Hold your homerisms, Chris Holtmann is off the table for this one.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is officially football season. We know how much Buckeye fans and Land-Grant Holy Land followers love some Buckeye football and we will have some incredible content over the next few months following the football team. But, as always, we will continue to give you some top tier Ohio State basketball content as well to feed your inner hoop dreams.
Last week, we debated who will be the worst team in the Big Ten this season and after losing most of their entire team, the audience agreed that it would be the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Justin picked the Gophers and got 68% (52 votes) while Connor picked the normally reliable Nebraska Cornhuskers on this topic and got 24% (18 votes) of the votes. 8% (6 votes) went to other but again, no one specified in the comments who is other, so that will remain a mystery.
This week, we will be discussing the top coach in the Big Ten. For homerism sakes, we are leaving Chris Holtmann out of the discussion since he is clearly No. 1 at everything he does (at least that’s what people on twitter tell me I think).
After Justin’s win this week, he takes another step forward in his battle against each other, but Connor still leads 9-5.
After 17 weeks
(There has been one tie)
So, lets dive into this topic and as always, make sure to subscribe to our Bucketheads podcast on LGHL and follow us on Twitter @bucketheadsLGHL
Today’s Question: Who is the best coach in the Big Ten ?
(Chris Holtmann not included)
Connor: Tom Izzo
Here’s the reason why I’ve raced out to a commanding 9-5 lead over young Justin here: I don’t complicate things. When you buy donuts, always get sprinkles. If the defense shifts while you’re batting, you hit the ball the other way. If it rains, find the rainbow right afterwards.
When you’re forced to pick one coach, take the the future hall of famer. Don’t overthink it.
Sure, I may have compared him to Ant-Man in the past and said that he looks like a troll standing next to his players, but let’s let bygones be bygones. You don’t need to agree with the methods, but you can’t argue with the results.
Izzo is on track to become the all-time winningest coach in Big Ten basketball history. His 643 victories is second to only Bob Knight’s 659 — a mark that Izzo will eclipse this season, barring a disastrous turn of events in East Lansing. His eight final four appearances in 26 seasons is the most all-time in the conference, and his 23 NCAA Tournament appearances is second all-time behind Knight’s 24 — another mark that Izzo will likely reach this season.
When looking beyond just the lens of the Big Ten Conference, Izzo is 31st-all time in victories with 643, and at 66 years old, has at least four or five more seasons left in him (unless he decides to coach into his mid-70s like Coach K). If we assume 25 wins per season (his average season) for five more seasons, he’ll end his career with somewhere around 775 career victories, which would tie him with Fred Taylor — yes, that Fred Taylor — for 15th all-time.
Izzo has coached seven players to All-American honors, with the most recent being Cassius Winston in 2020. He has also coached 20 NBA draftees, including 11 first-round selections. As far as his own awards go, he is a three-time B1G Coach of the Year (1998, 2009, 2012) and was the AP National Coach of the Year in 1998.
Yet, the most impressive aspect of Izzo’s reign is not something that can be counted like wins, draft picks, or Sweet Sixteens. Tom Izzo has a knack — a nerve-wracking, terrifying knack — for overperforming expectations. How can one of the all-time greats overperform, you may ask?
The Spartan basketball program is one of the premier programs in college hoops, certainly. However, calling them a “blue blood” may be stretching the term just a bit. They’re 27th all-time in wins, just two spots ahead of the Buckeyes. They’ve won two national championships, but have not won at all in 21 years (they were the last Big Ten team to do so). Izzo recruits at a high level, but he is not pulling in five-stars and All-Americans at the same rate as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, etc.
In fact, Izzo’s most difficult teams to face are often the ones that don’t include any five-stars, All-Americans, or future draft picks. For some reason, those teams, like the 2020-2021 version, are the teams that tend to turn it on at the end of the season and exceed expectations. This past season, Michigan State began the season 8-7, including an embarrassing loss to Northwestern. But the Spartans were able to right the ship and finish the season 15-11 (including a humongous win over the fourth-ranked Buckeyes), somehow sneaking into the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed, where they lost to UCLA in overtime.
Justin: Matt Painter
Connor may get Izzo but I like my pick in Matt Painter. First of all, when every Ohio State hoops fan says where is their least likely place to see the Buckeyes play because of bad memories, the answer is Mackey Arena. That is the stellar culture that Painter has helped build and cultivate there.
Second of all, like the great DJ Khaled said, all he does is win. Painter is 380-189 (.668) overall and at Purdue he is 355-184 (.659). That is a pretty remarkable record for being in the Big Ten — at Purdue, no less — for the majority of his coaching career. Painter has been with the Boilermakers for 17 of his 18 seasons.
Not to mention, Painter took over for the iconic and legendary Gene Keady. Obviously, taking over a big time program after a big time coach like that can be stressful and difficult and hard to live up to the expectations, but as he has always done, Painter just came in and started winning for Purdue. That is one way to live up to the name and legacy.
Purdue is never at the top of the recruiting rankings board, but they always seem to compete at the top of the Big Ten, notoriously one of the tougher conferences.
Painter is a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, one-time National Coach of the Year, he was the MVC coach of the year in Southern Illinois in 2004, and has won three Big Ten regular season championships.
Painter is an all-time coach.