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Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Pac-12

Sean Miller

Sean Miller

Not that this is going to assuage fans of our No. 12 team here, but the difference between the 12th coaching tandem in the Pac-12 and the fourth is razor thin.

Indeed, there’s a lot to like about the final Pac-12 coaching tandem on this list.

The Pac-12 coaching tandems for 2014 had a knack for balancing struggling basketball coaches (Ken Bone and Craig Robinson) with superb football coaches (Mike Leach and Mike Riley).

In other spots, there are known commodities as basketball coaches (Lorenzo Romar, Tad Boyle and Mike Montgomery) paired up with football coaches new to the Pac-12 level (Chris Petersen, Mike MacIntyre and Sonny Dykes).

The top two picks for coaching tandems were a little easier given our primary criteria in ranking the tandems: Balance.

To reiterate, we like a coaching tandem that keeps fans happy from the start of football season to the end of basketball season, from August to April. That made our top two picks clear in our eyes.

1. Arizona
Football: Rich Rodriguez | Basketball: Sean Miller
Sean Miller’s last four NCAA Tournament appearances have resulted in either a Sweet 16 or an Elite Eight. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to the Final Four or better, especially as he’s returned Arizona to national powerhouse status. Rodriguez has made the most of his second chance in a major conference since his ill-fated tenure at Michigan. The Wildcats have back-to-back eight win seasons and back-to-back bowl wins in two seasons under RichRod.

Football: Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Steve Alford
With 19 wins in two seasons, UCLA football is a factor again in the Pac-12 even if the Bruins haven’t broken through for a conference title. Alford’s hire was greeted with skepticism, but the Bruins are in NCAA Tournament contention in his first season in Westwood. Expectations soon will be higher.

3. Stanford
Football: David Shaw | Basketball: Johnny Dawkins
Shaw has established himself as the top football coach in the Pac-12, leading the Cardinal to back-to-back conference titles. Stanford is 34-7 with three BCS bids under Shaw with plenty of potential to continue given his recruiting success. Dawkins hasn’t matched the success of his predecessors Mike Montgomery or Trent Johnson, but Stanford basketball is finally back in NCAA Tournament contention after a six-year absence.

4. Arizona State
Football: Todd Graham | Basketball: Herb Sendek
Graham’s reputation as a job jumper will follow him around, but he can coach. The Sun Devils improved from 6-7 the year before he arrived to 8-5 his first season to 10-4 in his second. Sendek is a veteran coach who is probably earning himself more time after entering the season with his future in question. Arizona State is poised for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009.

5. Oregon
Football: Mark Helfrich | Basketball: Dana Altman
Helfrich went 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12 in his first season as a head coach. The next question is if he can sustain Oregon as a national power. Altman wasn’t the first choice for the basketball program, but he’s led the Ducks to a Sweet 16 berth in his third season. Sustainability will be worth watching for Altman as well. His program has been a haven for high-profile transfers, for better or worse.

6. Washington
Football: Chris Petersen | Basketball: Lorenzo Romar
Washington ended up being the school that could finally pry Petersen away from Boise State. Petersen’s predecessors Dan Hawkins and Dirk Koetter struggled once they left Boise though neither was as highly regarded as Petersen, who led Boise State to two undefeated seasons. Romar’s program has been up and down. He has three Sweet 16 appearances, three conference tournament championships and two regular season titles during his tenure.

7. Colorado
Football: Mike MacIntyre | Basketball: Tad Boyle
Colorado has made two of the best coaching hires in recent seasons, and the Buffaloes needed them in a major way. Boyle has led Colorado to three consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in school history. A fourth and third consecutive NCAA appearance could be on the way despite a season-ending injury to Spencer Dinwiddie. The football program is counting on MacIntyre to replicate his reclamation project at San Jose State.

8. Cal
Football: Sonny Dykes | Basketball: Mike Montgomery
Montgomery is one of the top coaches in the Pac-12 — going back to his time at Stanford. Cal is rarely one of the top teams in the league, but the Bears have been consistently above average under Montgomery. That’s not easy at Cal. Football is starting from scratch under Dykes, who had a good track record at Louisiana Tech, but the Bears were a dreadful 1-11 in his first season in Berkeley.

9. Oregon State
Football: Mike Riley | Basketball: Craig Robinson
Riley generally has been an overachiever at Oregon State, leading the Beavers to 36 wins in four seasons from 2006-09. That said, Oregon State has had a losing conference record in three of the last four seasons. Basketball has made strides under Robinson, but the program hasn’t been able to get over the CBI hump. That’s not likely to change in his sixth season.

10. Washington State
Football: Mike Leach | Basketball: Ken Bone
Wazzu is creeping back toward relevance in football as Leach has installed his pass-oriented offense in Pullman. The transition might have been slower than expected, but a bowl appearance in his second season is a major improvement from where Washington State was only three seasons ago. With an overall losing record in five seasons, Bone may be near the end of his tenure with the basketball program.

11. USC
Football: Steve Sarkisian | Basketball: Andy Enfield
USC athletics director Pat Haden didn’t have much of a grace period, having to make a number of key hires early in his tenure. He twice went young an energetic with Sarkisian and Enfield. One is a known commodity who was a former assistant who already had success at a Pac-12 school (Sarkisian). The other was an obscure name until he won two games in March (Enfield).

12. Utah
Football: Kyle Whittingham | Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak
In no other league would Utah be ranked last, but the Utes are still looking to be competitive in both sports. Whittingham has a Sugar Bowl victory on his resume, but the Utes are 9-18 in Pac-12 play in three seasons. Krystkowiak took over a mess of a program mired in player transfers. He’s laid the groundwork for a competitive team that could head to the NIT only two seasons after going 6-25.

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