The 10 Best College Basketball Coaching Hires This Decade

The next month or so will bring NCAA Tournament games, a national champion and no shortage of hirings and firings.

We wondered, what have been the home-run hires and the major flops over the past decade – and who made them?

First, here are the 10 best coaching hires over the past 10 years.


Best hires in the last decade


10. Ed Cooley, Providence – This was the ideal fit for Bob Driscoll to bring the hometown product back to Providence in 2011. He had been integral in the success of Boston College as an assistant and he had done a nice job in turning around Fairfield. But no one expected five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for Providence from 2014-2018.

AD: Bob Driscoll


9. Rick Barnes, Tennessee – Barnes was run out of Texas despite going to 16 NCAA Tournaments in 17 seasons and he was quickly hired in 2015 by former Tennessee AD Dave Hart, who was also on this list for worst hires for his brutal hire of Donnie Tyndall. The Vols have had success in the past but they had been down since Bruce Pearl’s departure. Barnes has turned Tennessee around, made the Vols basketball nationally relevant again and put them in position to go to a Final Four this year.

AD: Dave Hart

Search Firm: Todd Turner


8. Eric Musselman, Nevada – Musselman’s head coaching career seemed over but Nevada Athletic Director Doug Knuth took a shot on the former NBA head coach in 2015. Musselman had been an assistant at Arizona State (2012-14) and LSU (2014-15), but he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. Nevada had success under Trent Johnson and Mark Fox but Musselman has taken the program to a different level during the regular season this year and he’s set to take the Wolf Pack to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament.

AD: Doug Knuth


7. Buzz Williams, Marquette and Virginia Tech – Williams’ hire at Marquette (2008) and Virginia Tech (2014) both make the cut because, well, it was hard to choose just one. He was hired at Marquette after one season as Tom Crean’s assistant (and one season as the head coach at New Orleans) and the Golden Eagles went to the NCAA Tournament in five of six seasons – including a trio of second-weekend appearances – under Williams.

He took over a Virginia Tech program that had been to the NCAA Tournament twice in the previous 28 years and the Hokies are on track to go to the tournament for the third straight season.

AD (for Marquette): Steve Cottingham (Deputy AD – Colorado State)

AD (for Virginia Tech): Whit Babcock
Search Firm: Todd Turner


6. Kelvin Sampson, Houston – Sampson had been run out of college basketball after receiving a five-year show-cause penalty while at Indiana. After some time in the NBA, it was Mack Rhoades who took a chance on Sampson in April of 2014. Houston had history but most of it had been more than three decades ago.

It took a few years, but Sampson has the Cougars nationally relevant again and they cracked the top 10 this season.

AD: Mack Rhoades (now at Baylor)

Search Firm: Jeff Schemmel


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5. Chris Mack, Xavier – When Sean Miller left for Arizona in 2009, former Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski, who is now at Purdue, had a decision: to go outside the program or hire from within. He wound up elevating Mack and it proved to be the right move.

Mack took the Musketeers to eight NCAA tournaments in nine seasons, including a trio of Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite Eight, before being hired by Louisville last year.

AD: Mike Bobinski (now at Purdue)


4. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State – Jamie Pollard brought Ames’ favored son back home in 2010 despite “The Mayor” having no coaching experience. To say it worked is a major understatement. He went to four NCAA tournaments in five years, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2014 before leaving for the NBA.

AD: Jamie Pollard


3. Chris Beard, Texas Tech – It’s only been a short stint but what Beard has done in Lubbock has been beyond impressive. Remember, this is a program that had only made the NCAA Tournament five times in the past 20 years. He took them to the Elite Eight last season and he has the Red Raiders on track to get to the tournament again this year despite losing four of his top five players from last season.

This was one heck of a hire from Kirby Hocutt in 2016.

AD: Kirby Hocutt

Search Firm: Eddie Fogler


2. John Calipari, Kentucky – He wasn’t Mitch Barnhart’s first choice back in 2009 (Billy Donovan and Tom Izzo were the first two), but Cal was the ideal fit in Lexington, where he has gone to eight NCAA tournaments in nine seasons, including four trips to the Final Four and one national title. He also followed the perfect guy in Billy Gillispie, who couldn’t have been a worse hire for Kentucky two years prior by Barnhart.

AD: Mitch Barnhart


1. Tony Bennett, Virginia – Former Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage took a flier in 2009 on a guy who had the bloodlines but had only been a head coach for three seasons on the other side of the country at Washington State. Bennett was successful in Pullman, going to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons, but he has done a remarkable job in Charlottesville as he heads to his sixth consecutive NCAA tourney and Virginia boasts a ridiculous league record of 88-19 in the ACC since the start of the 2013-14 season.

Prior to Bennett’s arrival, Virginia went to the NCAA Tournament just twice in 12 years.

You can read more about how Bennett got hired by Virginia here.

AD: Craig Littlepage (retired)


Next up, we’ll break down the 10 worst coaching hires of the last decade so stay tuned on Thursday.


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