College Basketball Nation: Travis Ford

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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Marcus Smart came flying out of nowhere, secured the ball and kicked it back out to a teammate, all in one motion.

Smart’s offensive rebound late in the second half of Oklahoma State’s 72-65 win over No. 5 Kansas at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday night sent a message to the Jayhawks and everyone watching:

Marcus Smart was going to impose his will during the final four minutes.

And that’s exactly what the Cowboys point guard did.

"He made big plays down the stretch … huge plays," OSU coach Travis Ford said. "There aren’t many [players] that have his competitive toughness."

Competitive toughness, will and desire are just a few of the words that could be used to describe Smart’s excellence when it mattered most on Saturday night. Simply put, he took over the game with a mindset that he would not be denied.

"We were extra focused tonight," he said. "We knew we would have to close out the game down the stretch if it came down to it, especially if we wanted to win."

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Smart was a different player for Oklahoma State in the second half.
Smart scored eight points in the final 4:24 after his offensive board, sparking a 12-4 run to secure the win for OSU and give the Cowboys’ NCAA tournament hopes a much-needed boost. The Cowboys trailed 61-60, and the sophomore was 2-of-11 from the field when Smart’s hustle resulted in another OSU possession.

After that play, Smart was 3-for-3 down the stretch and made play after play while a Jayhawk squad, led by dynamic freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, didn’t have answers.

Smart had 20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in the final 20 minutes. Those second-half numbers came after a first half that saw him head into the locker room shooting 0-of-7 from the field with more turnovers than assists (two to one). The preseason Big 12 player of the year finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 1 block.

"My teammates stayed in my ear and told me keep shooting, keep driving and to just do what I do," Smart said. "They told me [to] let my defense create my offense, so that's what I was trying to do. I think I had four steals, so I got back to what I do, and I let my game come back to me in the second half."

His second-half performance was a not-so-subtle reminder why Smart entered the season as one of the national player of the year candidates. Images of him pushing a fan or smacking a chair in disgust during OSU’s struggles in Big 12 play have made it easy to forget why Smart’s name was on the lips of all college basketball fans heading into the season.

As the calendar turned to March, Smart turned his play up another notch.

"When you’re great at something and it’s not going your way for a while, you’re not just going to quit," Ford said of Smart’s first-half struggles. "Marcus struggled a lot, but then, he made a lot of big plays. After the game, I told him he's a piece of work. You have to stick with him because he's going to make plays. He's a competitor."

Smart’s performance helped the Cowboys improve to 19-10, 7-9 in in the Big 12 and extended their win streak to three games after a seven-game losing streak during February.

"Our focus was different tonight," Smart said. "Losing those seven straight games opened our eyes to a lot of things, with a majority of those being not closing out a lot of those games."

OSU’s tournament hopes have been in jeopardy since that seven-game Big 12 losing streak, but there’s no doubt where the Cowboys belong come tournament time in the eyes of Jayhawks coach Bill Self.

"They’re definitely a tournament team. They’re too talented," Self said. "They can get hot and make a serious run. There’s no question."

Marcus Smart enjoys his return

February, 22, 2014
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- The last time Marcus Smart had walked off the court, he was shouting, pointing his finger and slapping away the hands of anyone who tried to console him.

In his return from a three-game suspension that began with a shove at Texas Tech, Smart walked off court with a big smile. Then he gave his coach a big hug.

“It was good to see him smile,” said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, who returned the embrace.

“Hadn’t see that in a while.”

The Marcus Smart who rose to college basketball stardom while playing with infectious joy -- instead of contagious frustration -- finally resurfaced Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The menacing two-way player resurfaced, too, lifting Oklahoma State to a convincing 84-62 victory over the Red Raiders to snap the school’s longest losing streak in 41 years.

“Marcus was the difference,” said teammate Le’Bryan Nash, who led the Cowboys with 21 points. “Getting our point guard back, our leader back, it was exciting. He controlled the whole game. That’s what we’ve needed. It was an ‘A-plus’ performance for him.”

In other words, Smart looked like his old self.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Smart had 16 points and a career-high 10 assists in his return to the Oklahoma State lineup.
He scored 16 points, dished out a career-high 10 assists and stole the ball six times, not including two offensive fouls he forced with tenacious defense.

“It was fun out there for the first time in a long time,” Smart confessed.

The frustration of underperforming as his NBA draft stock tumbled on a team that was massively underachieving finally got the best of Smart on Feb. 8 in Lubbock, Texas.

Hearing something that may or may not have been said, he charged into the stands and shoved Texas Tech fan Jeffrey Orr, which prompted the suspension.

Smart was in Stillwater while his teammates got routed at Texas. He was in the locker room when they fell to Bedlam rival Oklahoma. And he watched on TV as they came up short in an overtime defeat at Baylor.

“It was crazy being able to practice with my team and not to get to play with them,” Smart said. “I felt lost.”

But while away, Smart seemed to find himself. He also saw some of what had been ailing a team that had lost seven in a row. And back on the court, he finally played without the draft or preseason expectations weighing down his broad shoulders.

"When he's playing his best," Ford said, "he energizes everybody."

After a four-minute scoring drought, Smart energized the Cowboys midway through the first half. Collecting a deflection, he flipped the ball behind his head to Markel Brown for an easy layup. After Phil Forte nailed a 3-pointer, Smart stepped in front of a Texas Tech pass and finished the play with a finger roll. Brown canned a 3 on the following possession, capping a 12-2 run that ended with Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith calling a timeout.

"Whenever you have a player of Marcus Smart's caliber, it can take you to another level,” Smith said. “They were energized having Marcus back."

During another critical sequence seconds before halftime, Smart muscled his way into the lane for a driving basket. He stole the ensuing inbounds pass and banked in the shot just before the buzzer sounded, giving the Cowboys a nine-point lead.

“It was a big momentum change for us,” Smart said. “Definitely got this crowd into it. Took the life out of Tech going into halftime.”

The Cowboys swarmed Texas Tech in the second half, before Smart delivered the exclamation point. In the last two minutes, he bounded through the lane for a left-handed jam. The next possession, after his jump shot was partially blocked, Smart managed to bat the ball to Kamari Murphy under the basket for another slam.

Moments later, Ford subbed him out to a standing ovation. Leading to a big Smart smile.

“Positive energy is kinda weird,” Smart said. “It becomes contagious. Losing was very contagious. With this victory, if we can play like we played today, maybe that can become contagious, and we can start a different streak. A winning streak.”

