On Friday night Kentucky coach John Calipari will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., just a half-hour drive down Interstate 91 from where his head coaching career started in 1988.
Nobody could have predicted 27 years ago that the hard-charging, ambitious young coach would turn around the moribund UMass program -- from 10 straight losing seasons and no NCAA tournament appearances since 1962 to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and a Final Four -- much less become a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But let's be honest. And by honest I mean let's take away all the visceral hatred so many feel toward Calipari, hatred I believe is utterly unfair and based mostly on repeated stereotypes. Calipari making the Hall is probably one of the most obvious first-ballot inductions in history for a college coach.
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Just look at the numbers: Nearly 600 wins. Forty college players sent on to the NBA. One national title. Six Final Four appearances (although two of those were vacated by the NCAA due to improprieties within the Memphis and the UMass programs.)
And he's only 56 years old!
Assuming he stays in the college ranks, he ought to win at least a couple more national titles and a few hundred more games over the next decade.
Of course, that takes some guesswork and projecting, and that's exactly what I'm going to do here. What follows is my list of 10 active college coaches who should be in the Hall of Fame alongside Calipari 10 years from now. Some of these are obvious; you won't be surprised to see Bo Ryan's name on this list. But some are more bold picks, the type of coaches who are on the road to all-time greatness but haven't solidified anything yet.
And one of these is a guy you've probably never heard of.
One quick note: Two coaches who likely would have made this list -- Billy Donovan and Brad Stevens -- didn't because they're both coaching in the NBA now. It's entirely possible that Donovan or Stevens pull a Calipari and return to college after a stint in the pros. If they do, they're back on my road to the Hall.
1. Bill Self, Kansas
Age: 52. Career wins: 559, 40th all time in Division I. Biggest accomplishments: National title 2008, 11 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles (current streak). Why? I'm not sure there's a more impressive streak going in sports than those Big 12 titles, especially since I believe the league is the best in college basketball right now. The only thing that could derail a Self trip to Springfield is a detour to the NBA (the post-Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs, perhaps?), but even then, it would only be a matter of time. Plus it won't surprise me if Self gets to his third Final Four this season with a deep, experienced Kansas team.
2. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Age: 60. Career wins: 495, T-62nd all time in Division I. Biggest accomplishments: National title in 2000, seven Final Fours. Why? Because he has turned Michigan State into one of the best basketball programs in the country since he took over in 1995. The fact that for two decades straight you weren't able to be a four-year player at Michigan State without reaching a Final Four is stunning. That he took last season's team to the Final Four was one of the biggest overachievements in college hoops and a testament to a future Hall of Fame coach.
3. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Age: 67. Career wins: 740, T-32nd all time in all divisions (387 in Division I). Biggest accomplishments: Four Division III titles, two Division I Final Fours. Why? It was unfair that the man who made Wisconsin basketball what it is today was denied the opportunity Calipari was given in April to learn of his Hall of Fame induction as he was coaching in a Final Four. It would have been grand for Ryan to learn of his crowning achievement just as his most talented team was about to play Duke for the national title. Still, Ryan will get in, and it will be sooner rather than later. A true accounting of his career doesn't just focus on Wisconsin (he's never missed an NCAA tournament in 14 years in Madison) but also on his small-school accomplishments (four Division III titles at UW-Platteville, leading that program to the best record in the 1990s among all divisions). It's a great story and a great career, and we should all hope he is enshrined before he retires ... whenever that will be.
4. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Age: 61. Career wins: 693, T-20th all time in Division I (plus 69 more wins in NAIA). Biggest accomplishment: Two Final Fours. Why? Look at the numbers. Only four coaches with more Division I wins than Huggins are not in the Hall of Fame (Lefty Driesell, Lou Henson, E.A. Diddle and Cliff Ellis). But Huggins once confided to me that he isn't quite sure he will make it because for so much of his career he has been cast as a "black hat." (By the way, Huggins is one of the more charming, relaxed coaches I've been around off the court, not the villain he's so easily typecast as.) I'm not so sure Huggins is right about not getting into the Hall. As he keeps climbing up the all-time wins list, keeping him out is a tougher and tougher case to make. And I don't see Huggins leaving WVU any time soon.
