The Pac-12 is finally starting to pull out of its funk from recent seasons. For a few years, the Pac-12 more closely resembled a mid-major, producing only two NCAA Tournament teams in 2012 and 2010.
Perhaps it’s no surprise the league’s coaches are in a state of flux. Five coaches remain from 2008-09, the last time the league sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament. Washington’s Lorenzo Romar and Cal’s Mike Montgomery are Pac-12 staples by now, but three other coaches remaining from that season — Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins — are under pressure to show improvement now.
The theme of the offseason in the league was the arrival of new coaches at both Los Angeles schools, Steve Alford at UCLA and Andy Enfield at USC. Neither hires were viewed as slam dunks. Alford has precious few signature moments in the NCAA Tournament and Enfield is only two years removed from being an assistant at Florida State.
Arizona’s Sean Miller, Oregon’s Dana Altman, Colorado’s Tad Boyle and Montgomery have all remade their programs into Pac-12 contenders and players on the national stage, meaning both L.A. coaches have work to do to catch up.
*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.
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1. Sean Miller, Arizona
Record at Arizona: 96-43 overall (.691), 48-24 Pac-12 (.667)
NCAA Tournament: 11-6
It may be too early to say Sean Miller has returned Arizona to Lute Olson levels, but the Wildcats aren’t too far off. After a 16-15 mark in his first season, Miller has led Arizona to an 80-28 record in the last three, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 2011 and Sweet 16 in 2013. With a star-studded freshman class led by Aaron Gordon, Miller has a team that will contend the Final Four, a milestone the Wildcats haven’t reached since 2001.
2. Mike Montgomery, Cal
Record at Cal: 109-59 overall (.649), 59-31 Pac-12 (.656)
NCAA Tournament: 18-16, one Final Four
By going 12-6 in the Pac-12 last season, Montgomery is the first Cal coach to win 10 or more conference games in five consecutive seasons since Pete Newell did it in the ‘50s, a run that included the 1959 national championship. Montgomery may not replicate his run at Stanford, but Cal has proven it will be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament slot each season, no matter the changing personnel.
3. Dana Altman, Oregon
Record at Oregon: 73-37 overall (.664), 32-22 Pac-12 (.593)
NCAA Tournament: 4-9
Who would've pegged Altman this close to the 500-win club? Odds are the Ducks coach will get there this season. He’s won 20 games in 14 of the last 15 seasons with Oregon and Creighton. Not bad for an interesting start to his tenure. He wasn’t the first choice for the Ducks, but Altman has been a success in Eugene. His teams have changed quite a bit in three seasons due to transfers in and out of the program, but three consecutive 20-win seasons is the best run at Oregon since 1935-39.
4. Tad Boyle, Colorado
Record at Colorado: 69-38 overall (.645), 29-23 Big 12/Pac-12 (.558)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Colorado is one of the lucky basketball programs that has seen conference realignment work in its favor. The Buffaloes are 21-15 in the Pac-12 with back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since 1962-63. Boyle, who also laid the groundwork at Northern Colorado, has restored interest in basketball in Boulder, both from fans and aspiring NBA Draft picks.
5. Lorenzo Romar, Washington
Record at Washington: 237-129 overall (.648), 118-82 Pac-12 (.590)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7
Washington’s sixth-place finish in the Pac-12 was the Huskies’ lowest in the league since 2007-08, prompting Romar to clean house on his staff. Romar has had little trouble bringing talent to Washington over the last decade, but the Huskies haven’t always had consistent results. Washington has missed the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons, but the Huskies won either the Pac-12 regular season or tournament title in four consecutive seasons from 2009-12.
6. Steve Alford, UCLA
Record at UCLA: First season
NCAA Tournament: 5-7
Is Alford a better coach than predecessor Ben Howland? Maybe not, but UCLA hopes he’s a better coach for UCLA than Howland was at the end of his tenure. Alford led New Mexico to its best seasons since the late ‘90s, winning the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles in each of his last two seasons. Just as relevant to UCLA, Alford did so with a recruiting pipeline to Southern California. Here’s the catch: Alford’s teams have been seeded third in the NCAA Tournament three times in his last four trips only to lose before the second weekend.
7. Herb Sendek, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 120-109 overall (.524), 53-73 Pac-12 (.421)
NCAA Tournament: 7-7
Give Sendek credit: He’s a survivor. Between his tenure at NC State and his recent years at Arizona State, Sendek is regular on hot seat list. The Sun Devils went 9-9 in the Pac-12 last season after two consecutive losing seasons. With Jahii Carson at point guard, Arizona State may have to improve from the NIT to the NCAA Tournament to keep Sendek surviving in Tempe. Sendek was 20-16 in the conference with an NCAA Tournament appearance with James Harden on the roster. He’s 33-57 in the league otherwise.
8. Andy Enfield, USC
Record at USC: First season
NCAA Tournament: 2-1
Enfield may be the coach to restore excitement to the USC basketball program as he brings Dunk City to Los Angeles. But he’s awfully inexperienced (two seasons of Atlantic Sun head coaching) to be taking his first major head coaching job, let alone on the other side of the country. He’s hired a staff that knows the lay of the land, so that’s working in his favor.
9. Johnny Dawkins, Stanford
Record (all at Stanford): 94-74 (.560 overall), 39-51 Pac-12 (.433)
NCAA Tournament: None
Non-losing seasons in the Pac-12 the last two years (10-8 then 9-9) and an NIT title in 2012 were enough to keep Dawkins employed at Stanford, but he remains way behind the standard set by predecessors Mike Montgomery and Trent Johnson. Sooner or later, Dawkins will be judged on NCAA Tournament appearances, or lack thereof.
10. Craig Robinson, Oregon State
Record at Oregon State: 78-89 overall (.467), 31-59 Pac-12 (.344)
NCAA Tournament: None
Robinson has led Oregon State to the postseason three times in five seasons, but the College Basketball Invitational isn’t what most programs would consider great success. Going 15-21 in Pac-12 was encouraging in Robinson’s first two seasons, but the Beavers haven’t elevated their play since then, finishing in a tie for last in the league in 2012-13. With a veteran team returning, Robinson will be under pressure to perform in his sixth season.
11. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Record at Utah: 21-43 overall (.328), 8-28 Pac-12 (.222)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
The record is dismal, no doubt, but Krystkowiak inherited a mess at Utah, including player transfers like Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss) and Will Clyburn (Iowa State). Improving from six wins in his first season to 15 in his second was a major jump forward, especially as the Utes defeated Oregon and Cal amid a 4-1 finish.
12. Ken Bone, Washington State
Record at Washington State: 70-65 overall (.519), 26-46 Pac-12 (.342)
NCAA Tournament: 0-2
Bone had a long track record of success at Seattle Pacific and Portland State before arriving in Pullman. The Cougars have had three losing seasons in four under Bone with a handful of off-court issues to go with it. This is one of the Pac-12’s toughest jobs, but Bone started with momentum from the Tony Bennett era.