With the American Athletic Conference tournament fast approaching, a handful of teams in the American are vying for an NCAA tournament spot. Great coaches often serve as the backbone of so many successful college basketball teams, and with March Madness just a few weeks away, the Daily Campus Sports staff debates which team in the American has the best coach on the sideline.
Matt Barresi: For all the heat it gets, the American has some pretty good coaches when it comes to men’s basketball. I’ll go with Kelvin Sampson and it’s not just because they came into Gampel and knocked UConn off. He’s got a National Coach of the Year, Pac-12 Coach of the Year and experience on multiple NBA coaching staffs. No doubt he’s had his issues off the court, but on the court you can’t argue his success. He’s a great recruiter, albeit even if some of his past recruiting was illegal. He has the highest winning percentage in the history of the University of Oklahoma and took them to a Final Four and an Elite Eight. He turned around Washington State and he was on his way to success at Indiana before allegations derailed his tenure. He has a great pedigree and is turning Houston back into a contender. I love Kevin Ollie, but given the chance to choose a coach, I’m taking Sampson.
Shahan Kamal: I think that the clear-cut choice is Larry Brown at Southern Methodist University. Brown is the only active coach in the NCAA who has won both a national championship and an NBA title as head coach. The Mustangs have been a tough team under Brown, from making the final of the NIT in the 2013-14 season to claiming the American title and championship last year. Even though SMU is stuck with a postseason ban and lost five players from last year’s squad, they have shown a lot of resilience in a strong start to the season, headed by seniors Nic Moore and Marcus Kennedy. With only an eight man rotation, Brown has managed to overcome the losses and has motivated his team to a strong record, including a perfect record in 12 non-conference matchups. It would’ve been easy for any coach to give up on the season, but Brown has the Mustangs holding the best record in the American. There’s no doubt that he’s the best men’s basketball coach in the conference.
Connor Donahue: When looking at the top coaches of the American, it would be tough to overlook 2015 American Conference coach of the year Fran Dunphy from the Temple Owls. Dunphy has coached for over 25 years between Penn and Temple; he owns a .648 winning percentage, his 310 wins at Penn are the most by any Penn coach and are good for second all-time in the Ivy League. Since coming to Temple, Dunphy won a number of accolades while the Owls were still members of the Atlantic 10. Obviously, the transition into the American has been tough, but Dunphy and Temple have had an impressive season thus far, and will continue to be a problem for the Huskies for years to come.
Connor Donahue is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shahan Kamal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.