We pay so much attention to the regular-season records and the star players that make up the best teams. We often overlook the brains behind the success.

Head coaches are just as big of a factor as an elite player or experienced roster. If a team isn’t well-coached, chances are they will be heading home early. Who is leading the team is definitely something I consider when making my bracket predictions.

This article takes a closer look at the impact a head coach can have on a team in the NCAA Tournament.

Most Active NCAA Tournament Wins

The list below shows the coaches who have posted at least a 60% win percentage in all games. It’s no surprise many of these guys are the highest paid in the sport.

Only 14 of the 45 have been able to carry over that 60% or better success rate into the tournament.

The cream of the crop is none other than Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewksi. In 31 appearances, Krzyzewski has compiled an 88-26 record for a 77.2% win rate. His 88 wins are the most all-time.

CoachTeam(s)Appear.WinsLossesWin %Final FoursTitles
Mike KrzyzewskiDuke31882677.19%125
Roy WilliamsKansas, North Carolina25652373.86%72
Rick PitinoBoston, Providence, Kentucky, Louisville20531874.65%72
Jim BoeheimSyracuse31533063.86%41
John CalipariUMass, Memphis, Kentucky16471575.81%61
Tom IzzoMichigan State18461773.02%71
Bill SelfTulsa, Illinois, Kansas17371669.81%21
Tubby SmithTulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech*17301665.22%11
Bob HugginsAkron, Cincinnati, Kansas State, West Virginia21292158.00%20
Steve FisherMichigan, San Diego State15261465.00%31
Thad MattaBultler, Xavier, Ohio State13241364.86%20
Rick BarnesProvidence, Clemson, Texas, Tennessee*22212248.84%10
Mark FewGonzaga16191654.29%00
Larry BrownUCLA, Kansas, SMU819773.08%31
Ben HowlandNorthern Arizona, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Mississippi State*10191065.52%30
Sean MillerXavier, Arizona817868.00%00
John BeileinCanisius, Richmond, West Virginia, Michigan916964.00%10
Lon KrugerKansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV, Oklahoma16161650.00%10
Jay WrightHofstra, Villanova12141253.85%10
Jamie DixonPittsburgh10121054.55%00
Kelvin SampsonWashignton State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Houston*14121446.15%10
Bruce WeberSouthern Illinois, Illinois, Kansas State10111052.38%10
Bruce PearlTennessee, Auburn*810855.56%00
Mark GottfriedMurray State, Alabama, NC State11101147.62%00
Mike BreyDelaware, Notre Dame1291242.86%00
John Thompson IIIPrinceton, Georgetown1091047.37%10
Steve AlfordMissouri State, Iowa, New Mexico, UCLA99950.00%00
Tom CreanMarquette, Indiana89852.94%10
Gregg MarshallWinthrop, Wichita State1181142.11%10
Matt PainterSouthern Illinois, Purdue88850.00%00
Mike AndersonUAB, Missouri, Arkansas78753.33%00
Tim FloydNew Orleans, Iowa Sate, USC, UTEP*87846.67%00
Tony BennettWashington State, Virginia56554.55%00
Dana AltmanKansas State, Creighton, Oregon1161135.29%00
Mark TurgeonWichita State, Texas A&M, Maryland66650.00%00
Mick CroninMurray State, Cincinnati74736.36%00
Dave RoseBYU84833.33%00
Randy BennettSaint Mary’s53537.50%00
Ben JacobsonNorthern Iowa33350.00%00
Fran DunphyPennsylvania, Temple1531516.67%00
Mark FoxNevada, Georgia52528.57%00
Andy KennedyOle Miss22250.00%00
Randy RaheWeber State2020.00%00
Rick ByrdBelmont7070.00%00
Keith DambrotAkron, Cincinnati, Kansas State, West Virginia3030.00%00

* – school where he is current head coach, but has not led that specific team to the tournament

