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The huddle

April 5, 2018

Top NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Coaches on LRT Sports

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Having a quality parent in the household has been proven by many to help aid in the quality of life for children. The same is true for those of us who have moved out of the house and ventured into the world of college sports, except the role of the parent has been entrusted to coaches. Coaches recruiting and teaching skills are evident in their school’s competitive record, but there is a side to the coaches that can only be measured by the people who really know them, and that is the players. LRT Sports has opened the door to this side of our nation’s coaches through the #rateyourcoach campaign, which encourages college athletes to give their head coach ratings on categories such as knowledge of the game, honesty, accessibility, the “cool” factor, etc. The idea is that if a soccer coach knows how to design a great set piece, that will usually reflect on their team’s record. But you will have to check out LRT Sports to find out if a coach tells terrible jokes or won’t meet with players, or doesn’t shower enough (you would be surprised how honest player are) our player’s reviews allow for anonymous comments to give the real inside scoop to all student-athletes.

For some coaches, these reviews can be a nightmare, because of their relationships with players, post-commitment isn’t as appealing as they might like it to be. However, the opposite is true for these coaches, who are the PLAYER FAVORITES, as they have gained the respect and admiration from their players. Here are the Men’s Basketball coaches who have the highest average rating (minimum of 5 reviews) from their current and former players for March 2018.

8. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers University – 3.1 Rating.

The Number 8 coach on this list, Steve Pikiell, is the Head Coach of the Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights, where he has coached for two seasons. Pikiell played at UConn under Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun from 1987-1991. During his time playing for the Huskies, UConn won its first Big East tournament title (check out ESPN 30 for 30 to see how big of a deal that is). Pikiell made a name for himself in the coaching ranks as the head coach of Stony Brook University. He spent 11 seasons coaching the Seawolves and led them to 5 conference championships and subsequent postseason births, including a trip to the 2015 NCAA tournament. Since taking over at Rutgers, the Knights have sputtered to two 3-15 seasons in The Big 10; however, our number 8 coach’s rankings suggest that he takes care of his recruits and wants the players he recruits to be taken care of. If this continues, we can only assume that once his recruits become upper-classmen, their fortunes may begin to change. The Big 10 is a tough conference, and Rutgers is far from a basketball powerhouse, but don’t be surprised if Pikiell’s Scarlet Knights begin to turn things around in the next few years, once he can put together a few more recruiting classes of his own.

7. Sydney Johnson, Fairfield University – 3.6 Rating.

The 7th highest ranked coach on our list is the man who stole our hearts with his embrace of Tyler Nelson, is Sydney Johnson from Fairfield University. The embrace I am referencing to was between Johnson and his star senior, Tyler Nelson, who was checking out of the game for the final time in a loss to Iona College in the WCC semifinals. It was an emotional moment shared all over the country. In his time at Fairfield University, Coach Johnson has led the stags for seven seasons and led them to post-season appearances in the CIT three times. Before his time at Fairfield, Johnson coached for his alma mater Princeton, where he led the Tigers to an NCAA tournament bid in 2011. Known for his defensive prowess as a player, his teams are hard-nosed on the defensive end of the court. Though success in the record book has been limited since taking over at Fairfield, he has twice been a finalist for the Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year award. His player reviews show that he is a knowledgeable, and honest coach, who is straightforward with his athletes. His players also unanimously agree that his most consistent quality is his intensity. All of his players gave him a 5/5 in that category, showing that for better or for worse, Coach Johnson is going to bring the juice on the court. Though not one of the top reviewed coaches on our list, he seems to have the respect of his players, so look for the Stags to make a name for themselves in the next few seasons.

6.  Joe Mihalich, Hofstra University – 3.8 Rating.

The 6th ranked coach on our list is Joe Mihalich, the Head Coach at Hofstra University. Mihalich has coached five seasons for the Pride and has led them to the postseason twice. After nearly two decades as an assistant at his alma mater La Salle University, Mihalich took over as the coach for Niagara University, where he led the Purple Eagles to 4 NCAA tournaments. Since taking over at Hofstra, the Pride has made the NIT once, and after a down 2016 season, came back to finish in 3rd in the CAA this season.

This past season, his team fielded four All-CAA players, and Mihalich has garnered strong ratings. With near unanimous strengths such as intensity and accountability (4.3 and 4.4 out of 5 respectively), Michalich has shown that his integrity will be used to help build on his 15 wins in 2017.

5. Mike Martin, Brown University – 3.8 Rating

Our first TOP 5 coach is Brown University‘s, Mike Martin. With a rating of 3.8/5, Coach Martin is the well-loved and increasingly productive as the coach of the Brown Bears. A Brown grad himself, Martin, has developed a reputation as a tough coach and is working to revitalize a Brown program which hasn’t been relevant in the Ivy league in years. A career Ivy League man himself, Martin’s recruiting classes have been the most decorated in the school’s history, with three seniors this year getting All-Ivy recognition.

