We’ve looked at Big 12 basketball schedules, Big 12 freshmen and Big 12 rising players the past two weeks. But what about the coaches? Well, here are my Big 12 men’s basketball head coach power rankings entering the 2019-20 season. By the way, I thought this was going to be easy. It wasn’t. It was incredibly tough to put this together, which speaks to the quality of the head coaching in this league. A low ranking isn’t indicative of the coach’s ability. It’s just that there are so many great coaches in the Big 12 somebody has to be toward the bottom.
10. Mike Boynton Jr, Oklahoma State
This may have been the only “easy” slot on the list. Boynton is in just his third season in the head-coaching chair in Stillwater. By comparison, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm is the only other Big 12 coach with fewer than 10 years as a head coach in major college basketball (Prohm is entering his ninth season). Boynton is 33-35 in two seasons at OSU and he’s lost several players to transfer, suspension and expulsion. But entering this season Boynton has a highly-regarded recruiting class, three solid veteran players to build around and a non-conference schedule that offers his team room to grow. His inexperience is the biggest reason he’s at No. 10, but let’s not forget that in his first season OSU won 21 games and reached the NIT quarterfinals.
9. Shaka Smart, Texas
Smart enters his fifth season at Texas coming off a 21-win season and an NIT championship, and that run in March represented some of his best coaching in Austin. But it’s hard not to argue that his run in Austin, to this point, has been disappointing. The Longhorns have two NCAA Tournament appearances in four years, but no wins. Smart has done a fine job recruiting, but he’s had several one-and-done players, including his last two inside stars, Mo Bamba and Jaxson Hayes. That can make it difficult to create consistency. He has another 7-footer in this recruiting classes, who happens to be one of the top centers in the country. He also has a fine group of holdover guards that gained a lot of experience last year and should have improved their 3-point shooting. Compared to his success at Virginia Commonwealth prior to reaching Texas, however, fans are wondering when these Longhorns will hit the next level. And former Texas coach Rick Barnes’ success at Tennessee doesn’t help.
8. Jamie Dixon, TCU
The former TCU guard was a solid hire four years ago for TCU. On the court he hasn’t disappointed relative to what he inherited. The Horned Frogs have three straight 20-win seasons, an NIT championship, another NIT Final Four berth and an NCAA Tournament berth. But the Horned Frogs have never finished higher than fifth in the Big 12. Dixon has improved the Horned Frogs’ recruiting classes and has another solid group coming to Fort Worth. But, his program endured massive turnover last season, including the transfer of one of the top recruits TCU has ever brought in. The Horned Frogs have a remade arena and a remade program. Now they need Dixon to stop, reportedly, flirting with other programs (looking at you, UCLA). Dixon needs four wins to reach 400 for his career.
7. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Lon Kruger is one of the game’s most respected coaches, and slotting him at No. 7 here feels a tad disrespectful. After all, the Sooners went to the Final Four in 2016. But, I have to take recent history into account, along with Kruger’s entire tenure at OU and his career, and the Sooners have dropped a smidge under Kruger, with finishes of ninth, tied for eighth and tied for seventh in Big 12 play the last three years (the Sooners did manage two NCAA appearances in that span). Kruger’s recruiting classes the past few years haven’t quite been up to standard, either (Trae Young notwithstanding) and the program has endured several transfers. For a coach nearing 70, few have Kruger’s energy or ability to turn a program around on a dime. And entering this season he has a Top 25 recruiting class to complement his returning veterans like Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle. But the Sooners, overall, are in a bit of a valley.
6. Scott Drew, Baylor
Last season we didn’t expect much from Baylor, especially after Tristan Clark was hurt halfway through the year. Drew’s coaching job that season was exceptional, leading Baylor to 20 wins and a first-round NCAA Tournament win. Drew has turned the Bears into a power. He has 318 wins in Waco, with eight NCAA Tournament appearances and three NIT Tournament appearances, including a title. We’ve forgotten what Baylor was when Drew arrived, which was nothing. The program imploded during the Patrick Dennehy murder case and head coach Dave Bliss’ own recruiting scandals. Drew had single-digit wins each of his first three seasons. That hasn’t happened since.
5. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
Weber is another coach that doesn’t always get the hat tip he deserves in a conference loaded with great coaches. In a league where Kansas typically dominates, the Wildcats are one of the teams to infringe on that, winning a share of the Big 12 regular-season title twice. The Wildcats have made five NCAA Tournament under Weber, including the run to the Elite 8 two seasons ago. He’s taken three different schools to the NCAA Tournament, including a national championship game appearance at Illinois in 2005. At Kansas State Weber hasn’t pulled together stellar recruiting classes, but that speaks to his and his staff’s ability to coach them to a higher level. But the core of Barry Brown Jr., Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes are gone now, and Weber has a big coaching job ahead in 2019-20.
4. Steve Prohm, Iowa State
Prohm had the unenviable task of taking over the Cyclones after “The Mayor,” Fred Hoiberg, left for the NBA (he’s now at Nebraska). In four seasons Prohm had done enough at ISU to get SEC teams interesting in hiring him after last season. That speaks to his ability to build a team and build a program, and is part of the reason Prohm is so high in these rankings after just four seasons in Ames. Prohm has led the Cyclones to three 20-win seasons, two Big 12 Tournament championships and a trip to the Sweet 16 his first season. Plus, he’s boosted ISU’s recruiting footprint. In the 2018 cycle he invaded Chicagoland for some of its best recruits and one is already in the NBA. The 2019 Class boasts a Top 10 player from Kansas. He’s one of the game’s rising coaching stars and, like his football counterpart in Ames, Matt Campbell, Prohm will be hard to keep long-term.
3. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
One game and you’ve gotta win. Who’s your coach? Well, with 859 career wins, Huggins has to be on the list. He has one of the game’s towering personalities and his blunt honesty during press conferences is jarring but refreshing. Last year was his worst season in Morgantown, but the funny thing is he never stopped coaching and recruiting, and that’s a hallmark of a coach that knows what he’s doing. He finally found his ride-or-dies by February, the Mountaineers went on a run and upset Texas Tech in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. Plus, they won two games in the College Basketball Invitational. Huggins and his staff put together a stellar recruiting class for this coming season, including the Big 12’s only five-star recruit. Huggins followed up his last less-than-stellar season in Morgantown with four straight 20-win seasons. He’s a hard one to bet against, thanks to his track record at WVU and throughout his career.
2. Chris Beard, Texas Tech
Too high, too fast? Well maybe. But Beard’s three years in Lubbock have turned the Red Raiders in a full-blown basketball program that can succeed on the court, recruit in living rooms around the country and lure quality transfers from other schools. In three years at Texas Tech, Beard has won 76 games, reached the NCAA Tournament twice and reached the NCAA National Championship game last year. He’s put together two of the best recruiting classes in Tech history, including three of its highest-ranked recruits ever per 247Sports.com. He preaches defense, and gets his players to play defense first, in an era where players want to play offense first. Tech shows no signs of slowing down under Beard. Plus, look at his history (Arkansas-Little Rock, Angelo State, McMurry). He’s won everywhere he’s been, regardless of the division. Plus, he’s proven masterful at the halftime adjustment.
1. Bill Self, Kansas
Don’t look at me like that. Yes, I know he and the program are under investigation. Yes, I know Snoop was, well, Snoop during Jayhawk opening night (c’mon, Kansas, you saw that coming, right?). But Self is the conference’s top coach. He has 680 career wins, 473 of them at Kansas. He’s taken Kansas to the NCAA Tournament every year he’s been in Lawrence. He’s won a national championship for the Jayhawks. He recruits as well as any coach in the country. What we overlook sometimes is the quality of his coaching in a season. The Jayhawks’ ride to the 2018 Final Four should not have happened. That team didn’t have the depth to sustain that kind of run. But Self pulled the right strings, starting in January when it was apparent he could only go two or three deep on his bench. He leaned on veteran players like Devonte Graham and squeezed great play from role players like Mitch Lightfoot. There are plenty of examples of average coaches dragging down great programs. Self is not an average coach. Not even close.
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