Top 10 Wins All-Time

1. Mike Kryzewski 88 Wins (Duke)
2. Dean Smith 65 Wins (North Carolina)
3. Roy Williams 65 Wins (Kansas, North Carolina)
4. Jim Boeheim 53 Wins (Syracuse)
5. Rick Pitino 53 Wins (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville)
6. Jim Calhoun 49 Wins (Connecticut)
7. John Wooden 47 Wins (UCLA)
8. Lute Olson 46 Wins (Iowa, Arizona)
9. Tom Izzo 46 Wins (Michigan State)
10. Bob Knight 45 Wins (Indiana, Texas Tech)

NCAA Tourney Coaches – Wins Lost or Gained

Find out which coaches have a history of exceeding expectations and which ones fail to live up to the hype. This can give you a big advantage when choosing sleeper teams or first round upsets.

I looked at the current coaches who have appeared in five or more NCAA Tournaments since 1985.

Using their seed at the beginning of each tournament, I calculated their projected wins. (for example, a #2 seed would be expected to win three games and reach the Elite Eight).

Comparing the number to the actual wins each team had. I was able to come up with +/- wins number you see in the far right column.

These are the average wins each coach has earned above or below their seeding to this point in their career.

TeamCoachAppearancesAverage Seed+/- Wins
KentuckyJohn Calapari531.400
Michigan StateTom Izzo1850.777
VCUShaka Smart580.600
MichiganJohn Beilein560.400
LousivilleRick Pitino1250.333
WisconsinBo Ryan1450.140
North CarolinaRoy Williams1130.090
CincinnatiMick Cronin570.000
SyracuseJim Boeheim254-0.120
DukeMike Krzyzewski302-0.133
San Diego StateSteve Fisher88-0.250
VillanovaJay Wright105-0.300
TexasRick Barnes166-0.313
Ohio StateThad Matta84-0.444
KansasBill Self122-0.833

*Data only includes coaching appearances with the team listed.

Coach Calapari comes in at the top of the list. This only includes his tenure at Kentucky, but keep in mind that his numbers are only over five seasons.

The Wildcats making the championship game as an 8 seed in 2014 skews his expectations quite a bit.

My takeaway from this is that Tom Izzo has been the best Big Dance coach in modern history. His teams consistently out-perform their seeding.

Some of the coaches on this list have suffered from having high expectations. Guys like Thad Matta and Bill Self have struggled, while Coach K and Roy Williams have done just fine.

If you are interested in more information about seeding, check out our tournament winners by seed article.

Top 5 Active Head Coaches

Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)

This is an obvious choice. Coach K’s 88 career tourney wins are the most all-time. A ridiculous 23 more than runner-up Dean Smith (65).

It comes as no surprise really with Krzyzewski coming from the Bob Knight school of coaching. Not only did he play for Knight at Army, he coached along side him at Indiana.

Coach K picked up a bunch of NCAA tourney wins from 1988-1992. He led the Blue Devils to five consecutive Final Fours. Winning back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992.

Krzyzewski has since added three more championships (2001, 2010, 2015) . His 12 Final Four appearances are tied for the most all-time with the great John Wooden.

Tom Izzo (Michigan State)

I already stated my case that I think Izzo is the best head coach of our generation.

You can say all you want about him only winning one National Championship.

There’s simply no one better at getting his team to exceed expectations year after year.

He’s guided the Spartans to seven Final Four appearances and was the runner-up in 2009.

Quite a resume for someone who has been named the National Coach of the Year on four separate occasions.

Roy Williams (North Carolina)

Roy Williams comes from the Dean Smith school of coaching and has made quite a name for himself.

Williams started out at Kansas back in 1988. He left as the school’s second winningest coach in program history.

Despite all kinds off success at Kansas, Williams was never able to win it all with the Jayhawks. His fortune quickly changed after he arrived in Chapel Hill.

He replaced Matt Dougherty in 2003 and had the Tar Heels cutting down the nets in 2005. He would add another title to his resume in 2009.

Williams is currently tied for 2nd all-time in NCAA Tournament wins with 65. He’s tied for fourth with most Final Four appearances at 7.