One of Martin’s players in his review stated that Martin is a “Great coach, very helpful and understanding,” and several others gave him very high ratings in the category of accessibility. Needless to say, a 3.8/5 leaves room for improvement and a 4-10 conference record leaves a lot to be desired, but our #5 coach has the backing of his players, and it is only a matter of time until the Brown Bears are back on top!

4. Will Brown, The University of Albany – 4.2 Rating.

Our First ‘A’ grade on our list got a rating of 4.2/5 rating from his former and current players. The Head Coach of The University of Albany Great Danes has been coaching D1 basketball since 2001 and has led his team to the postseason eight times, including 5 NCAA tournament bids. For reference, The Danes had never been to the postseason before Brown began his tenure at the school.

Coach Brown has racked up wins and honors like no one before him, as he is UAlbany’s all-time winningest coach. But before he was a coach, he attended Dowling College and set the all-time school records (which still stand) in assists, Three-point fields goals, and Free throw percentage. One athlete said, “He is extremely knowledgeable about the game, and truly cares about his players more than most coaches do.” Another player said that he was incredibly personable with the players and said of Brown, “Awesome coach. Could talk about anything.” Brown has accomplished great things on the court, but his relationships with his players are why LRT Sports has him rated as our #4 Men’s basketball coach.

3.  Jim Christian, Boston College – 4.5 Rating

Jim Christian is another fantastic coach whose team is, without a doubt, in his corner. Playing in the ACC as a non-powerhouse is a nightmare for most coaches. Facing schools like Syracuse, Duke, and UNC on a yearly basis is enough to scare most coaches, yet despite a tough (and by tough, we mean 4-32 record) start to his ACC career, Coach Christian led his squad to the NIT this season, their first postseason birth since 2011. Coach Christian exorcised some demons against Duke this season as well. The Blue Devils eliminated Christian’s Rhode Island Rams in 1988 Sweet 16, and his Boston College Golden Eagles hadn’t bested the team from Durham since 2009.

I am predicting that The Eagles make their way back to the NCAA tourney in the next two seasons. This may seem like a bold claim to some, especially those familiar with the daunting task of winning games in the ACC. However, based on our player reviews, the athletes at Boston College love Coach Christian, calling him “The GOAT” and calling him “Honest, helpful, and committed.” The road may not be easy, but the Golden Eagles have the man for the job, and the players in Boston are in his corner.

2. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State University – 4.7 Rating.

Does this guy even need an introduction? The long-time Florida State University coach just led his team to their first elite-eight appearance since 1993 and lost a game to Michigan which came down to the final seconds. Hamilton, who played his college ball at UT Martin, has been the Head Coach for the Seminoles for 16 seasons and has consistently been a giant killer in the ACC. With multiple wins over powerhouses Duke, UNC, Syracuse, etc. Hamilton’s Seminoles have always been a tough team to beat.

The fact of the matter is that players play harder for coaches that they trust and respect. Coach Hamilton has NEVER enjoyed the luxury of a Top-25 recruiting class, and yet he has remained in the top half of the ACC nearly every year. His team plays hard for him and, based on their comments and ratings, we can understand why. One player stated that “He’s the truth. He speaks it and follows it.” Another called him “The Best coach at FSU.” However, a heartfelt testimony from one player sums up Hamilton as a coach better than anyone else could: “He has taught me so many life lessons beyond the game of basketball. He has taught me how to be a man. How to persevere. How to work hard. And how to be a good person. I thank you, coach, for all the amazing life lessons you have given me.” Hats off to you, sir.

1. John Becker, University of Vermont – 4.7 Rating.

CAN I GET A DRUMROLL PLEASE!!! Folks, it is that time, we have reached the highest-rated coach on our site! With a whopping 4.8/5 rating, the University of Vermont’s John Becker is the most beloved Men’s Basketball coach in the country! Success has been steady in Becker’s tenure at Vermont. The coach of The Catamounts has amassed a ridiculous 93-19 conference record, which includes a 16-0 conference season, and two 15-1 seasons. The Catamounts were eliminated on a buzzer beater by UMBC (a team who then went on to become the first 16 seed to beat the first seed in the NCAA tournament) in the American East Tournament final, causing them to settle for an NIT Tournament Bid.

In addition to all of the success on the court, Coach Becker has established himself as a fantastic leader to his players off the court! One player review stated that Becker is a “Players coach who knows how to motivate a team and understands the in’s and out’s of basketball.” And if you thought that was high praise, one player said this of Becker: “I would trust him coaching my [future] kids, I think that says it all.”

Our Number 1 coach is beloved by his players, and it’s no surprise that a coach who has created this environment at a program has enjoyed so much success. I see no reason why the Catamounts’ dominance of the American East shouldn’t continue as long as Becker is at the helm!

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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