College coaches with NBA promise

Brad Stevens, Danny Manning among those who could handle pro game

Updated: March 29, 2012, 3:23 AM ET
By David Thorpe | ESPN Insider
Brad StevensRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesAfter a pair of Final Fours, Brad Stevens' career could lift off for the NBA.

For many, March Madness is all about the teams, the players and the obvious excitement of a one-and-done tournament format. (By the way, wouldn't it be great to see such an event in the NBA just prior to the All-Star Break?) But watching this tournament for almost 40 years has opened my eyes to the coaching element of these games.

It's not a coincidence that the same coaches are the guys having the most success each year. Yes, there are exceptions, and those coaches typically have great players, but the best coaches find ways to win by coaching up their teams in practice and making the right decisions in games -- even as rosters change. So, if the tournament is full of future NBA players, why can't it also be a breeding ground for NBA coaches? It can, and is, if those men are interested in making the jump.

Who are the top NBA coaches in training? We'll skip the giants in the game, who have spurned the NBA for years, and focus on four guys who have the chops to be terrific coaches on an NBA bench whenever their desire to make the jump meets an opportunity.