Ranking the Head Coaches in the Big East

Jared Wickerham

Ranking all the current head coaches in the Big East from #1-10. Do you agree with these rankings?

Now the New Big East Conference may be a year old, but nonetheless I did my best to rank the current head coaches in this new conference. If you have any disagreements with my rankings, or felt that some switches could have been made, comment who you think should be moved around to make this the most accurate ranking possible.

1. Jay Wright (Villanova)

Since coming from Hofstra at the beginning of the new millennium, Wright has become of the one of the elite coaches in all of college basketball, and the top coach in the new Big East Conference.  Wright came in as one of the most successful coaches to ever come from Hofstra University.  He finished his last two seasons with NCAA Tournament appearances; the only two that the Pride had made since the 1970s.

Wright had a rough first three seasons, and the best result that he finished with was a first round NCAA Tournament exit. But since then, basketball success has become imbedded in the Jay Wright Era in Philadelphia.  Over his past 10 seasons as the coach of the Wildcats, he has led the team to nine NCAA Tournament appearances with two Sweet 16 showings, a finish in the Elite 8, and a run to the Final Four in 2009. Most recently, Wright finished off what might have been his best coaching job since coming to the Big East.  He led the Cats to their first outright Big East regular season conference championship since 1982, along with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite an early exit, he did this all with a roster that has little to no NBA talent.  Over his tenure, Wright has also been named Big East Coach of the Year three times, and in 2006 was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year.  The scary thing is that at 52, Wright still has many years ahead of him.

By the time he retires, Wright could very well bypass the legendary Rollie Massimino as the greatest coach in the history of Villanova basketball.

2. John Thompson III (Georgetown)

When John Thompson III came from Princeton to Georgetown in 2004, the Hoyas were in a state of basketball shock. The team had only made one showing in the NCAA Tournament since 1996, and were very much far away from the Hoya teams of the 1980s that were consistently the Beasts of the Big East.  But the son of the legendary coach that stalked the sidelines in that era came in and immediately put the 'Thompson touch' on the Hoyas that reminded Georgetown fans of the times that his father was at the helm.  Within his first three seasons, JTIII returned the Hoyas to the Final Four for the first time since his father led them to the National Championship in 1985.

In every single season that he has been the coach in Washington D.C., Thompson III has led the Hoyas to some kind of conference tournament, and finished in the bottom half of the Big East Conference just twice.  Georgetown has once again transformed into a national powerhouse that consistently hauls in some of the best recruits in the nation and finishes near the top of the conference.

Even though last season was one of the worst in the Thompson III Era at Georgetown, there's almost a zero percent chance that the team will remain in the basement again as Thompson III has remained synonymous with winning as he has become of the top coaches in all of college basketball.

3. Steve Lavin (St. John'ss)

Lavin has had one of the largest gaps between coaching gigs of any coach in the nation with eight seasons, so therefore many do not remember how much success he had at UCLA.  Before he came to St. John's and returned the Johnnies to prominence in the Big East, he was excellent as a coach in southern California.  As the head coach at UCLA, Lavin won over 20 games in six of his seven seasons and led the Bruins to four Sweet 16 appearances and one appearance in the Elite Eight. This provided the ability to prove himself as one of the best coaches at that time.

After taking time off, Lavin ventured across the country to New York CIty to coach St. John's in 2010. In his first season as the headman of the Johnnies, he did not seem to have lost a step. He immediately came in and brought the Johnnies back to national relevance and an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since 2002. Since then he battled cancer the next season, and came back this past season just as strong, leading the Red Storm to a No.1 seed in the NIT Tournament.

4. Greg McDermott (Creighton)

It's hard to believe that McDermott has only been in Omaha since 2010, as he has already built Creighton into one of the preeminent basketball schools not only in the Big East, but the nation as well.  Before coming to save the Bluejays, McDermott coached at DII Wayne State before coming to Northern Iowa and then Iowa State, which were his two stops before his current stop in Nebraska.  In four seasons he has led the Bluejays to at least 20 wins each year and has finished no worse than fourth in conference.

One of the most helpful factors was having his son, reigning Naismith POY Doug McDermott, as a player every season since coming to Creighton. It has helped the McDermott's Bluejays turn into a family of sorts, with basketball coach and son really leading the way for that. It will be interesting to see how McDermott does in his first season at the Creighton helm without his son running onto the court. If he can successfully make that transition into the post Dougie McBuckets age, McDermott can help create a true basketball powerhouse at Creighton and catapult himself into the elite coaching category in the Big East Conference.