Despite losing seven in a row, Oklahoma State kept its NCAA tournament hopes flickering with Saturday’s win. Sure, the Cowboys hammered a Texas Tech team long on coaching and short on talent, especially with leading scorer Jaye Crockett hobbled by tendonitis in his knee.

But this wasn’t just the best Oklahoma State had played since Smart’s suspension. It was the best the Cowboys had looked at least since beating Texas in early January, and maybe all the way back to the nonconference portion of the schedule when they jumped to a 12-1 start and a No. 6 ranking in the polls.

“Doesn’t mean we’re back,” Ford cautioned. “Doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It just means we’re capable.”

The Cowboys had showed signs of being capable, even before Smart's return. Despite its depleted roster, Oklahoma State carried a lead over the Sooners into the final two minutes.

Having to use an array of walk-ons, the Cowboys simply ran out of gas at Baylor.

“The last two games, we played decently, played hard,” Ford said. “We were hoping that when Marcus came back, we would build on that and he would help us take that next step. Today we did. Don’t know about tomorrow. But we did today.”

If Oklahoma State (17-10, 5-9 Big 12) can keep taking such steps, the NCAA tournament could still be within reach. The Cowboys go to last-place TCU on Monday before getting Kansas in Stillwater next weekend. A victory over the Jayhawks might be enough to take Oklahoma State back to the right side of the bubble.

“When your back is against the wall, and that’s the only way out, amazing things can happen,” Ford said.

Especially when Marcus Smart is playing with a smile.

Video: Katz Korner on Marcus Smart

February, 11, 2014
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Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford talks with Andy Katz about the incident between Marcus Smart and a fan.

Game Plan: So, that happened

February, 10, 2014
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Game Plan is our Monday morning primer, designed to give you everything you need to know about games that were and the games that will be in college hoops this week. Send us feedback and submissions via email and Twitter.

So, Marcus Smart pushed a guy. Maybe you heard a little bit about this? Maybe your entire Sunday was dominated by it! I hope not, for your sake.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Smart
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsA severe lack of judgment cost Marcus Smart three games. Will it cost his Oklahoma State team even more than that?
Still, folks will be talking on this Monday morning -- although not nearly as much after that other far more important thing that happened in sports Sunday night -- so you may want to get caught up. Here’s the deal:

  • Our news story, with all of the pertinent info -- heavily reported by Andy Katz, Jeff Goodman, Jake Trotter and the Associated Press -- is available here. On Sunday night, Oklahoma State announced that Smart would be suspended three games for shoving a fan after an altercation. Smart accepted that punishment and apologized, but did not take questions from reporters. Neither he nor coach Travis Ford provided details on exactly what was said. The Texas Tech fan involved, Lubbock-based air traffic controller Jeff Orr, also apologized in a statement, and said he would not go to any home or road games. He also insisted he did not use a racist slur.
  • The overheated reaction to what was essentially a slight shove -- Orr was moved backward, but never fell down -- cooled Sunday night, in large part because all of the parties involved handled their damage control exceedingly well, but also because the freakout was pretty silly in the first place.
  • In the end, the only party that didn’t come out looking well was Ford, as our own Dana O’Neil unsparingly detailed Sunday night: “Ford has done nothing to help Marcus Smart this season. His failure to act is as much to blame for Smart's meltdown as Smart's own immaturity and lack of self-control. Given the opportunity during Sunday night's news conference to either own up to his blame or at least admit Smart had issues that led to this mess and three-game suspension, issues that he could have addressed, Ford demurred. Rather, he spoke about Smart, placing the totality of blame on his player's already overburdened shoulders.”

Now the Cowboys -- and hopefully everyone else -- will move forward, with lessons learned the hard way, beginning with Tuesday night’s game at Texas.

I think that just about covers it.

ICYMI: TOP STORIES

Wisconsin survives Michigan State 60-58, in thrilling finish. On Saturday, Adreian Payne started for the Spartans for the first time since an early-January injury robbed him of seven key games in the heart of Michigan State’s conference season. He looked better than ever all afternoon, constantly challenging and pressing Wisconsin’s defense, finishing 9-of-16 for 24 points. His final three points -- a deep shot off a double curl screen that coach Tom Izzo dialed up down 3 with 15 seconds to play -- should have made him the hero. Instead, it only momentarily delayed Michigan State’s loss. Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson got the ball out of the rim, raced downcourt and iced a too-easy step-back midrange jumper that gave Wisconsin the win. (Oh, and for the record, Travis Trice's last-second return heave was agonizingly close.) It was a massive win for the Badgers, aided by a 3-for-20 night from Gary Harris, that helped ease their monthlong struggles in the Big Ten. Did they turn the corner?

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AP Photo/LM OteroNick Russell and SMU made a statement in their rout of a Cincinnati team that entered the game undefeated in the American Athletic Conference.
SMU ends Cincinnati’s 15-game win streak in rout and is really, genuinely good. Back on Jan. 4, when the Mustangs handled UConn and star point guard Shabazz Napier with relative ease in their suddenly vibrant home gym, we issued an official greeting to the “new SMU” -- the result of legend Larry Brown’s rapid-fire turnaround. Five weeks later, the Mustangs haven’t missed a step. On Saturday, they routed -- not just beat, but routed -- Cincinnati, an indefatigable team riding a 15-game winning streak that included wins over Pittsburgh, UConn, Memphis and Louisville, the latter two on the road. If there is one area where SMU might be lacking, it is reproducing these kinds of performances on the road. This week presents a fascinating little challenge: The Mustangs have road games at Rutgers (Thursday) and Temple (Saturday).

Memphis got a nice win against Gonzaga. Saturday’s featured "GameDay" special was almost immediately overshadowed by the Marcus Smart mess, but for posterity’s sake, let’s note that the Tigers played about 32 minutes of very so-so basketball before turning it on down the stretch and edging Gonzaga on its own floor, 60-54. It wasn’t a statement win, or even particularly impressive. But it was a nice win all the same.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Creighton was upset by St. John’s Sunday night, but Doug McDermott’s 10 field goals pushed him to 1,000 on the season for his career, making him the first player since 1992-93 to score 1,000 field goals in a season career.

THE GAMES YOU NEED TO SEE

(For two more in-depth previews of big games in the week to come, check back for Monday morning’s “Planning for Success” series.)

Tuesday

Oklahoma State at Texas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Oklahoma State-related reasons for tuning in to this game Tuesday night are pretty self-apparent. But what about Texas? The Longhorns rose all the way to No. 15 last week after a series of impressive wins (Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Kansas) but fell flat in a 74-57 turnaround loss at K-State Saturday. Smart-related drama aside, this is a big one for both teams.

