We’re unveiling something new today: Coach of the Year power rankings. I know I missed some guys who are deserving of spots on this list, but these are 25 guys (in order) who are doing some of the best coaching jobs in the country.
We’ll update this again during the season, then hand out the hardware at the end of the year for the National Coach of the Year.
1) Scott Drew, Baylor – Drew lost Mario Kegler prior to the season and big man Tristan Clark – the team’s leading scorer a year ago before he went down with a knee injury – is a shell of himself. However, the Bears are 13-1 and have the best resume in the country right now with road wins at Kansas and Texas Tech, a victory in Myrtle Beach against Villanova as well as wins against Butler and Arizona in Waco. Drew has done an incredible job this season.
2) LaVall Jordan, Butler – The Bulldogs were picked eighth in the Big East preseason poll after a 16-17 season a year ago, but Jordan has Butler firmly in the top 10 with a resume that includes wins over Purdue, Creighton and Florida, and a lone loss that came against Baylor in Waco. The 40-year-old Butler alum was hired after one season at Milwaukee and is making AD Barry Collier look pretty damn good right now.
3) Brian Dutcher, San Diego State – Dutch was the coach-in-waiting and was Steve Fisher’s right-hand man for decades at both Michigan and San Diego State. The first two seasons of the Dutcher regime were a little uninspiring, but the 60-year-old has the Aztecs as one of the final two unbeatens and has silenced the skeptics.
4) Bob Huggins, West Virginia – The Mountaineers were a mess last season, but Huggins has flipped it this season with some new faces and an inside duo of Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver. West Virginia is 13-2 with wins over Ohio State, Texas Tech and Wichita State.
5) Bruce Pearl, Auburn – It’s truly insane what Pearl has done with the Tigers. After going to the Final Four a year ago, Auburn is one of two teams still without a loss. Sure, the schedule has hardly been overwhelming, but it’s mid-January and Auburn still doesn’t have a blemish. Pearl is one of the elite coaches in the game and has now proven it at various stops.
6) Mark Few, Gonzaga – Few lost two first-rounders from last year’s team in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, as well as two other starters in point guard Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell. There were probably more questions about this team coming into the season than any in Spokane in recent memory, and all Few has done is have the ‘Zags at 18-1 and in line for a No. 1 overall seed. He’s done it with a balanced group, and with seven players that average between 9.2 and 16.6 points per game.
7) Dane Fischer, William & Mary – To say the expectations for the Tribe were low is an understatement. They were picked seventh in the CAA after a mass exodus in the offseason following the surprising departure of Tony Shaver. I hammered the move, but Fischer has made AD Samantha Huge look smart as the former Bucknell and George Mason assistant has W&M 13-5 overall and 5-0 in CAA play.
8) Leonard Hamilton, Florida State – Hamilton is the youngest-looking 71-year-old on the planet, and has done another terrific job in Tallahassee. The guy just doesn’t get enough credit, but the ‘Noles are 14-2, a legit top 10 team right now and boast one of the most impressive wins this season at Louisville.
9) Anthony Grant, Dayton – Grant came back home and has put the Flyers back on the national map this season with the help of Obi Toppin. Grant came back to college after a stint with Billy Donovan in the NBA, and has the Flyers at 14-2 with the two losses coming on neutral courts to Kansas and Colorado.
10) Steve Pikiell, Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights are 12-4 and have wins over Seton Hall, Wisconsin and Penn State. Pikiell has Rutgers in position to go to its first NCAA tourney since 1991.
11) Ritchie McKay, Liberty – The Flames are 18-1 with their lone loss coming in Baton Rouge against LSU. The 18-1 record says it all.
12) Gregg Marshall, Wichita State – After a down year by Shockers standards a season ago, Marshall has Wichita State back. The Shockers are 15-1 with the lone setback coming against West Virginia.
13) Kyle Keller, Stephen F. Austin – The guy beat Duke at Cameron. Need I say more?
14) Pat Chambers, Penn State – It’s considered one of the more difficult jobs in the country, but Chambers has a chance to get the Nittany Lions to the NCAA tourney this season, his ninth at the helm. Penn State is 12-4 overall and a fringe top 25 team.
15) Jerod Haase, Stanford – The Cardinal were picked 10th in the Pac-12, but Haase has the team at 14-2 and 3-0 in league play. The two losses came to a pair of top 10 teams: Butler and Kansas.
16) Eric Musselman, Arkansas – I’m not sure how good the Razorbacks are, but what I know is that Musselman has them on the verge of cracking the top 25 in his first season. Musselman rebuilt Nevada, and now he’s trying to do the same with Arkansas in Fayetteville.
17) Mike Young, Virginia Tech – Picked to finish only in front of Wake Forest, Young has led the Hokies to a dozen wins already, including one over Michigan State. Virginia Tech also boasts three league victories with two coming over Syracuse and NC State.
18) Keith Dambrot, Duquesne – Dambrot has the Dukes at 14-2 overall and 3-0 in A-10 play. The last time Duquesne made the NCAA tourney was back in 1977.
19) Geno Ford, Stony Brook – Geno Ford got a second chance after being promoted following the departure of Jeff Boals, and he has the Seawolves at 12-6 overall and 3-0 in America East play, including a road win over league favorite Vermont.
20) David Patrick, UC Riverside – At 12-6 and 2-0 in league play, UC Riverside has beaten Nebraska and a pair of Mountain West teams in Fresno State and San Jose State.
21) Rob Senderoff, Kent State – Picked to finish in the middle in the east division, the Golden Flashes are 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the MAC with wins over Bowling Green and Toledo, two teams picked to win their divisions. The losses have come to Ohio State, Mississippi State and UC Irvine.
22) Austin Claunch, Nicholls – I had to get the youngest D-1 head coach in the country on here, but he’s earned it. Picked 11th in the Southland, the 30-year-old Claunch has led the Colonels to an 11-6 overall mark and a league-leading 5-1 record.
23) Herb Sendek, Santa Clara – The former NC State and Arizona State head coach has quietly done a nice job in Santa Clara, leading the Broncos to a 15-3 record with wins over Pac-12 teams and also a road victory over Saint Mary’s.
24) Damon Stoudamire, Pacific – The former Arizona and NBA star guard has turned it around at one of the most difficult jobs in the league. The Tigers are 14-5 overall, 2-1 in WCC play with a win over Saint Mary’s and also a non-league victory against UNLV.
25) Rick Croy, Cal Baptist – In just his second season in the D-1 ranks, Croy has the Lancers in second in the WAC behind New Mexico State. Cal Baptist is 12-5 overall and has conference wins over Bakersfield and Grand Canyon on the road.