Commentary

Best tourney coach? It's a close call among fab five

Updated: January 31, 2008, 12:39 PM ET
By Peter Tiernan | Special to ESPN Insider
About this time last year, the numbers led me to declare that Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo formed the Mount Rushmore of elite coaches in the 64/65-team era. I named Coach K as the top coach of the modern tourney, solidly ahead of Calhoun and followed closely by Pitino and Izzo.

Then the 2007 tourney happened. Coach K's Blue Devils suffered one of only three major upsets, losing in Round 1 to 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth. Calhoun and his Huskies missed the Dance altogether. Pitino's sixth-seeded Louisville Cardinals bowed out after a single win. And Izzo's Spartans posted a mild overachievement, winning their opening round game as a No. 9 seed. Meanwhile, as the "fantastic four" was failing to impress, Billy Donovan was leading Florida to a repeat championship. This boosted his tournament performance so dramatically that he's earned his way into the "great tourney coach debate."

In fact, there were plenty of coaches besides Donovan who had impressive enough 2007 runs that they're one big tourney away from breaking into the ranks of elite coaches. Of course, there were other coaches whose sudden departures from the Dance sent them tumbling in the opposite direction. Whose stock is rising? Whose is falling? Let's find out.