Wednesday

Syracuse at Pitt, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Wednesday offers a massive ACC doubleheader on the mothership network, and for all the heat and pomp of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, Syracuse at Pitt looks like the better game. The Panthers, and star Lamar Patterson, have struggled lately, losing home games to Duke and UVa and needing overtime to win on the road at Miami and Virginia Tech, two teams with a combined 19 wins between them. But the Panthers, who don’t turn the ball over often and record an assist on 63.8 percent of their made field goals -- sixth best in the country -- are inherently designed to work well against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and nearly knocked off the ‘Cuse in the Carrier Dome on Jan. 18. It should be a good one.

Duke at North Carolina, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Just because Syracuse-Pitt looks like the better game doesn’t mean this one will be bad. Quite the contrary: Duke’s scorching-hot offense -- the Blue Devils have averaged a ridiculous 1.24 points per possession against ACC opponents -- will meet with UNC’s defense, one of the few things that the Tar Heels have been remotely consistent at this season. Jabari Parker & Co. should be able to get stops against a UNC offense that still hasn’t really figured things out. But if Duke’s scoring dips slightly, we could get a close, exciting addition to this legendary rivalry.

Saturday

Florida at Kentucky, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: How about this week for Florida? On Tuesday, the Gators will be expected to beat Tennessee in Knoxville, despite the Vols being this season’s best example of a team that is much better on a per-possession basis (KenPom rank: No. 24) than their losses indicate. Then, on Saturday, it’s on to Lexington, Ky. to face the uber-talented Wildcats, their keyed-up offense and an insane "GameDay"-juiced Rupp Arena crowd. A split would be more than satisfactory. Two victories will speak volumes.

Sunday

Villanova at Creighton, 5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1: The last time these two Big East title contenders met, Creighton submitted one of the great offensive performances in the history of college basketball. The Bluejays also exploded Villanova’s previously stout defense into smithereens, and on its home floor to boot. The Wildcats could have fallen apart; they would have had good reason. Instead, they’ve rattled off five straight wins, the first three of them on the road, keeping themselves very much in the conference championship hunt. It’s safe to bet Creighton won’t go full Metal Gear Solid “Extreme” difficulty mode in the rematch. But can Villanova do enough to earn redemption?

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Joe JacksonJoe Murphy/Getty ImagesMemphis guard Joe Jackson grabs a rebound over Gonzaga forward Przemek Karnowski. Jackson's second-half block of the 7-foot-1 Karnowski helped spur the Tigers to a thrilling come-from-behind win late against the Zags on Saturday.

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Walking toward the locker room, Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane looked haggard yet relieved. His words said it all.

"Man, that was huge," he said.

Indeed, it was.

Kane’s Cyclones had just capped off their 98-97 triple-overtime win over Oklahoma State at Gallagher Iba Arena on Monday night. The Cyclones appeared on the brink of falling below .500 in Big 12 play multiple times during the three-overtime thriller, but ISU made the key shots and got the key stops when it needed them to earn the program’s first win in Stillwater since 1988, a span of 18 games.

With both teams sitting at 4-4 in Big 12 play and understanding the critical nature of the head-to-head battle, ISU and OSU took turns throwing punches and responding to each other’s runs during regulation and the first two overtime periods. Cyclones sophomore Naz Long hit a 3-pointer to force a third overtime after OSU appeared poised to earn an emotional win on the night the program honored former longtime coach Eddie Sutton.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Kane
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsIowa State needed every one of DeAndre Kane's 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in its triple-OT win over Oklahoma State.
"He rose up with no fear and hit the biggest shot of the game to extend it," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Freshman guard Monte Morris buried a clutch 3-pointer with less than a minute left in the third overtime to give the Cyclones a lead they would never relinquish, as Le'Bryan Nash’s last-second jumper clanged off the rim.

"We had guys step up [with] Naz, Monte making huge shots," said ISU forward Melvin Ejim, who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds. "The confidence coach instills in us to go out and knock down that shot with confidence showed today. We had multiple guys step up and make big shots."

Now Iowa State’s fortunes could be turning after having lost four of their past six games heading Monday’s clash. The schedule becomes Iowa State’s friend over the next four games, with ISU (17-4, 5-4) hosting TCU (Feb. 8), Texas Tech (Feb. 15) and Texas (Feb. 18), with another big Monday matchup at West Virginia on Feb. 10 serving as the lone road tilt.

"To gut this win out was huge. It would have been a very difficult loss," Hoiberg said. "I’m proud of our guys to win it."

For Oklahoma State, things aren’t looking quite as rosy. The loss dropped the Cowboys below .500 in Big 12 play with their third straight loss, Marcus Smart struggling, the dismissal of freshman guard Stevie Clark earlier in the day and questions about effort surrounding Travis Ford’s squad.

The Cowboys (16-6, 4-5), who rose as high as No. 5 in the AP poll earlier this season, ended Monday in seventh place in the Big 12.

Ford, OSU’s sixth-year coach, was a man of few words after the game as adversity continues hit the Cowboys locker room, but his words were revealing.

"There were things we can build on that we haven't seen in the last week and a half," Ford said. "That's the positive part of it. We just need to go get a win and go from there. We need to play with that kind of effort for 40 minutes."

Positive words based purely on the effort of a team that was considered among the nation’s best at one point this season? This is not why Smart returned to OSU. The Cowboys are on the brink of disaster as they enter the second half of conference play.

Asked how his team can get things back on track with back-to-back road trips to Texas Tech and Texas on the horizon, Ford was at a loss for all words but one.

"Win," he responded.

Video: Ford on Oklahoma State outlook

December, 22, 2013
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Andy Katz talks to Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford about the Cowboys' 78-73 victory over Colorado and tough competition in the Big 12.

Rick Pitino: His coaching tree

September, 4, 2013
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Rick PitinoStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesRick Pitino hasn't just won two national titles and taken three separate schools to a Final Four -- he also has provided a strong group of assistants who have had success of their own.
Editor's Note: Three legendary college basketball coaches -- Jerry Tarkanian, Rick Pitino and Guy Lewis -- take center stage this weekend as the trio is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. We'll be devoting a day to each as we examine what made them HOF-worthy. Here is Tuesday's tribute to Tarkanian.

There are coaching trees and then there is the forest birthed by Rick Pitino. Imagine crossing a redwood with a sequoia. And then adding the Rockefeller Christmas tree on top for good measure.

That gets you maybe a quarter of the way up the branches of Pitino’s tree. No fewer than 13 of his ex-assistants and/or players currently serve as college head coaches (Mick Cronin, Scott Davenport, Billy Donovan, Travis Ford, Marvin Menzies, Richard Pitino, Kareem Richardson, Steve Masiello, Herb Sendek, Tubby Smith, Reggie Theus, Kevin Willard, Sean Woods). And if you stretch the list to include former head coaches or current assistants, it goes on for miles.

