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College Basketball: Ranking the American Coaches for 2014-15

Larry Brown

Larry Brown

The top of the American Athletic Conference coaches brings two coaches who reached the pinnacle of the college game 26 years apart.

One is in the twilight of a 35-year career that has included titles in the NBA and college. The other is just getting started.

Oddly enough, Larry Brown and Kevin Ollie also coach at two programs that couldn’t differ more in status, though Brown is coaching the upstart while Ollie is at the established power.

Brown and Ollie aren't the name coaches to watch in the ever-changing AAC. Mick Cronin, Josh Pastern and Fran Dunphy have all led successful programs while Frank Haith and Kelvin Sampson are veteran newcomers to the league.

As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.

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1. Larry Brown, SMU
Record at SMU: 42-27 (.609)
NCAA Tournament: 19-6, three Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: The Mustangs missed the NCAA Tournament but went 2-0 against eventual national champion Connecticut.
Why he’s ranked here: After only two seasons, the 73-year-old Brown has done what no SMU coach has done since Doc Hayes — make the Mustangs relevant.

2. Kevin Ollie, UConn
Record at UConn: 52-18 (.743)
NCAA Tournament: 6-0, one Final Four, one championship
Number to note: Ollie won a national title only four years into coaching career — two seasons as an assistant and two seasons as a head coach.
Why he’s ranked here: The future is limitless for a 42-year-old who took over for a legendary coach (Jim Calhoun) and recovered from NCAA sanctions a year earlier to win a title.

3. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Record at Cincinnati: 162-107 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 3-6
Number to note: Cincinnati has ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defense on KenPom in each of the last four seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: With 101 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons, Cronin brought Cincinnati back from hitting the reset button 10 years ago.

4. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Record at Houston: First season
NCAA Tournament: 12-14, one Final Four
Number to note: Sampson’s teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in 14 of his last 15 seasons in college coaching at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana.
Why he’s ranked here: He may be a risk to ignore NCAA rules, but he’s proven he can thrive in adverse situations at OU and Wazzu.

5. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Record at Temple: 167-97 (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 3-15
Number to note: Before the bottom fell out in Temple’s first season (9-22) in the AAC, the Owls averaged 24.3 overall wins and 12.3 wins in the Atlantic 10 the previous six seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Only Temple predecessor John Chaney (516) has more wins in Philadelphia Big 5 history than Dunphy at Temple and Penn (477).

6. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record at Memphis: 130-44 (.747)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Pastner ended a 12-game losing streak against ranked teams last season by going 5-5 against top 25 teams after an Oklahoma State loss in November.
Why he’s ranked here: Pastner’s not John Calipari, but he’s come into his own as a head coach the last two seasons.

7. Frank Haith, Tulsa
Record at Tulsa: First season
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: Since winning the Big 12 Tournament in 2012, Missouri under Haith lost to a No. 15 seed and a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament before missing the Big Dance altogether.
Why he’s ranked here: Haith escaped Missouri ahead of the hot seat talk to start fresh at Tulsa.

8. Ed Conroy, Tulane
Record at Tulane: 65-65 (.500)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Progress has been incremental at a tough job: Conroy went 3-13 in Conference USA his first two years, followed by 6-10 then 8-8.
Why he’s ranked here: Conroy also supervised major improvement at The Citadel, but his Tulane program has been dinged by transfers (Josh Davis to San Diego State, Ricky Tarrant to Alabama).

9. Orlando Antigua, USF
Record at USF: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: A top recruiter for Kentucky the last six seasons where no class ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite.
Why he’s ranked here: Though he’ll be associated with Kentucky and Calipari, Antigua helped Jamie Dixon establish his program at Pittsburgh with a five-year stint with the Panthers.

10. Jeff Lebo, East Carolina
Record at East Carolina: 73-61 (.545)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Lebo brought East Carolina its first 20-win season in school history at 23-12 in 2012-13.
Why he’s ranked here: At four stops (Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga, Auburn and East Carolina), Lebo has coached 501 games without an NCAA Tournament appearance.

11. Donnie Jones, UCF
Record at UCF: 76-52 (.594)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: NCAA sanctions hit Jones with a show cause and stalled momentum for the program. UCF won 20 games in three consecutive seasons before falling to 13-18.
Why he’s ranked here: The former Florida assistant has never finished higher than fourth in the conference in his seven years at UCF and Marshall.

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