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The most underappreciated coaches

5/20/2011

The college game is certainly not hurting for coaching talent. We spend a lot of ink on the active and future Hall of Fame coaches in our game, and rightfully so, with names like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Gary Williams (until recently), Bill Self, Billy Donovan and Tubby Smith; and we are fortunate that so many of them are sticking around. We also have a promising crop of recognized up-and-comers that are seen as the future of the game, such as Mark Few, Tom Crean, Brad Stevens, Anthony Grant and Sean Miller.

But there are a bunch of coaches that fall somewhere in between. And there are several that are undervalued and underrated. They don't get the publicity they deserve, but they can teach and coach the game. And oftentimes, these guys are just one March run away from making their mark.

Chris Mack, Xavier: Mack is another in a long line of outstanding coaches at Xavier. He is organized, competitive, engaged and has a great belief in his abilities and his team. Mack will continue to win at Xavier (or wherever he might coach) because he is the real thing.

Fran Dunphy, Temple: Dunphy is not widely recognized as being among the great coaches in the game because he goes about his work quietly and shies away from the limelight. Dunphy is an old-school coach that is a teacher first, and his teams always defend and are disciplined. No reasonable basketball person can disagree that Dunphy is a great coach. And an undervalued one.

Rick Byrd, Belmont: You don't win over 600 games without being able to coach and teach the game. Byrd took his Belmont program from NAIA to Division I, and over the past five years his team has dominated the Atlantic Sun.

Mark Turgeon, Maryland: Turgeon has won at Wichita State and Texas A&M and will win at Maryland. He can X and O with anyone, but his greatest strength is his toughness and his will. Turgeon has many of the best attributes of Calhoun. Turgeon has the goods to be one of the best coaches in the game.

Brad Brownell, Clemson: An excellent teacher, Brownell does a terrific job of teaching the game at the offensive and defensive ends. The one word I would use to describe Brownell is solid. He is solid in every area of his craft. Brownell won at UNC-Wilmington, Wright State and Clemson, and that is no accident. He is just getting started.

Mark Fox, Georgia: Fox is one of the best young coaches in college basketball, and he gets it. Tough, strong willed and technically sound, Fox has the complete package. He has taken Georgia from the bottom of the SEC to the NCAA tournament in just two seasons, and he has recruited well and sold the program. Fox is an outstanding coach.

Mick Cronin, Cincinnati: Cronin grew up with the game and further learned the game under Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino. Cronin left Murray State after doing a terrific job there to take a major rebuilding job at Cincinnati, and he never wavered. Cronin has stayed strong and stuck to his principles and it paid off this season with an NCAA appearance.

Blaine Taylor, Old Dominion: I first got to know Taylor in his time as an assistant to Mike Montgomery and was always impressed with his understanding of the game. Taylor has turned Old Dominion into a contending program, not just in the CAA, but also in the NCAA tournament. Another solid coach that just does his job and does it very well.

Chris Mooney, Richmond: Mooney is another former Princeton player, but his offensive system is much faster than the stereotypical Princeton offense. Mooney has a great demeanor and does a terrific job teaching and working with players. His development of Justin Harper alone should get more attention. Mooney's teams are fundamentally sound, and that is no accident.

Doug Wojcik, Tulsa: A former point guard at Navy that led his team to an Elite Eight, Wojcik has been well trained in the game. He is smart, tough and his teams play with heart and discipline. Wojcik has done a good job at Tulsa and has garnered interest from a number of "bigger" jobs. He is one of the better young coaches in the game.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: A former assistant to John Kresse at College of Charleston, Marshall did a great job at Winthrop before taking over for Turgeon at Wichita State. His Shockers team was very good in 2010-11 and played its best at the end of the season in winning the NIT. Wichita State should expect its phone to ring every April, because Marshall is going to continue to garner interest from other schools.

Randy Bennett, St. Mary's: A former assistant to Lorenzo Romar, Bennett is a near unknown to many college basketball fans. But over the last six years he has turned St. Mary's into a national player, and he has done it through international players. His teams play with great discipline but also pull the trigger on open 3s in spread court situations.

Bob Marlin, Louisiana-Lafayette: A Mississippi native, Marlin is a quiet, no-nonsense man and coach, and he is one of the best-kept secrets in the college game. I watched Marlin prepare his Sam Houston State team for the NCAA tournament in 2010, and he coached a great game against a superior Baylor team and gave his players a chance to win. Marlin is technically sound but also strong-minded. He can coach with anyone in the game.