Between them, Pitino’s disciples have four national championships of their own (two for Donovan, one each for Smith and Davenport). So trying to pick the best of this family tree is like trying to pick your favorite uncle. Highly subjective.

Consider this attempt just that, then -- an attempt to amass a list of the most successful ... with an out clause list of others who were left off.

1. Billy Donovan: Before he won two national titles at the University of Florida, Donovan was Billy the Kid, the feisty point guard who led Providence and Pitino to the Final Four in 1987. Two years later, Donovan and his mentor reconnected at the University of Kentucky, where Donovan cut his coaching teeth as an assistant until 1994. Embarking on his own as a head coach, first at Marshall and now at Florida, Donovan has rolled up 13 NCAA tournament bids and has been to at least the Elite Eight in five of the past six appearances.

2. Tubby Smith: Smith had the unenviable job of following in Pitino’s well-heeled footsteps at Kentucky, when Pitino’s one-time assistant returned to Lexington as head coach in 1997. Smith picked up right where his old boss left off, leading the Wildcats to their seventh national championship in his first season. Smith would go on to reach the 100-win mark faster than any other UK coach not named Adolph Rupp and collect five SEC titles. The former head coach at Tulsa and Georgia went on to Minnesota and is now at Texas Tech.

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Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesJeff Van Gundy went from being an assistant under Rick Pitino at Providence to leading the New York Knicks to the 1999 NBA Finals.
3. Jeff Van Gundy: The popular NBA analyst and former NBA head coach was part of a pretty impressive bench lineup at Providence. Van Gundy was the graduate assistant, alongside assistants Herb Sendek and Stu Jackson, when the Friars went to the Final Four in 1987. Van Gundy, who was working as a high school head coach before Pitino hired him, used that coaching gig to launch his own career. He’d eventually serve as head coach for both the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.

4. Jim O’Brien: The son-in-law of one Hall of Famer (Jack Ramsay), O’Brien would begin working alongside a future Hall of Famer in 1994, when he joined Pitino at Kentucky. Long a college coach in his own right, O’Brien helped Pitino usher the glory years back to Lexington and when Pitino jumped to the Boston Celtics, O’Brien went with him. Little did he know it was the beginning of his own career. It was O’Brien who would take over in Boston after Pitino epically flamed out, twice leading the Celtics to the playoffs. He’d then go on to two more NBA head-coaching jobs, with Philadelphia and Indiana, before retiring at the end of last season.

5. Herb Sendek: The master of his own pretty heavily limbed coaching tree, Sendek got his start under Pitino. The western Pennsylvania native joined the Providence staff as a graduate assistant before moving up to assistant coach. When Pitino left PC for Kentucky, Sendek went with him, spending four seasons with the Wildcats before launching his own head-coaching career. Sendek has gone from Miami (Ohio) to NC State to Arizona State and now has 20 years of head-coaching experience. He has made seven NCAA tournaments and has three conference coach of the year awards.

6. Frank Vogel: No one can trace their roots directly to Pitino quite as thoroughly as the Indiana Pacers head coach. After meeting Pitino at Five-Star camp in Pittsburgh, Vogel, then a student at Juniata College, decided he was transferring on the spot to Kentucky. He had no promise of anything from Pitino but after loitering around the gym for weeks, he got a two-week trial period helping out assistant Jim O’Brien. A year later he was a student manager, and after graduation served as a video coordinator. The coach was so impressed with Vogel’s abilities that when Pitino went on to the Boston Celtics, he brought Vogel with him, hiring him as the team’s video coordinator. Vogel would outlast Pitino in Boston, staying on as an assistant coach under O’Brien. Six years later, when O’Brien was fired at Indiana, Vogel was named the Pacers’ interim coach. This past season under Vogel, the Pacers made their first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 2004.

7. Mick Cronin: The son of a head coach counts his father and Pitino as his two biggest mentors. He joined Pitino at Louisville in 2001 after five seasons at the University of Cincinnati under Bob Huggins. Eventually becoming Pitino’s right-hand man and associate coach, Cronin was lauded for his recruiting savvy and eventually parlayed that into a head-coaching job at Murray State. He led the Racers to two Ohio Valley titles and NCAA tourney appearances before leaving to lead his alma mater, Cincinnati. Cronin has been credited with reviving the Bearcats, who had just one returning player when he arrived on campus.

8. Ralph Willard: One of Pitino’s closest friends and confidants, Willard worked alongside the Hall of Famer in three different stretches -- first as an assistant with the Knicks (1987-1989), then later at Kentucky (1989-90) and finally, at Louisville (2009-2012). In between, Willard forged his own impressive career, serving as head coach at Holy Cross, Pittsburgh and Western Kentucky. He had his best success at his alma mater, Holy Cross, leading the program to four NCAA tournament berths and amassing a 192-117 record at the Patriot League school.

9. Travis Ford: The beloved Kentucky point guard started his career at Missouri but transferred to his home state school because he liked the style of its head coach. That would be Rick Pitino. Ford, fashioned in the same spitfire image of Billy Donovan, would take the Wildcats to three NCAA tournaments. With all that UK love and his coach’s endorsement, Ford landed his first head-coaching gig at the tender age of 26, taking over at NAIA Campbellsville. That led to a job at Eastern Kentucky -- and EKU’s first NCAA berth in 25 years -- which led to a job at Pitino’s alma mater, UMass (and an Atlantic 10 title) and now to Oklahoma State.

10. Scott Davenport: Maybe not as well known as others on this list, Davenport is every bit as successful. In his eighth season at Division II Bellarmine, Davenport has taken a program that was sub-.500 before he arrived all the way to a national championship in 2011. The former high school coach made the jump to the college game in 1996, joining Denny Crum’s staff at Louisville. When Pitino came aboard in 2001, Davenport stayed on staff, working with Pitino until 2005, when he moved on to Bellarmine.

11. Marvin Menzies: As a longtime assistant coach, Menzies' resume went on for pages before he joined Pitino at Louisville in 2005. Menzies’ career had hopscotched from the high school ranks to junior college to San Diego State to USC to UNLV. After just two seasons alongside Pitino, Menzies was a head coach, taking over at New Mexico State. He has since led the Aggies to three WAC titles and three NCAA tournament berths.

Others to be considered: Cal State Northridge head coach Reggie Theus (Louisville assistant, 2003-05); Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard (Louisville assistant, 2001-07); Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey (played at Kentucky); former NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson (Providence and New York Knicks assistant).