5. Chris Mack (Xavier)

Mack has made maybe as large of a jump of any of the coaches currently in the Big East Conference.  He began his coaching career all the way back in 1993 as the junior varsity women's basketball coach at McAuley High School in Cincinnati.  He was able to work his way all the way up to his alma mater in 2009 when he took over for Sean Miller, who took the head-coaching job at Arizona. He established himself as one of the best coaches in the A-10, and now, the Big East.

In only five seasons as a head coach, he has already made two Sweet 16's during four of those five campaigns. Most recently he led the Musketeers to a third-place finish in the team's first season in the new conference, before a season ending loss in the First Four game against NC State.  With all the success that Mack has compiled so quickly, he is rapidly on his way to becoming a top-three head coach in the conference.

6. Ed Cooley (Providence)

Now Cooley has not been a necessarily the most successful coach since coming to Providence in 2011, but the key is that he's always shown improvement year after year.  In the first year that he came to Providence, after leaving Fairfield, the team finished second-to-last in the Big East and completed the first sub-.500 season of any Colley-led team since 2008.

Since then though the improvement has been tangible as the Friars qualified for the NIT in Cooley's second season, and most recently won the Big East Conference Tournament in dramatic fashion, giving the Friars their first NCAA Tournament since 2004.  With postseason success, Cooley finally pushed himself into the public sphere of college basketball as he continues to fly up the ranks of Big East basketball coaches.  With him at the helm, Providence basketball seems to be back once again, and thus, he has made his run into the top-5 head coaches in the conference.

7. Oliver Purnell (DePaul)

To put it as lightly as possible, Purnell has had a tough run since arriving in Chicago to coach the Blue Demons.  In four seasons Purnell has led the team to a last or second-to-last place finish in the conference each year.  He has not been able to win more than 12 games overall in any season at DePaul or win more than three conference games.

Throughout his coaching career, he has never had any sort of signature year, unless you count finishing as the NIT Runner-up in 2007 with Clemson. Since coming to a high-major conference back in 2003-04, Purnell's teams have been known for starting off well in the non-conference season and then faltering and falling off in conference play. He has yet to ever win an NCAA Tournament game in five tries, and he is just not a quality coach and likely is coming to the end of the road in the Big East.

8. Kevin Willard (Seton Hall)

Willard has been coaching in the Big East for four seasons now, and yet he is still relatively unknown in the realm of college basketball. Before coming to South Orange, Willard was the headman at Iona in the MAAC, and to be perfectly honest, I am still confused as to how he was able to jump to what was the best conference in college basketball at the time back when he was hired in 2010.

With the Gaels, Willard never led them to better than a third place finish in a pretty mediocre mid-major conference.

He also never made a single post-season tournament, so how he landed a job in the Big East is beyond me. With The Hall, it hasn't been much better and in four seasons, he has only led the Pirates to one winning season that ended in a second round NIT exit. Over his career, he has a sub-.500 record, and unlike many coaches who make the jump to high-level college basketball he has never had exteneded success in anywhere that he's coached at.

9. Steve Wojciechowski (Marquette)

Now, it is tough to rank Wojciechowski as a head coach, considering he has yet to actually coach a single college game as a head coach.  He is low in the rankings due to that, but due to the current situation that he is in at Marquette, that is why he currently sits above Miller. Before being hired as the coach of the Golden Eagles, Coach Woj had become a staple in the Duke University men's basketball program, as he worked his way up from an All-American point guard on the Dukies basketball to the associate coach.

Wojciechowski's main strength at Duke was coaching the guys inside, and if there is anything he is going to have to improve at Marquette, it is inside the paint.  The Golden Eagles lost their two best big men from this past season (Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson), and how well Woj develops the current big guys that he has will go a long way in determining how quickly the rebuilding process will progress in Milwaukee.

10. Brandon Miller (Butler)

Now it was evident that Miller was in for a heck of a time in his first season with Butler, after taking over for groundbreaking coach Brad Stevens.  Despite this thought I do not think anyone thought it would be that bad. In his one season as a head coach, the Bulldogs went 14-17, and a brutal 4-14 in conference.

If this was not bad enough, what has happened off the court has been even worse, as Miller has lost all control of this team.  On April 18, freshman guard Elijah Brown announced that he would transfer, the fourth Butler Bulldog to do with Miller as the coach. Now, Miller is only 34, and may have a bright future as a head coach in the NCAA, but as of now it looks as if his Butler teams are going to remain in the Big East cellar for years to come.

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