances overall. Rick Majerus went to 11 in a 15-year span, including a national title game appearance in 1998. The Utes have been to four Final Fours and won a title in 1944.

Where they win: “Facilities are big-time, and so is the support. The fans care about the program, and administration puts money into it. They have the best practice facility in the league.” – Pac-12 head coach

The knock: “The perception of the state of Utah for out of state kids, and the lack of a recruiting base.” – Pac-12 assistant


7. STANFORD (49) – The Cardinal have been to the NCAA tourney 17 times and went to the Sweet 16 five times, all since 1997. Stanford won a national title in 1942 and went to the Final Four in ’98. The Cardinal have only been to the NCAA tourney once since 2008. It ranks next to last in game-day atmosphere, but third in history.

Where they win: “Academics. They have a brand that’s incredibly strong and can go up against just about anyone for academic kids — even Duke. The campus is ridiculous, and the weather is great.” – Pac-12 head coach

The knock: “The recruiting pool is so small. They just can’t recruit most of the kids in the country, which makes it tough. They also need some upgrades with their facilities and the fan support is bad. There are 10 people there … plus the Tree.” – Pac-12 assistant


T8. ARIZONA STATE (36) – There have been 16 NCAA tournament appearances, but no Sweet 16s since 1995 under Bill Frieder. Herb Sendek’s lone appearance came with James Harden, and Bobby Hurley has gone the last two years, but the Sun Devils’ hoops program doesn’t rank in the top five in any category.

Where they win: “Location, campus and girls. If you get a kid on campus for a visit, it should be a wrap.” – Pac-12 assistant

The knock: “Lack of tradition. I’m just not sure how much the administration really cares about basketball.” – Pac-12 head coach


T8. CAL (36) – The Golden Bears have been to 19 NCAA tourneys and four Sweet 16s, but it’s been up-and-down for the program. They have produced some terrific players – Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson among them – but have been inconsistent throughout the years. Cal ranks second to last in facilities and in the bottom half of the league in six of the eight categories.

Where they win: “The location with Silicon Valley, wine country and San Francisco. It’s a great academic school and a great place to live.” – Pac-12 assistant

The knock: “No practice facility, academic requirements and the lack of tradition. Just not enough support.” – Pac-12 head coach


10. COLORADO (30) – From 1969 to ’96, the Buffs didn’t go to the NCAA tourney. Tad Boyle has taken Colorado four times since taking over in 2010, and the Buffs have gone 14 times overall — but much of that history came way back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Colorado ranks dead-last in buy games and in the bottom half of the league in everything except game-day atmosphere.

Where they win: “Boulder is a nice town and Denver isn’t far.” – Pac-12 assistant

The knock: “Proximity to players. There aren’t really any players in Colorado, Wyoming or Kansas. And there’s just not much history with the program.” – Pac-12 assistant


11. OREGON STATE (29) – The Beavers have gone to the NCAA tourney 17 times overall, but just once since 1990, and that was in 2016 under current coach Wayne Tinkle. The program has produced some good talent: Gary Payton, AC Green, Lonnie Shelton and Brent Barry. But Oregon State has struggled for the last few decades.

Where they win: “It’s a good place to play. The fans do come out and support the program.” – Pac-12 head coach

The knock: “The city and the fact that they aren’t even the stepchild for Nike. They are basically the help.” – Pac-12 assistant


12. WASHINGTON STATE (15) – The Cougars rank last in six of the categories and that’s what makes Tony Bennett’s years in Pullman even more remarkable. Bennett went to the NCAA tourney in 2008 and ’09, two of the six times the program went dancing (George Raveling took them in 1980 and ’83, Kelvin Sampson in ’94 and Jack Friel way back in ’41).

Where they win: “It’s the biggest show in town and it’s in the Pac-12. That’s basically it.” – Pac-12 assistant

The knock: “Remote location, lack of tradition and resources compared to the rest of the conference. It’s basically in Idaho.” – Pac-12 assistant

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