 
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The NCAA hasn't had a good year. In fact, it's been on a poor run for a few years now. Still, the men's basketball tournament is the organization's annual shining beacon. It's a time when the term "NCAA" is used and not immediately preceded -- or followed -- by an expletive.

Ah, but even here the NCAA can't catch a break. As in: Did you hear about the tournament selection committee giving Oregon a No. 12 seed? Yeah, a 26-win team -- 4-1 versus the top 25 -- that is fresh off a Pac-12 tournament title run.

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford managed to grin Thursday when asked about the Ducks' controversial seeding. His fifth-seeded team had just been dominated by Oregon 68-55 in a second-round Midwest Regional whipping.

"We ran into a very hot team," he said. "A very hot team."

Were the Ducks poorly seeded by the committee?

"I think they would admit to that," Ford said.

The Ducks used an 8-0 run to take an early lead, and the Cowboys didn't put up much of a challenge in the second half, never cutting the margin to single digits.

Oregon, now 27-8, won with dogged defense, rebounding and superior depth. It shut down Oklahoma State's All-America guard Marcus Smart, and the offensively challenged Cowboys struggled to pick up the slack.

Smart, who hurt his right hand in the second half, had 14 points, but shot 5-of-13 from the field. He had more turnovers (five) than assists (four).

"I let my team down," the freshman said.

[+] EnlargeDamyean Dotson
AP Photo/Ben MargotFreshman Damyean Dotson led all scorers with 17 points as Oregon charged into the round of 32.
Before the game, the story was how the Ducks' smaller guards would be able to deal with the physical Smart. After the game, the story was the Ducks' superior quickness.

Said Ducks guard Dominic Artis, who had four steals: "We tried to keep him real uncomfortable with what he likes to do."

Oregon, which will face No. 4 seed Saint Louis in the round of 32 on Saturday at HP Pavilion, outrebounded the Cowboys 44-30, including a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass. Coach Dana Altman called those numbers "the difference in the game."

"That was the one area where we felt we could dominate the game," he said.

The Ducks' depth was also an advantage. While the Cowboys looked lost with Smart struggling, Oregon thrived despite leading scorer E.J. Singler and Pac-12 tournament Most Outstanding Player Johnathan Loyd combining for just 13 points. Freshman Damyean Dotson offered up a game-high 17 points -- 3-for-9 from 3-point range -- and Carlos Emory added 12. Senior Arsalan Kazemi had 11 and, more important, led the charge on the boards with 17 rebounds.

"Sometimes my teammates tell me I grab their rebounds," the Iranian-born forward said. "I apologize to them."

The Ducks' bench outscored Oklahoma State's 17-9. They also had a 12-6 advantage in second-chance points.

As for the 12th seed, Oregon had downplayed the subject during pregame news conferences, essentially saying it was just glad to be in the tournament. After all, the Ducks hadn't even received an invitation since 2008, last winning a game during an Elite Eight run in 2007.

Even after the victory, Altman didn't act like a wronged party.

"We downplayed it because we weren't going to change it," he said. "There was nothing we could do about it."

Well, other than beat the 5-seed by 13 points and look like a team that still might not yet be done in the tourney.

Podcast: Katz, Greenberg recap weekend

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
12:29
PM ET
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg recap the weekend's action and talk to Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford and selection committee chair Mike Bobinski.

Video: Travis Ford on OSU upset of Kansas

February, 2, 2013
2/02/13
7:35
PM ET


Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford comments on his team's 85-80 victory at No. 2 Kansas.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
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A Big 12 team other than Kansas finally picked up a quality nonconference victory when Texas upset North Carolina in Austin on Wednesday. Don’t get too excited, though. This league still has a long way to go. Here are this week’s power rankings.

1. Kansas. Saturday’s tilt with No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus will be the first true road game for Bill Self’s squad. The Jayhawks’ three most recent victories -- against Colorado, Belmont and Richmond -- came by an average of 31 points. Jeff Withey leads the nation with 5.4 blocks per game.

2. Oklahoma State. Kudos to the Cowboys, who have won four straight since losing at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. Travis Ford’s squad, which gets a combined 30.2 points per game from Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown, hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday and then has eight days off before a New Year’s Eve date with Gonzaga in Stillwater.

3. Iowa State. Christmas has come early for the Cyclones, who don’t play again until Jan. 1. Guard Tyrus McGee has been playing extremely well for Fred Hoiberg’s squad. He’s averaging 13.3 points and shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. Iowa State is 9-3 with losses to Cincinnati, UNLV and Iowa.

4. Baylor. The Bears host Brigham Young on Friday. They. Have. To. Win. Seriously, a team that’s already toting home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern can’t afford to drop another non-league game against an inferior opponent. Baylor has zero chemistry on offense.

5. Kansas State. The Wildcats’ two losses are to Michigan (in New York) and to Gonzaga (in Seattle. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Still, even against mediocre teams at home, Kansas State has struggled to score. That’s not a good thing for a team that takes on Florida on Saturday in Kansas City.

6. Texas. Myck Kabongo won’t play for the Longhorns this season, but Texas didn’t even need him during Wednesday’s 85-67 whacking of an alarmingly sloppy, uninspired North Carolina club. Texas, which is getting 15.5 points from Sheldon McClellan, could pick up some additional momentum with a victory at Michigan State on Saturday.

7. Oklahoma. Wouldn’t you know it? The minute I start complimenting the Sooners for the strides they’ve made under Lon Kruger, Oklahoma goes out and drops a game to Stephen F. Austin. That’s inexcusable, boys. The Sooners' next game, a Dec. 29 visit from Ohio University, won’t be a cakewalk.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers ended a two-game losing streak by squeaking past Oakland on Wednesday. Still, Bob Huggins’ squad may be the Big 12’s biggest disappointment thus far. Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten are averaging a collective 20.5 points.

9. Texas Tech. Chris Walker is going to have a tough time earning the permanent head-coaching position if his team can’t beat McNeese State at home. The Red Raiders showed some fight against Alabama three nights later but still lost 66-62. Arizona State, Saturday’s opponent, is pesky.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs haven’t caught any breaks in Trent Johnson’s first season. Aaron Durley and Amric Fields were both lost to ACL injuries, and now Jarvis Ray is out six to eight weeks with a broken foot.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
9:00
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Last season, the Pac-12 was the toughest conference in the country to power-rank each week. This season, that honor falls on the Big 12. Other than Kansas, the league is filled with mediocre teams that -- at least for now -- don’t appear to have much potential for a deep run in March. But hey, on the positive side, the parity will make for some close, exciting games once Big 12 play begins in January. Here is how the conference looks thus far.

