7 Coaching Greats Who’ve Never Made a Final Four
In the minds of many college basketball fans, reaching a Final Four is the true measure of being a good coach. But for every Mike Krzyzewski there’s a John Chaney — a coach who never made the Final Four, despite years of success.
Bo Ryan is taking Wisconsin to the Final Four — it’s his first trip after more than 700 career victories, meaning he no longer has that cloud hanging over his head. That’s a feat some of his colleagues in the field would like to duplicate sooner than later.
Here’s a look at seven active coaches who you may not realize haven’t made a Final Four in their career.
Brey, who began his head coaching career at Delaware in 1995, has piloted the Notre Dame program since 2000, often putting together competitive teams that seem poised to make a deep run in March. The Fighting Irish have consistently stumbled, though, with their best showing a Sweet 16 back in 2003.
Dixon is the man in charge at Pittsburgh and his teams haven’t just been good – they’ve been great. Despite regular season success, the Panthers have never marched to the Final Four under his watch. In 2009, they made the Elite Eight for their best showing in the Dixon era and that was a disappointment, considering the Panthers were a one seed. They also earned a top seed in 2011, but couldn't make it past the round of 32.
Alford's story is something out of ‘Hoosiers.’ A hero in Indiana, he led IU to the NCAA title as a player in 1987 under Bob Knight before his coaching career in the D-1 ranks took off in 1995 at Southwest Missouri State. Alford's greatest postseason success would actually take place there, with a trip to the Sweet 16 in 1999. He’s had stops at Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA (his current job) since, but never made it past the first weekend with any team he’s coached since then.
Hamilton’s coaching days stretch back all the way to 1986 when he was the head man at Oklahoma State. He later rebuilt Miami’s program, taking the Hurricanes to a Sweet 16 in his final year in 2000. Following a disastrous stint as head coach of the Washington Wizards, Hamilton returned to the college ranks in 2002 with Florida State, where he has enjoyed a good run. In 2011, the team enjoyed its best season with an appearance in the Sweet 16. He still puts a solid product on the floor, though -- the Seminoles haven't had a losing season since Hamilton's inaugural campaign on the sidelines there.
Lavin is one of the glamour boys of the sport, beginning his coaching career in high-profile fashion with the storied UCLA program. In his first season, he led the Bruins to an Elite Eight and it seemed like a Final Four was all but inevitable. He never advanced that far again and he and UCLA parted ways in 2003, even though he went to five Sweet 16s in seven seasons. After several years with ESPN, Lavin took his current post with St. John’s. He snagged a tournament berth in his first year in 2011, but the team lost its opening game. The Red Storm haven’t been back to the big dance since.
Few carried the momentum Dan Monson generated when he took over Gonzaga from Monson in 1999. The Bulldogs immediately went to the Sweet 16 in his first two seasons and made another one in 2009. Despite all the regular season wins, Few has never brought his team to the promised land, even though expectations have grown. The Bulldogs have been everything from a one seed to a 12 seed during their current tournament run.
Romar resides in relative anonymity in the Pacific Northwest, leading the Washington Huskies. He’s been a head coach since 1996 when he took over Pepperdine. He moved on to Saint Louis before Washington came calling in 2002. He’s made a trio of Sweet 16s, all with the Huskies, but has yet to get over the hump.