If you’re surprised that John Beilein is the top performing coach, take a quick look at his record of beating expectations:
1998 – Sprung a 3v14 upset with Richmond (17 of 116 14 seeds have done that)
2005 – Went to the Elite Eight as a seven seed with West Virginia (only seven of 116 seven seeds have done this, to which I say “Pittsnogle”)
2006 – Reached the Sweet 16 as a six seed with West Virginia
2009 – Sprung a 7v10 surprise with Michigan
2011 – Won an 8v9 toss-up with Michigan
2013 – Reached the championship game last year as a four seed (just three of 116 four seeds that accomplished this feat)
Beilein failed to live up to expectations only twice—losing in round one with Canisius as a 13 seed in 1996 (no shame) and getting shocked by Ohio in a 4v13 match-up two years ago. Altogether, he’s beat expectations six times in eight tries (that’s what SOAR measures above) and owns a +.775 PASE. That’s means he’s better than seed-projected wins by more than three-quarters of a game per dance.
Beilein’s PASE skyrocketed after last year’s improbable run to the finals. Before the 2013 dance, he was just the eighth-best PASE performer. Rick Pitino also improved significantly, while Sean Miller, Billy Donovan and Tom Izzo basically held steady. These results have created a logjam at the top of the PASE list. Just look at the first five coaches on the chart. They all have PASE values over .700—and just .036 separates them. Interestingly, while Beilein has overachieved at a higher rate than any coach, Sean Miller has beaten expectations more frequently (five times in six tries).
So…how does the most successful coach of the modern era rate in terms of performance against expectations? Coach K is definitely an overachiever, with a PASE of +.346, good enough for ninth best out of 61 veteran coaches. But he’s clearly a notch below the top PASE performers. Part of the reason for that is Duke’s recent penchant for underperformance. In the last nine dances, the Blue Devils have exceeded seed-projected wins just twice, posting a underperforming -.688 PASE. The fact is, Duke isn’t just the winningest school in modern tourney history; they’re also the biggest victim of upsets. Coach K’s squads have lost to teams seeded four or more positions below them an eye-popping ten times.
Doesn’t mean much to me - fact is that if a given team is a high seed, said team is going to “underachieve” much more than “overachieve” simply because there is no wiggle room for error for the high seed. Conversely, if a given team is a low seed, there is much more wiggle room to “overachieve”. Example - if UA is the overall #1 seed, they basically “underachieve” if they lose in the championship game or lose any game prior to the F4. I don’t think anyone would call that underachieving in practical terms. Also, a 9 seed beating an 8 seed is techinically “overachieving”, but once again, in practical terms, that’s not really an achievement but rather winning a perceived toss up.
Plus most of the list is coaches who achieve seeds 4 and higher. Belein is at 8. Doesn’t conform to the narrative of “more wiggle room” or there would be the opposite effect.
JB is in the company of Larranaga, Sean Miller, Mike Anderson and Steve Fisher. You have to go 6 spots lower to find a comparable average seeding to JB. It’s statistically significant whether you want to believe it or not.
Even if flawed, their logic for seeding is consistent. The names that get thrown out as great coaches are atop this list and it isn’t surprising. Can we at least admit we have one of the best coaches in America on our team and enjoy it?
Even if flawed, their logic for seeding is consistent. The names that get thrown out as great coaches are atop this list and it isn't surprising. Can we at least admit we have one of the best OFFENSIVE coaches in America on our team and enjoy it?
Bottom line in my opinion - a coach can’t be anything less than average on either side of the court in order to be considered one of the very best. While I very much like JB as a person and respect the fact that the team has improved under his watch, the man simply can’t field a team that is at least average defensively on a consistent basis. JB is a good coach but to label him among the very best is kind of ridiculous considering he doesn’t have a ring.
I could simply list any coach that has won a champ in the last 10-15 yrs but that would be pointless in my opinion.
Active coaches with 2 or more Final Four Appearances:
Bill Self (2)
Thad Matta (2)
Bob Huggins (2)
Steve Fisher (3)*
Billy Donovan (3)
Larry Brown (3)
John Calipari (4)
Jim Boeheim (4)
Tom Izzo (6)
Roy Williams (7)
Rick Pitinio (7)
Mike Krzyzewski (11)
Make it on this list, and I’d say you’re an elite coach.
Are there really good coaches not on this list? Yes.