A ship can only be as good as its captain, and a team is only as good as its coach. The leader standing on the sideline can make or break a team in its most crucial moments. And the best coaches among them find championship glory time and time again.
Fan Essentials looks at some of these coaches in its recent episode Best Tournament Coach Ever. Talent from CBS Sports Radio and New York’s WFAN highlight the game’s best coaches come tournament time and why.
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“Best tournament coach is probably Tom Izzo,” said Evan Roberts, co-host of Benigno & Roberts on New York’s WFAN, “Take away last year, when he busted everybody’s bracket, but how many times have we seen Michigan State get to a tournament, maybe not have the best team in the world, and overachieve?”
Legends are often made when a coach has less talent to work with, even if Izzo and Michigan State couldn’t summon the magic to overcome a strong Kansas team this year. That’s a quality that Roberts likes in Izzo.
“You know, it’s one thing when you’ve got the talent, when you’ve got loads of freshmen that come in every year,” said Roberts. “But I think pound for pound, Tom Izzo has been as impressive an NCAA coach as we’ve seen.”
Izzo isn’t the only coach who has won without a loaded roster. Brandon Tierney, co-host of CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney, likes another legendary coach who gets the most out of his players.
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“I’m gonna say Rick Pitino. If I have a game to win and there’s a disparity in talent and I’m on the wrong side of the equation, I want Rick Pitino coaching me,” said Tierney. “Because there’s a schoolyard element, the tenacity that all those teams have that’s hard to replicate.”
“Talent is one thing” but Pitino has found ways to overcome his roster because “Rick’s teams, they always bring it; he’s a great coach.”
In this year’s tournament, his tenacious Louisville Cardinals ran up against a hot Michigan team, a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship. They brought it, but it wasn’t quite enough.
“The best tournament coach has got to be Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski]; I’d love to give you something different than Coach K, because everyone is gonna say Coach K,” said Gregg Giannotti, co-host of CBS Sports Radio’s Gio & Jones. “…but when you think about a guy on the sideline who you want in charge of your team during this unbelievable spectacle of a sporting event — it’s Coach K.”
Krzyzewski has led Duke to 12 Final Four appearances and brought home five National Championships. Duke fell to South Carolina in this year’s tournament.
“I would be hard pressed to find anyone who is more accomplished in the NCAA Tournament than Mike Krzyzewski,” said Evan Roberts.
Indeed, in Tournament history, only longtime UCLA coach John Wooden surpasses Coach K. Tiki Barber, co-host of Tike & Tierney, elaborated.
“[It’s] John Wooden. He went 12 Final Fours with 10 Championships because he had some of the best players of all time,” said Barber. “All due respect to Coach K, [but] Wooden has quotes that people live by, not just in sports but in life. So, to me, it’s gotta be John Wooden.”