1. Kansas. The Jayhawks clearly have separated themselves from the rest of the Big 12, yet even Bill Self will admit his squad hasn’t looked all that great. Chemistry and depth are issues in the backcourt, and Kansas still is searching for a leader. Saturday’s home game against Colorado is scary.

2. Iowa State. As I mentioned, ranking the Big 12 is a crapshoot at this point, but Iowa State is 6-2 with losses against a pair of ranked teams (Cincinnati and UNLV). The Cyclones boast plenty of weapons with Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. And they’ve got a great coach. Good enough for me.

3. Oklahoma State. I know Virginia Tech has surprised some people, but the Cowboys still shouldn’t have lost to the Hokies by double figures last week in Blacksburg. Travis Ford’s team is too talented to let that happen. Oklahoma State deserves credit, however, for bouncing back with a nice effort in Wednesday’ 61-49 home victory over South Florida.

4. Kansas State. Rodney McGruder appears to have snapped out of his funk and is averaging 19 points in his past two games. Kansas State has played just one good team (Michigan) and lost handily. It’s tough to get a read on the Wildcats at this point, but they’re definitely one of the more experienced squads in the conference.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant again. Oklahoma competed its tail off before losing to Arkansas 81-78 in a difficult road environment Tuesday. Romero Osby is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game for the Sooners, who are off until Dec. 15.

6. Baylor. It seems unheard of for a team to beat Kentucky in Lexington and then drop four spots in the power rankings. But the Bears can’t be trusted. Not yet, at least. Considering its depth and talent, Baylor’s home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern were two of the worst setbacks by any Division I team all season. And it easily could have lost to downtrodden Boston College. There’s no excuse for this team to be playing so sloppily and uninspired.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be on an upswing following Wednesday’s victory over a solid Marshall team, although the victory was marred by a near-brawl that led to the ejections of four WVU players for leaving the bench. Bob Huggins’ squad could gain even more momentum by beating undefeated Virginia Tech on Saturday.

8. Texas. As if a 12-point loss to Division II Chaminade wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Longhorns scored a measly 41 points in Tuesday’s setback against Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic. Even the return of point guard Myck Kabongo might not be enough to save Rick Barnes’ team, which plays UCLA on Saturday in Houston.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finally played a quality opponent last week and, predictably, got exposed in an 85-57 loss to Arizona. Still, there are reasons for optimism in Lubbock. Guard Josh Gray is averaging three steals, and Jaye Crockett is scoring 15.3 points per game. This team will win some Big 12 games, and not just against TCU.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs lost to Houston on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back at Tulsa on Saturday. Coach Trent Johnson is doing well on the recruiting trail but simply lacks the personnel to win many games during his first season in Fort Worth.
College basketball is a multibillion-dollar sport. With so much money at stake -- along with the prestige and exposure that comes with consistent success -- there’s always pressure on coaches to win.

The following list doesn’t necessarily include coaches who are on the “hot seat.” Only the athletic directors and insiders privy to the true statuses of these coaches know what’s necessary for each to maintain his current position. From the outside, however, they all appear to be coaches who need to win. Now.

Another lukewarm season might not cost them their jobs. But it certainly won’t help their respective causes.

Here’s my list of 10 coaches who need to win now:

  1. [+] EnlargeSmith
    Bruce Thorson/US PresswireTubby Smith has yet to lead Minnesota to an NCAA tournament victory in five seasons on the job.
    Tubby Smith (Minnesota) -- Smith has reached the NCAA tournament twice in five seasons since he left Kentucky to take the Minnesota gig in 2007. But he hasn’t won a game in the Big Dance during his time with the Gophers. The extension he signed in the offseason will mean little if the Gophers miss the NCAA tournament again. New athletic director Norwood Teague came from Virginia Commonwealth, where Shaka Smart helped that program attain national relevancy. Teague expects the same in Minneapolis. So the pressure continues to rise for Smith, who’s endured multiple off-court incidents during his term. Proof that he’s seeking public support: Smith now allows media in the locker room after games, a first in his tenure.
  2. Ben Howland (UCLA) -- Accomplishments in college basketball are quickly forgotten. That’s why Howland’s back-to-back-to-back run to the Final Four from 2006 to 2008 seems like an ancient feat. Howland’s recent years have been plagued by personnel issues and underachievement. But there’s a strong buzz surrounding his 2012 recruiting class. Howland, once again, has a roster than can make a run in March, assuming Shabazz Muhammad is cleared by the NCAA. The flip side of the hoopla is that UCLA’s fan base will likely bemoan anything less. So the Bruins must reach their potential, it seems, to keep Howland’s seat cool.
  3. Bill Carmody (Northwestern) -- Northwestern is not a football school or a basketball school. It’s a school school, one that places a great emphasis on its broad academic imprint. But there is discontent with the men’s basketball team’s inability to reach the NCAA tournament. It has never happened. The Wildcats have come close in the past three years -- the most fruitful stretch in the program’s history -- but those seasons all ended without a bid. The swell of disappointment has grown with each close call. Athletic director Jim Phillips reportedly considered a change but ultimately gave Carmody, who is entering his 13th season, a vote of confidence after another possible berth slipped away last season. He might not receive the same support in a similar scenario this season.
  4. Travis Ford (Oklahoma State) -- In his first two seasons, Ford led the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. But the program hasn’t met that bar since 2010. Last year, Ford had an NBA prospect (Le'Bryan Nash) and multiple high-level athletes but still struggled in the Big 12 due to a subpar defense (the Cowboys' 70.8 points per game allowed was the second-highest tally in the league). Oklahoma State continues to invest in basketball. Its latest project, a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the program’s locker room, illustrated its commitment to the sport. But it’s equally interested in winning. And Ford has missed the mark in recent years. He had a young team a year ago, but this season’s group is so talented -- enter Marcus Smart -- that youth won’t be a valid excuse again.
  5. Herb Sendek (Arizona State) -- Few programs endured Arizona State’s offseason shift. Sendek added assistants Eric Musselman and Larry Greer, two men who’ve coached in the NBA, to his staff after finishing with a 10-21 record in 2011-12. Sendek also lost top scorer Trent Lockett (13.0 ppg), who transferred to Marquette to be closer to an ailing mother in Minnesota. The good news: Talented point guard Jahii Carson is eligible. But Carson's presence and the additions to his staff won’t guarantee additional years for Sendek, who was the Pac-12’s coach of the year in 2010. He has to find a way to climb out of the league’s basement in 2012-13.
  6. Craig Robinson (Oregon State) -- President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law has gradually upgraded the talent in Corvallis in his first four years. His best player last year, Jared Cunningham, was a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. But Robinson is still trying to prove that the Beavers are on the rise after finishing seven games under .500 in his first four years (64-71). Last year’s 21-win season was both promising and disappointing. Oregon State had its chances but ultimately finished with a 7-11 mark in Pac-12 play. The loss of Cunningham was a tough one for the program. But its greatest problem last season -- a defense that was ranked 154th in defensive efficiency -- was a collective issue. It’s something Robinson must address in 2012-13.
  7. Kevin Ollie (Connecticut)/Chris Walker (Texas Tech) -- Both Ollie and Walker were placed in similarly uninspiring situations during the offseason. After Jim Calhoun retired, Ollie signed a one-year contract to coach a Huskies team that lost top talents Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi and will not compete in the postseason due to a subpar Academic Progress Rate score. After former head coach Billy Gillispie’s messy offseason exit, Walker inherited a Texas Tech squad that earned one Big 12 victory last season (1-17). Neither Ollie nor Walker is promised anything beyond this season. And their circumstances will limit their abilities to turn their “temporary” tags into permanent ones.
  8. [+] EnlargeJeff Bzdelik
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJeff Bzdelik enters his third year at Wake Forest with just five total ACC victories to his credit.
    Jeff Bzdelik (Wake Forest) -- From 2001 to 2005, the Demon Deacons reached the NCAA tournament. They also secured back-to-back trips in 2009 and 2010. But Bzdelik’s first two seasons were rocky. Under his watch, Wake Forest achieved one ACC victory in 2010-11 and four last year. That’s progress. But is it enough to satisfy a fan base that will watch the neighbors on Tobacco Road (North Carolina State, North Carolina and Duke) enter the season as potential national championship contenders? Bzdelik is on the right track, and Travis McKie and C.J. Harris should help the program move forward in his third season, too. Any movement in the other direction, however, will encourage more scrutiny of Bzdelik’s job status.
  9. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss) -- Kennedy averaged more than 20 wins in his first six seasons, but his program’s name was never called on Selection Sunday. And close never suffices in college basketball. Kennedy’s legacy won’t be defined by his consistency as much it will be marked by the program’s ongoing NCAA tournament drought and his efforts to end it in 2012-13. That’s crucial for Kennedy, who might have a tough time convincing his superiors to keep him with another respectable finish that doesn’t involve a trip to the Big Dance.
  10. Ken Bone (Washington State) -- Bone’s program returns the Pac-12’s leading scorer, Brock Motum (18.0 ppg last season). But Motum’s presence only intensifies the expectations for the Cougars. Bone hasn’t led the team to the NCAA tournament since replacing Tony Bennett in 2009. The Cougars have been inconsistent. A suspect defense (141st in defensive efficiency last year) hasn’t helped. But this season’s Pac-12 is filled with unknowns. Washington State can rise in the standings if it’s tough on both ends of the floor. Another mediocre year sans an NCAA tournament berth, however, will not help Bone extend his time in Pullman.
1. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said he’s on his way toward a full recovery from hip replacement surgery. Ford said he had been dealing with the nagging injury on his left side for two-plus years after putting plenty of miles on his body during a post-basketball career running regimen. “Six or seven months ago, during the season, I couldn’t run anymore,’’ said Ford. Ford went to New York to see a specialist and had the surgery last month. He is still on crutches and has been working on his rehab in the swimming pool and on an elliptical machine. He said he has been on the court for individual instruction. Ford said he’ll be off crutches soon, in time for recruiting in July. He also said he doesn’t have a limp and is expected to make a full recovery.

2. Gonzaga has received word that it will get Providence guard Gerard Coleman to sit out next season and have two seasons of eligibility remaining in the fall of 2013. Coleman averaged 13 points and five rebounds a game. This is yet another example of the Zags’ national reach. Coleman is from Boston. The Zags got into the chase for Coleman when they made contact in trying to land fellow Massachusetts native Alex Oriakhi, who left UConn and eventually landed at Missouri. Coleman will help the Zags’ already highly competitive perimeter in practice.

3. The NCAA says a membership-wide working group is looking at all Division I rules, including all transfer situations. NCAA president Mark Emmert has a task force just for transfer rules. All options are on the table. One, which Division I college coaches fear could be put into action, is a one-time transfer waiver for all players during their career. The NCAA is gathering feedback on all potential changes and there aren’t any specific proposals to review yet. But coaches are expected to push their compliance directors to dismiss a one-time transfer waiver for all players. Players may want to have the freedom to move once in their career. But they likely won’t have a voice on this one.
Pardon my saying, but it is the opinion of this blog that you should immediately go read Jason King's distinctly fun collection of pixels ready for your retinas on something called ESPN.com today. Jason looks at college coaches who, despite all their successes leading incredibly talented players, were in fact not very talented players themselves. Some hardly played in high school; some didn't even get that far. Yet they have succeeded in the sport all the same.

This is a uniquely fun concept because most of us -- and by "most of us" I mean "pretty much every dude you played intramural basketball with in college"* -- like to think we can coach. Coaching does not require innate physical gifts we can never possess. It does not require leaping ability or soft touch. It does not require years of youthful physical tweaks to your jumper's mechanics; it is not reliant on your parents' willingness to pay for expensive basketball camps.

It requires knowledge and feel, management skills and a poker face, X's and O's studies and a deft personal touch, the kind of relatable and universal traits you can learn and pass along, the kinds of things that can sell books about corporate management.

(*Remember those guys? My favorites were the guys who coached their frat-house B-squads. They gave their teams five sideline out-of-bounds plays, three junk zones and an emphasis on motion offense ... none of which their hungover players could ever remember. I recall one opponent showing up in a tie, and he was NOT being ironic. Hey, mini-Izzo, it's intramurals. Step away from the clipboard.)

As adults, we can't imagine ourselves as players. But we can, and do, imagine ourselves as coaches. Knowing some of the most successful coaches in the business weren't necessarily great players only strengthens this merry illusion.

That said, it's not like having "being good at basketball" on a résumé ever hurt a young coach's chances of getting in the game, especially early in his career when contacts, guile and experience are all a young coach really has to offer. Naturally, there are plenty of high-level college hoops coaches who were excellent players in their heydays. In fact, according to College Hoopedia, there are 62 active Division I head coaches who were named to at least one all-conference selection as players in a Division I league.