5. Harry Statham, McKendree University
Age: 78. Career wins: 1,088, No. 1 all time among men's basketball coaches at American four-year universities. Biggest accomplishment: Coaching at same school for almost half a century. Why? Or perhaps the better question is, "Who?" Statham has been the head coach at McKendree University, just east of St. Louis in Lebanon, Ill., since 1966, during the Lyndon Johnson administration. No, Statham has never coached a Division I game -- McKendree recently transitioned from NAIA to Division II -- but I don't care where you coach: Half a century at one school is Hall-worthy to me.
6. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Age: 52. Career wins: 398 wins. Biggest accomplishments: 2013 Final Four, undefeated regular season in 2013-14. Why? Because Gregg Marshall will be getting to more Final Fours, whether it's at Wichita State or at the blueblood-level program that finally gets him to leave the school where he has presided over the best story in college hoops the past three years. I'm not sure he'll ever leave Wichita State, to be honest; he's got the contract, the fan base and the facilities of an elite program, and he has the most secure job in the country short of Coach K. But if he does it will be to a place where he can win national titles immediately. There's some projecting here, but I'm confident Marshall will be one of the top coaching names in college basketball for a long time.
7. Sean Miller, Arizona
Age: 46. Career wins: 283. Biggest accomplishments: Four Elite Eights. Why? Because if you keep knocking on the door, you'll eventually get in. In his six years at Arizona, Miller has made three Elite Eights but has never made a Final Four. But his teams have lost those Elite Eight games by an average of three points. Essentially, Miller lost three Elite Eight coin flips in a row. Eventually, the coin comes up heads, and at the level Miller is recruiting players to Tucson, my guess is that'll happen pretty soon. Miller's work ethic will eventually lead him to the door of the Hall of Fame -- assuming he stays in the college ranks.
8. Archie Miller, Dayton
Age: 36. Career wins: 90. Biggest accomplishments: 2014 Elite Eight. Why? Whoa, there! Talk about projections and small sample size! But I'm a big believer in Sean Miller's kid brother after seeing what Archie has done at Dayton the past couple seasons. He took one team, an 11-seed, to an Elite Eight. He took the next team -- one so decimated by injuries and disciplinary issues that student managers and graduate assistants were needed to run four-on-four drills in practice -- to the NCAA tournament. His teams often play like the best-coached squads in college hoops. If Miller leaves Dayton for a program that gets elite-level recruits, Final Fours will start raining down on his shoulders. I admit that having him as a Hall of Famer in a decade is highly unlikely. But mark him down as my sleeper pick for 20 years from now.
9. Jay Wright, Villanova
Age: 53. Career wins: 437. Biggest accomplishments: 2009 Final Four, 10 NCAA tournament appearances in the past 11 years. Why? Because he's so damn consistent that the NCAA tournament upsets should be regarded as small sample size outliers, not the final story on Wright. Some people look at last season's crushing second-round loss to N.C. State as one more reason Villanova was overrated. I look at it as an example of the randomness of college hoops. Wright's longevity at Villanova has helped build one of the most stable and successful programs in college basketball. He's going to keep at it, and it wouldn't surprise me if this year's team ended up in the Final Four. Another decade in Philly, another few Final Fours, and Wright feels like a real Hall of Famer.
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Age: 52. Career wins: 438. Biggest accomplishments: 16 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, one Elite Eight, leading Gonzaga to its first No. 1 ranking in school history. Why? Because every small school in the country tries to emulate what Few and Co. have done in Spokane. Turning this far-flung school from completely off the radar to a national basketball powerhouse is one of the most surprising stories in college hoops over the past 20 years. I don't care what conference you are in; Few's streak of 16 conference titles in a row is damn impressive. Yes, he'll need to make a couple of Final Fours for Hall of Fame talk to become real. But trust me: He will. On three separate occasions in the past decade, Gonzaga had a team that could have (should have?) made a Final Four. But sometimes the best team doesn't win in college basketball. Few will eventually make that Final Four, and at that point we'll look back at what he's done at Gonzaga and consider whether he needs to make a trip to Springfield.
Six who barely missed the cut
John Beilein, Michigan; Dana Altman, Oregon; Steve Fisher, San Diego State; Tony Bennett, Virginia: Bob McKillop, Davidson; Rick Byrd, Belmont.