The NCAA March Madness is where legends are born. From unknown Cinderella teams to young players who went on to become superstars at the professional level, March Madness brings excitement to every game.
Lost in all the glory of the March Madness tournament are the minds who steered their teams to the spotlight. A lot of coaches have made their name in the NCAA; some of them went on to forge a career in the NBA, while others stayed in the collegiate realm to continue teaching young hoopers on and off the court.
Today, we’ll look back at the top legendary coaches of March Madness and how each impacted their players and teams. If you’re placing bets on the March Madness tournament, it’s important that you also look at the coaches who are leading their teams. Moreover, you can also boost your odds by keeping up to date with March Madness MVP odds on this website.
Top 6 Legendary Coaches of March Madness
These coaches didn’t just etch their names on March Madness history, but they also had a lasting impact on the game of basketball. Some of their names are already engraved in yearly trophies, and they are still widely talked about in the basketball community.
1. John Wooden
When talking about the UCLA Bruins, the name of Coach John Wooden always comes to mind. Wooden started coaching at UCLA during the 1948-49 season and instantly gave life to the Bruins’ basketball program.
Wooden and his UCLA teams went on to win ten national championships, including an era of unblemished status when they won seven straight titles. Wooden’s 10 NCAA championships still stand as an all-time record today.
Wooden was also famous for coaching two legendary big men at UCLA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Abdul-Jabbar went on to win six championships in the NBA and is now ranked second in the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Meanwhile, Walton won two championships for the Portland Trail Blazers and forged a career as a basketball analyst and sportscaster.
NCAA honors Wooden’s contributions by naming the NCAA Tournament MVP trophy as the “John R. Wooden Award”. Wooden coached at the NCAA for more than 40 years, compiling a stellar record of 885 wins and 203 losses.
2. Bob Knight
As much as John Wooden is synonymous with UCLA’s prestige, Bob Knight has the same impact on the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program. Knight led the Hoosiers to three championships under his tenure and was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year in 1987.
While it’s true that Knight is known for his fiery attitude on the court, there’s no doubt that he helped introduce innovations to the game. His motion offense was new during his time, and his teams were popular for playing aggressive defense.
Among the famous players that Knight has coached include Isiah Thomas, Mike Woodson, and Keith Smart. Thomas became one of the best scoring guards in NBA history, while Woodson and Smart forged coaching careers in the pros.
Throughout his coaching career in the NCAA, Knight has accumulated an excellent record of 902 wins and 371 losses.
3. Mike Krzyzewski
Who could ever forget about Coach K? Mike Krzyzewski retired from coaching duties at Duke in 2022, but his name is already etched at the top of the Blue Devils basketball program.
It was in 1980 when Krzyzewski was first installed as head coach of Duke University. He went on to win five championships with Duke and was named Naismith College Coach of the Year three times.
Along with his coaching resume in the collegiate ranks, Krzyzewski also made a name in the international game, having won three Olympic Gold Medals with the USA men’s basketball team. Krzyzewski finished his NCAA coaching stint with a tremendous record of 1,202 wins and 368 losses.
4. Dean Smith
We have already touched base with UCLA, Indiana, and Duke. It’s now time to talk about North Carolina, and there’s no better way to start this conversation with Dean Smith.
Smith coached the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, winning two national championships with the team. Smith was named Naismith College Coach of the Year in 1993 and was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007.
Among the notable players that Smith coached in North Carolina were Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, and James Worthy. Jordan eventually became the best basketball player in history, and Carter and Worthy embarked on All-Star careers in the NBA.
Smith finished his collegiate coaching tenure with a tremendous record of 879 wins and 254 losses.
5. Adolph Rupp
When talking about the NCAA landscape, you can never leave out the Kentucky Wildcats, especially with how Coach Adolph Rupp established the program from 1930 to 1972. Rupp started coaching the Wildcats in 1930 and steered the program to four NCAA titles.
Rupp’s tenure in Kentucky was momentarily marred by the “point-shaving scandal” in 1951, but his success with the team was unprecedented. His Wildcats teams were known for their run-and-gun, up-tempo style of play, an offensive strategy that led to a lot of success in the collegiate ranks.
Rupp concluded his coaching stint in 1972, having tallied an excellent record of 876 wins and 190 losses. Rupp was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969 and into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
6. Jim Boeheim
Jim Boeheim is the only active coach on this list, as he has been coaching the Syracuse Orange since first taking over in 1976. Boeheim may only have one national championship under his belt, but Syracuse has been a consistently good team under his tenure.
Boeheim won the Naismith College Coach of the Year award in 2010 and was given the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2006. He also won three Olympic Gold Medals as an assistant coach for the United States men’s national basketball team.
Boeheim currently boasts a record of 1,014 wins and 440 losses as a coach in the collegiate ranks.