He had a streak of 20 consecutive seasons where he led his team to the NCAA Tournament. His team won at least one game in all 20 appearances.

Rick Pitino (Louisville)

Pitino was the first coach in history to win titles at two different schools. The first coming in 1996 with Kentucky and the second in 2013 with Louisville.

He’s also one of just two coaches all-time to take three different teams to the Final Four. The other being Providence back in 1987.

Pitino has made 7 trips to the Final Four. Tied with Williams and Izzo for the second most all-time among active coaches.

His 43 wins is tied for fifth all-time.

John Calipari (Kentucky)

John Calipari has solidified himself as one of the top coaches in the game today.

He’s the only other coach besides Pitino to have taken three different teams to the Final Four. Doing so with Massachusetts, Memphis and most recently Kentucky.

Calipari won his first and only Championship in 2012 with the Wildcats. He also took Kentucky to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2011 and 2012.

Best ATS Tournament Coaches

If you are entering bracket contests then you want to find winners. But, if you are making up a small portion of the $2.5 billion dollars bet on March Madness you want to know who cashes at the pay window.

CoachWinsLossesROIProfit
Billy Donovan201030.5%+915
John Beilein13451.3%+872
Brad Stevens12445.7%+731
Sean Miller16829.9%+718
Chris Mack8257.4%+575
Kevin Ollie6093.8%+563
Shaka Smart9345.4%+545
John Groce6168.9%+482
John Calipari241811.1%+467
Matt Painter10530%+450
Mark Gottfried7338%+380
Dana Altman6246.4%+371
Will Brown5161.7%+370
Al Skinner5161.5%+369
Gregg Marshall9525%+350
Rick Pitino171310.4%+313
Lorenzo Romar6330.2%+272
Bob McKillop6329.7%+267
Bob Huggins9617.6%+264
Archie Miller5237.6%+263
Roy Williams17146.8%+210
Chris Lowery4232.1%+193
Tommy Amaker4230.6%+183
Tom Izzo17145.8%+179
Jeff Capel III4229.6%+178
Ben Jacobson4228.8%+173
Billy Gillispie4228.3%+170
Fred Hoiberg5321.2%+169
John Brady3217.7%+89
Larry Krystkowiak3217%+85
Herb Sendek3216.8%+84
Frank Martin548.2%+74
Jim Larranaga655.8%+63
Mike Krzyzewski15140.7%+20
Mike Montgomery330%0
Tim Floyd33-0.9%-5
Josh Pastner33-1.1%-7
Mick Cronin44-1.7%-13
Kevin Stallings44-1.9%-15
Mark Turgeon66-2.7%-32
Fran McCaffery44-4.2%-33
Steve Fisher66-2.9%-34
Tubby Smith44-4.3%-35
Bruce Pearl88-2.3%-37
Jim Boeheim1010-3.1%-62
Mark Fox23-21.1%-105
Stan Heath23-21.9%-109
Mike Davis23-21.9%-110
Steve Donahue23-22.1%-110
Marvin Menzies23-23%-115
Ernie Kent23-23.1%-116
Tony Bennett56-10.5%-116
Randy Bennett34-17.2%-120
Scott Drew67-10.5%-136
Bill Self1617-5.1%-170
Travis Ford24-34.8%-209
Mike Anderson46-21.1%-211
Trent Johnson24-35.2%-211
Fran Dunphy35-27%-216
Bruce Weber35-28.8%-230
Buzz Williams57-19.3%-231
Steve Alford57-20.1%-242
Tom Crean47-27.8%-305
Leonard Hamilton25-44.2%-309
Rick Byrd25-44.6%-312
Greg McDermott25-45%-315
John Thompson III710-19.6%-334
Ben Howland912-16.4%-344
Lon Kruger48-34.4%-412
Mark Few913-20.1%-442
David Rose38-46.9%-515
Mike Brey39-50.8%-610
Jamie Dixon612-34.7%-625
Jay Wright714-34.2%-719
Rick Barnes613-38%-722
Thad Matta1017-27.2%-733

*Data only includes coaches with five ATS results.

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