As a complement to Jason's story, then, here's a list of some of the best former players-turned-coaches in college hoops today. In no particular order:

[+] EnlargeSteve Alford
AP Photo\Fred JewellSteve Alford was the first Indiana player to be named team MVP four seasons in a row.
Steve Alford (coach: New Mexico; player: Indiana): One of my favorite parts of last year's ESPN "30 for 30" documentary "Winning Time" came when director Dan Klores found old footage from the 1987 NBA draft, when the Indiana Pacers passed on Steve Alford to draft future Hall of Famer Reggie Miller instead. The reaction from Indiana residents at the time was, shall we say, less than pleased.

But can you blame them? Not only was Alford a native son of New Castle, Ind., a representative of the state's "Hoosiers"-inflected basketball culture, but he also happened to be a massively successful college player. Alford was the first Indiana player to be named team MVP four seasons in a row, was named to three All-Big Ten teams, became the school's all-time leading scorer (before Calbert Cheaney later broke the record) and, in 1987, won the school its fifth national title, shooting 7-of-10 from 3 and scoring 23 points in IU's last-second win against Syracuse. Also, the ladies really loved his hair.

Danny Manning (coach: Tulsa; player: Kansas): The newly appointed head coach at Tulsa will always have a long way to go to live up to his playing days, when he became one of the greatest players in the storied program's history. The list of honors is almost stunning. Manning left KU as its all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He was named to two All-America teams. In 1988, he won the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards, was the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player, was named the Big Eight Player of the Decade, and led underdog Kansas to the 1988 national title with 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 blocks in the national title game against Oklahoma. Knee injuries cut what could have been a stellar pro career short, and it will be interesting to see how Manning translates his once otherworldy college abilities into improvement for the Golden Hurricane.

Johnny Dawkins (coach: Stanford; player: Duke): Mike Krzyzewski's coaching tree has its fair share of branches, but none so decorated in terms of players as Dawkins. The D.C.-area native was Coach K's first true star player in the mid-1980s, when, in his senior season in 1985-86, Dawkins led the Blue Devils to a 37-3 record and a national runner-up finish. He won the Naismith Player of the Year award that season, and finished his career as Duke's all-time leading scorer, a mark that stood until J.J. Redick came along 20 years later.

Billy Donovan (coach: Florida; player: Providence): When Donovan met former coach Rick Pitino in the West Region final of this year's NCAA tournament, it marked a reunion a quarter-century in the making. Pitino took over as a young coach at Providence in 1985, when Donovan was an out-of-shape reserve who wanted to transfer but couldn't find a taker. After shedding some weight and adapting to Pitino's 3-point-heavy up-tempo system, Donovan went on to average 15.1 points as a junior and 20.6 as a senior, when he earned All-Big East honors and led the Friars to the Final Four. And so the legend of "Billy The Kid" was born.

Corliss Williamson (coach: Central Arkansas; player: Arkansas): The marquee player of Nolan Richardson's early-to-mid-90s run at Arkansas, Williamson was a dominant college power forward. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game (on 58 percent shooting, no less) in three seasons at the school, where he was named to three All-SEC teams and two All-America teams, while leading the Razorbacks to a national title in 1994 and a runner-up finish in 1995. Also, his nickname was Big Nasty, which is an awesome nickname, and a cursory SI Vault search reveals this awesome quote -- a portent of the '90s NBA to come: "Juwan [Howard] is the best player I've gone against this season, but the best I've ever gone against is Shaquille O'Neal [in an AAU summer tournament]," Williamson told SI's William F. Reed in 1994. "All I remember is getting dunked on hard."

Larry Brown (coach: SMU; player: North Carolina): The majority of Larry Brown's thousands of basketball wins have come as a coach at both levels of the game, but before he embarked on his lifelong coaching journey (latest stop: Southern Methodist), Brown was a star in the early 1960s at North Carolina. He led the team in scoring in 1961, was named All-ACC, was a gold medalist on the U.S. Olympic team in 1964 (and a gold medalist on the U.S. Maccabiah Games team in 1961) and went on to play five seasons in the ABA. It's difficult to compare players from the '70s, '80s and '90s to 5-foot-9 guards from the early '60s, but Brown might be the best Jewish basketball player of all time, and it's just as difficult to leave him off this list.

Bryce Drew (coach: Valparaiso; player: Valparaiso): No historical introductions needed here. If you've ever seen more than a few minutes of the NCAA tournament, you've seen Bryce Drew's legendary shot, simply known as "The Shot," because it needs no further clarification. But Drew was far from a one-trick college hoops pony. He also led Valpo to three straight Mid-Continent regular-season and conference tournament titles. When he returned to take over his father Homer Drew's program last season, he arrived as the school's all-time leader in points, assists and 3-point field goals. The dude could always cook.

Fred Hoiberg (coach: Iowa State; player: Iowa State): Speaking of players who could cook, many remember the most popular player in the history of Iowa State -- who just so happens to now be its head coach -- as a deadly shooter. He was, particularly as a long-range specialist in his 10-year NBA career, but Hoiberg was a more well-rounded player during his days in Ames than many recall. (For example: As a sophomore, the 6-foot-4 guard led the team in rebounds.) As a senior, Hoiberg scored 19.9 points per game on the way to All-America and first-team all-Big Eight honors. In the 1993 Ames mayoral race, Hoiberg received "multiple" write-in votes. He's been the unofficial mayor ever since.

Travis Ford (coach: Oklahoma State; player: Missouri, Kentucky): Fun fact: Missouri fans still know Travis Ford as "Travis the Traitor," thanks to his defection from a talented Tigers team to Kentucky after his 1990 freshman season, when he won All-Big Eight Freshman of the Year honors. Ford went on to star at Kentucky, where he was named All-SEC First Team and became the first player in team history to make more than 100 3-pointers in a single season (101), a record that stood for nearly 20 years.

Tony Bennett (coach: Virginia; player: Wisconsin-Green Bay): For all of the great shooters on the list -- for all of the great shooters in the history of the college game -- you might be surprised to learn which among them holds the NCAA's all-time record for career 3-point field goal percentage. Yep: That's Tony Bennett, who finished his career under his father, Dick Bennett, at Green Bay with a 49.7 percent 3-point mark (the highest among any player with at least 200 attempts and 2.0 3s made per game).

Honorable mentions: Pitt's Jamie Dixon (TCU), Bradley's Geno Ford (Ohio), Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy (UAB), Oklahoma's Lon Kruger (Kansas State), Utah's Larry Krystowiak (Montana), Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin (Purdue), Arizona's Sean Miller (Pitt), San Francisco's Rex Walters (Kansas), Richmond's Chris Mooney (Princeton), Oregon State's Craig Robinson (Princeton)

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