- Jeff Goodman, ESPN Insider
But now it’s time to look at the top X’s and O’s guys in the country, regardless of level. The coaches who scare their counterparts with their ability to diagram plays and have their players carry out those plays.
We polled about two-thirds (around 250) of the Division I head coaches, and some opted to vote more than once. There were more than 300 total votes cast and there was a clear separation at the top.
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was the runaway winner, with one of his Big Ten rivals finishing in second. Brad Stevens still received plenty of votes (14 in total) despite the fact that he’s now in the NBA, and former UCLA head man Ben Howland also got his share (four votes) even though he’s unemployed.
Izzo is known for his preparation and ability to get his players to execute. He recruits at a high level, but it’s not as though his program has produced a ton of high-level NBA players. He has won a national title and taken the Spartans to a half-dozen Final Four appearances. He’s 30-4 as the higher-seeded team in the NCAA tournament and 18-3 in the second game of a weekend NCAA contest.
Here are the top 25 X's and O's head coaches in college basketball (according to the head coaches), with a supporting quote from a peer for each.
1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State Spartans (41 votes)
Record: 439-178 (18 seasons)
NCAA tournament record: 39-15
“Tom’s guys not only understand what they want. They execute details to make sure it happens.” -- Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger.
We’ve already polled college basketball coaches for the most feared recruiters, both assistants and head coaches. But now it’s time to look at the top X’s and O’s guys in the country, regardless of level.