College basketball: Ranking the Mountain West's coaches for 2013-14

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Steve Fisher rebuild the Aztecs to take the top spot

Steve Fisher rebuild the Aztecs to take the top spot

For much of the last four seasons, the Mountain West could argue it belongs in the same breath as the power conferences.

Indeed, the MWC has produced 16 NCAA Tournament teams in the last four seasons, including five last year, to mach the SEC in that span. The Pac-10/12 has produced only 13 in that time.

The work to improve the Mountain West to major league status is thanks in part to rebuilding jobs by coaches like Steve Alford, Lon Kruger, Tim Miles and Dave Rose, coaches (and teams) that are no longer in the league.

But some of the coaches who built the league’s current prestige are still here, chief among them San Diego State’s Steve Fisher, who has led the Aztecs to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Leon Rice at Boise State and Larry Shyatt at Wyoming are trying to replicate Fisher’s success by turning dormant programs into contenders.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Ernie Anderson.


Other conference coach rankings
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1. Steve Fisher, San Diego State
Record: 466-252
Record at San Diego State: 281-171 overall (.622), 113-97 MWC (.538)
NCAA Tournament: 23-12, three Final Fours, one national championship
Fisher’s San Diego State tenure alone would give him top honors in the Mountain West. He took over a program that had never won an NCAA Tournament game and turned it into a regular conference contender and top-25 team. The last two seasons ended in disappointment as the Aztecs lost in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament to double-digit seeds, but Fisher has led San Diego State to a 55-23 league record in the last five seasons while improving the program’s recruiting profile significantly.

2. Larry Eustachy, Colorado State
Record: 428-267
Record at Colorado State: 26-9 overall (.743), 11-5 MWC (.688)
NCAA Tournament: 4-5
Eustachy took over a veteran team in Fort Collins and did what everyone expected by taking his fourth program to the NCAA Tournament. Now that the seniors are gone, there’s little doubt he can maintain the momentum here. Eustachy revived a dormant Southern Miss program and led Iowa State to national prominence before landing in the Mountain West.

3. Stew Morrill, Utah State
Record: 584-267
Record at Utah State: 366-129 overall (.739), 186-62 Big West/WAC (.750)
NCAA Tournament: 1-9
Before the last two seasons, Utah State was about as automatic as any program in the WAC. The Aggies won four consecutive regular season titles from 2008-11. He’s essentially college basketball’s Bill Snyder, recruiting junior college prospects at a high level and avoiding tough non-conference competition. Morrill’s peers rate him as one of the best Xs and Os coaches, according to a poll by ESPN, but his program will be tested in a tougher Mountain West.

4. Leon Rice, Boise State
Record (all at Boise State): 56-41 overall (.577), 22-24 MWC/WAC (.478)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
The former Mark Few assistant has led Boise State to two 20-win seasons in three years and the program’s second NCAA Tournament berth since 1994. More could be on the way as the Broncos return the core of last season’s team that went 9-4 in the MWC.

5. Dave Rice, UNLV
Record (all at UNLV): 51-19 overall (.729), 19-11 MWC (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 0-2
Rice returned to his alma mater with the promise of returning to the Runnin’ Rebels style of old. The players are here (No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett), but the Rebs have yet to find a mix that works consistently in Rice’s two seasons.

6. Larry Shyatt, Wyoming
Record: 130-119
Record at Wyoming (second stint only): 41-26 overall (.611), 10-20 MWC (.333)
NCAA Tournament: None
Winning 20 games at Wyoming is tough. Shyatt has done it in back-to-back seasons, the first time it’s happened in Laramie in a decade. The Cowboys were one of the last undefeated teams standing last season at 13-0, but the season was derailed after Luke Martinez’s suspension following a bar fight. Wyoming went 8-14 without him.

7. Craig Neal, New Mexico
Record: First season
Neal has tried to get head coaching jobs in the past, but one hasn’t opened up for him until Steve Alford left for UCLA. He’s never been a head coach, but he was Alford’s right-hand man through the rebuilding process in Albuquerque.

8. Dave Pilopovich, Air Force
Record (all at Air Force): 20-20 overall (.500), 10-13 MWC (.435)
NCAA Tournament: None
Elevated to head coach late in the 2011-12 season, Pilopovich at least made Air Force a tough out in the MWC last season. The Falcons defeated NCAA Tournament teams Boise State, San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico en route to 18 wins, the most for the Academy since 2006-07.

9. David Carter, Nevada
Record (all at Nevada): 74-58 overall (.561), MWC/WAC (.565)
NCAA Tournament: None
Nevada had a 13-1 season in the WAC spoiled by Louisiana Tech in the conference tournament in 2012. It’s been downhill from there with a 3-13 in the MWC last season. One of the most consistent mid-majors out West has been anything but.

10. Rodney Terry, Fresno State
Record (all at Fresno State): 24-39 overall (.381), 8-22 MWC/WAC (.267)
The longtime Texas assistant has an uphill climb at Fresno State, but players will come to Fresno (Paul George, Greg Smith).

11. Dave Wojcik, San Jose State
Record: First season
Wojcik helped Leon Rice rebuild Boise State. He’ll try to replicate that with the Spartans, who have won fewer than 10 games in seven of the last 11 seasons.

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