The number of coaches who have won multiple national championships stands at six. That’s the total number for football and basketball now that Rick Pitino is back in the game as head coach at Iona.
In football it’s Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney — a West Virginia native who has won five of his six titles at Alabama, and an Alabama native and graduate who has twice won national titles at Clemson.
In basketball, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Villanova’s Jay Wright join Pitino as multiple winners.
Only Saban and Pitino have won championships at multiple schools.
Six is a small number of multiple winners. But even more significant is how many current coaches have won even one title.
In football, in addition to Saban and Swinney, there’s North Carolina’s Mack Brown, Les Miles of Kansas and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M.
In basketball, there’s Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Bill Self of Kansas, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kentucky’s John Calipari, and Tubby Smith, who is now coaching at High Point.
With such a small number of coaches who have won it all, it’s amazing that two schools have championship coaches in both sports.
Roy Williams has won three times at North Carolina. Mack Brown hasn’t won for the Tar Heels, but he won a title at Texas.
At Kansas, Bill Self has won a title. Les Miles won at LSU before becoming a Jayhawk.
Nobody in the SEC has a national championship combination of coaches. But there are some good duos. Here’s my list of the best at this point.
Auburn: Bruce Pearl has led the Tigers to a Final Four. Gus Malzahn has directed them to a national championship game. Only one other SEC duo can claim that.
Kentucky: John Calipari is the only national champion basketball coach in the league, which means he edges out Pearl as the top basketball coach. Mark Stoops has done a terrific job in leading Kentucky to four straight bowl games and two consecutive bowl wins.
Alabama: Saban is still at the top of the mountain, even if Swinney has nudged his way next to him. Saban is not only the greatest current coach in college football, he’s the best ever. Nate Oats has been at Alabama for only one season, so it’s too soon to judge him. But his teams at Buffalo were very good and entertaining.
Georgia: Kirby Smart has already led the Bulldogs to a national championship game, but until he beats Saban and/or wins a national championship it’s hard to think of him as an elite coach. Tom Crean reached a Final Four before getting to Athens. He has yet to get the Georgia basketball program going in the right direction.
LSU: Ed Orgeron is still riding high from a perfect season in 2019. The Tigers have the country’s longest winning streak at 16 games. LSU would be higher on this list if not for the fact that all of Will Wade’s success as the Tigers’ basketball coach will likely be stripped away once the NCAA has no choice but to pay attention to the evidence of his paying recruits. There’s no question that LSU is on top of the world in football and basketball at this time.
Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher won a national championship at Florida State, but his record without Jameis Winston has been nothing special. In two seasons at Texas A&M he has gone 17-9 overall and 9-7 in the SEC. Those results don’t match what the Aggies are paying. Basketball coach Buzz Williams snapped Auburn’s 19-game winning streak to close the regular season, a game that signified the way the Aggies overachieved all season.
South Carolina: Will Muschamp enters this season as one of the coaches most on the hot seat in college football. But basketball coach Frank Martin has a Final Four on his resume.
Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt has shown improvement in Knoxville, but at some point he has to actually show results on the field beyond that inexplicable win at Auburn two years ago. It’s been 17 years since at Texas, but Rick Barnes has led a team to the Final Four.
Mississippi State: Football coach Mike Leach leads the country in headlines produced. But, despite his success in some difficult jobs, he’s never won so much as a division title as a head coach. Basketball coach Ben Howland made three straight Final Four appearances, but he has yet to recreate that magic in Starkville.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays on the new Sports Talk 99.5 from 7-10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @kennedy_randy.
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