The Most Entertaining and Successful Coaches in College Sports

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Fri, May 2 - 10:30 am EDT | 4 years ago by
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Successful coaches often have larger than life, dynamic personalities. Nowhere are those personalities more intriguing than in college athletics, where a powerful coach that has brought success to a program has near free rein. So what are the ingredients that make a successful and entertaining coach? Let’s take a look at some of the best in college sports and find out.

The Importance of Team Unity

“At all levels of sports competition, be it youth, scholastic, collegiate or professional, the expectation for coaches today to produce winning teams is paramount,” says Lew Lyon, Ph.D. Sports Psychology and Vice President of MedStar Sports Medicine. “After all… winning is the barometer by which society interprets success.”

A successful coach needs to have more than just knowledge and experience in the sport; he needs to be a teacher, mentor, motivator and communicator. To produce a winning team, a coach must manage the personalities, talents, strengths and weaknesses of individuals, and bring them together to form a cohesive unit.

“Coaches often strive to establish a sense of team ‘collective conscious’, or common goal,” Dr. Lyon explains. “It in essence becomes the team chemistry; it becomes the fuel that drives the team during times of adversity and fatigue. Once engrained in the team persona, it can also become the igniter when needed for that big game, the rally cry or the motivator when the team seems to be facing overwhelming odds.”

Rising Above the Rest

When you think of fiery basketball coaches, the legendary Bobby Knight might be the first image that pops into your mind. From his chair tossing to the uncomfortably terse press conferences, he was the epitome of the rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth college coach who willed his teams to victory. However, what his peers admired most was his skillful coaching on the sidelines. At Indiana, his brilliance with the X’s and O’s, combined with his boisterous ways, translated into three national championships.

“Coaches are often seen as ultra-intense during games, but that’s generally a reaction to mental errors by the athletes after hours and hours of rehearsal in practice,” says Tony Perotti, assistant coach for the LSU women’s basketball team.

Bobby Knight
Source: Imgur

No matter what is happening on the court, a smart coach maintains his focus on the end goal — winning the game.

“The best coaches can move on from the mistakes to the next play and make sure their team does, too,” Tony Perotti explains. “Coach Knight’s intensity and attention to detail was a huge contributing factor to raising three banners at Indiana University.”

On the Gridiron

A college football team is often comprised of nearly 100 student-athletes that come together with one goal: to win. The head football coach is their dynamic leader, who aims to take them to the promise land. As fans, there’s nothing like seeing a football coach who can rally his team in the locker room, mastermind plays on the sidelines and entertain us in post-game interviews. To say college football coaches are intense is a gross understatement.

Nick Saban
Source: cmgajrecruiting

Some will say that Nick Saban is the scariest man in college football. He’s definitely one of the most polarizing and intriguing coaches in the sport. He has won four national championships: one at LSU and three at Alabama. When people start winning, they sometimes get complacent — but not Saban. He is feared (and often hated) by his opponents, and is revered and respected by his players and the entire state of Alabama. He has been married to the same woman for over 40 years and attends Mass before games, but that doesn’t stop some from comparing Saban to Satan himself.

No article about entertaining college coaches could be complete without talking about Mike Gundy and The Rant. As head football coach at Oklahoma State since 2005, Gundy received national attention in 2007 for his incredibly heated criticism of a newspaper article written about one of his players. No one in the world could ever be able to think, even for a second, that Gundy doesn’t intensely stand by the young men that he coaches. (You also won’t forget that he was 40 years old at the time.) Let’s take a look at his unforgettable rant one more time.

On the Hardwood

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim is the longest tenured coach in college basketball, college football and professional sports. That, in itself, should say enough. But he doesn’t just stick around — he’s a winner.

Jim Boeheim
Source: The Kevin Burke Project

Though Boeheim only has one national title, the guy has never had a losing season record in his 37-year career. Often animated and always intense, Boeheim implements a simple yet extremely effective 2-3 zone defense that any basketball purist can appreciate. Another thing that cannot be understated is his uncanny recruiting ability; he gets top athletes to come play basketball in snowy Syracuse year after year.

If you are a fan of Louisville basketball, you have to appreciate Rick Pitino’s volcanic antics (and perfectly slicked hair) on the sidelines. If you are an opponent… well, then that’s another story. His post-game interviews are always entertaining, as he maintains a sense of humor even in the midst of a slump. And Pitino knows how to win. He’s the only men’s coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to a Final Four. Plus, Pitino is one of only two college coaches (along with Roy Williams) to lead two different programs to at least three Final Fours.

Rick Pitino
Source: USA Today

“Basketball coaches are somewhat unfortunate to get all the camera time at critical moments in games,” Tony Perotti says. “For the majority of the game, most coaches are somewhat reserved until the intensity of the situation heats up. They may seem to be overreacting to a call or situation, but I can assure you they are on top of their game in strategy. These coaches are always thinking two or three plays ahead and draw on their vast experiences of success in game planning and game coaching.”

Basketball fans love Arizona head coach Sean Miller for his focus on defense and his relentless recruiting efforts. They can’t help but enjoy his contorted (and often hilarious) facial expressions on the sidelines, too. Though he’s only been at Arizona since 2009, he has revitalized the program, accumulating a 249–95 record since taking over the Wildcats. Miller received conference Coach of the Year honors in 2011 and 2014, leading the team to regular season conference championships in both of those years.

The Dynamic Duo

There’s something special going on at Ohio State. We are in the midst of an era where we can watch two extraordinary coaches at the same university. Ohio State football is led by none other than Urban Meyer, who is back to his winning ways after a brief retirement following multiple health scares. The 49-year-old won two national championships at Florida, then took a year off to address his health concerns and spend time with his family. Now at Ohio State, Meyer has won 24 of his first 26 games, and has already transformed the football program into a national powerhouse.

Urban Meyer and Thad Madda
Source: Imgur

And over in the gym, you’ll find Thad Matta leading the Buckeyes men’s basketball team. Matta became a D-1 coach by the young age of 32. His drive is evident on and off the court, as he pushes himself to the limit and expects nothing but the best from his team. The results are unquestionable; he has led Ohio State to four Big Ten Tournament titles and two Final Four appearances since taking over the head coaching reins in 2004.

Beyond Words

“Exceptional coaches have a talent for speaking to their players, often without needing to raise their voice or even say a word,” says Dr. Lyon. “It’s the wink, the glare or the nod that often sends the message. Legendary Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith was well known for his subtle coaching demeanor; his message to build success and team unity was a simple one… ‘We cannot succeed unless we do.’”

In the same vein, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke is definitely not the loudest coach on the sidelines, but you can’t deny his track record or question his intensity.

Mike Krzyzewski
Source: The Richest

Coach K. doesn’t hesitate to get after his players (and sometimes he loses it, like the rest of us) but his high expectations, intense focus, composed nature and unshakable confidence have been a recipe for success in Durham since he was named head coach in 1980. Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history. And if that’s not entertaining, I don’t know what is.

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  • Franklin

    you can’t argue with Coach K’s success, but Boeheim is my favorite coach

  • peanut

    I could listen to the Gundy rant all day

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