Following his induction this weekend, Louisville's Rick Pitino will become the fourth active men’s college basketball coach to join the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
The number could soon grow. Here are four other college coaches who have an excellent shot of being inducted before the end of their careers.
John Calipari, Kentucky: Calipari is arguably the greatest recruiter in college basketball history. The only problem with that label is that it overshadows his excellence as a coach. Calipari’s teams at Memphis and Kentucky have averaged a national-best 32.5 wins over the last eight years. He’s reached three Final Fours during that span (once at Memphis, twice at Kentucky) and won the NCAA title in 2012. Yes, Calipari’s teams are loaded with future NBA players, but coaching one-and-dones is hardly an easy chore. Many arrive with huge egos and poor work ethic after being coddled throughout their high school careers. Calipari is a master motivator who almost always gets the most out of his players while getting them to buy into the team concept. Defensively, his squads are usually among the nation’s toughest and most physical. On the other end of the court, it’s rare to see a player average more than 15 points per game for Calipari, who stresses selflessness and sharing the ball. The 2012 NCAA title was a first for Coach Cal, though more could be on the way.
Billy Donovan, Florida: Donovan led Florida to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007, making him one of just 13 coaches in history to win multiple titles. That feat alone should make him a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. The 48-year-old Donovan, however, is far from finished. Heck, he might even be getting better. His program took a huge hit when it lost Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer from the championship teams, but Donovan rebuilt his roster and guided Florida to the Elite Eight each of the last three seasons. He averaged 28 wins during that span. Donovan also receives deserved praise for his character off the court. He’s contacted for other jobs almost every year and even briefly accepted the Orlando Magic gig in 2007, but has remained loyal to Florida, where’s he’s coached the last 17 years. He’s also active in charitable organizations and worked closely with USA Basketball. In short, along with a successful coach, Donovan has been a tremendous ambassador for college basketball. And there is still so much more to come.
Tom Izzo: Not many coaches in history have been as good in the NCAA tournament as Izzo, who has guided the Spartans to six Final Fours and one NCAA title during his 18 seasons in East Lansing. Michigan State has also reached four additional Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight under Izzo, who passed up an opportunity to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers to stay in the college ranks. Izzo’s teams are respected for their rugged, blue collar style of play, especially in the paint. They compete in one of the most balanced conferences in America and have still managed to finish fourth or higher in the Big Ten standings nine of the past 11 seasons. Izzo is known for scheduling one of the most difficult nonconference slates in the country every year, which makes his .713 winning percentage even more impressive. Michigan State’s postseason success and overall consistency under Izzo should make him a prime candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Bill Self, Kansas: No coach in college basketball has been as good as Bill Self over the last decade. While some programs have taken a temporary dip (Calipari, Izzo and Donovan all have NIT appearances on their résumés), Kansas hasn’t missed a beat. The Jayhawks have won nine straight Big 12 titles, the longest streak of consecutive league crowns by a major-conference team since UCLA won 13 in a row from 1967-79. In fact, dating back to his days at Illinois and Tulsa, Self has won 13 conference championships in his last 15 seasons. The other two years his team finished second. In his 10 years at Kansas, Self has averaged 30 wins. He took a program that was wildly successful under Roy Williams and made it even better. Self led KU to its first NCAA title in 20 years in 2008 and guided the Jayhawks back to the title game in 2012. Self’s teams almost always rank among the best in the nation for defensive field goal percentage, a sign that his players buy in and play hard for him. He’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Other coaches with a shot: Tom Crean, Indiana; John Beilein, Michigan; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Sean Miller, Arizona; Bo Ryan, Wisconsin; Thad Matta, Ohio State; Lon Kruger, Oklahoma; Tubby Smith, Texas Tech; Buzz Williams, Marquette; Bob Huggins, West Virginia