Coaching Trees: A Family Affair

- Ky McKeon


Every master was once a beginner, every knight was once a squire, and every head coach was once an assistant. In this off-season article, we take a look at the family trees of current head coaches across college basketball, tracing their lineage back to a primary ancestor (within reason, of course). 

To achieve this undertaking, I took a look at the occupation history of all 350+ current head coaches and assigned each to a specific coach's "tree". A particular coach's tree was identified as either 1) a long-tenured service under one coach (significantly longer than other stops) or 2) service under a coach that directly led to a coach's current coaching position or break-in to the ranks of "head coach". Further, only positions at a Division 1 school were considered, as were only true "assistant coach" positions (i.e. no graduate assistant years counted).

For example, Travis Steele began his career under Kelvin Sampson at Indiana, but spent his last 10 years at Xavier. Steele served one year under Sean Miller, but it was Chris Mack who Steele served under the longest, and it was directly after being under Mack's tutelage that Steele finally reached the head coaching ranks. 

For some coaches, this was a subjective process. A handful of coaches have had multiple Division 1 stops during their careers, each of which were arguably equally "influential" to the coach's current outlook and approach.  In those cases, I assigned what I'm dubbing "2nd Branches". These are coaches that clearly had an impact on the subject coach's career, but had less of an impact than another.

Example: Seton Hall's Kevin Willard began his career under Al Skinner and spent significant time under the former BC coach's instruction. However, Willard spent six seasons as an assistant at Louisville under Rick Pitino, a position that he held right before being hired as head coach of Iona. In this instance, Willard is part of Rick Pitino's "main tree" and Al Skinner's "2nd Branch". 

The Trees

(Below is only a few of the more notable trees - tweet us @_3MW_ if you want to see more!)

Rick Pitino

Notable Offspring: Herb Sendek, Tubby Smith, Kevin Keatts, Kevin Willard, Richard Pitino, Sean Miler (grand kid)

Pitino, disgraced though he is, has the distinct honor of owning the largest family tree in college basketball. Yes, I realize Ricky P. isn't a current head coach - go kick rocks. A staggering nine head coaches currently holding office across the country came directly from Pitino's tree and another two came from Pitino's 2nd branch. If you include Pitino's "grandchildren" in this family tree scenario, the long-time front-man has had direct significant impact on 21 current head coaches, or roughly 6% of all college basketball:

Mike Krzyzewski

Notable Offspring: Mike Brey, Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski

Coach K began his illustrious career at Army under long-time Indiana head-man (and notable chair-thrower) Bob Knight. As such, K is brothers with fellow Knight offspring Mike Davis and Chris Beard. The Duke coach's tree is a little more, shall we say, "incestual" than other coaches - five of the six direct descendants under Coach K played for him at one point or another:

Bill Self

Notable Offspring: Danny Manning, Tim Jankovich

Here's a fun one! Possibly the biggest surprise I found while on my coach research crusade was that Bill Self spent significant time under current Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton (aka Bunny Colvin). While Self did start his career under the legendary Larry Brown, he spent eight seasons at Oklahoma State, four under Hamilton and three under Eddie Sutton. This was a tough call tree-wise, but I ultimately decided to give the "main branch" edge to Hamilton, while making Self part of Sutton's 2nd branch:

Lon Kruger

Notable Offspring: Dana Altman

Kruger has held six head coaching jobs during his career, five of which were at the college level. During this time he's amassed an impressive tree headlined by Oregon head coach Dana Altman:

Shaka Smart

Notable Offspring: Mike Rhoades, Will Wade

Perhaps the most impressive tree belongs to Shaka Smart, who at only 41 years old has produced four current head coaches from his main branch (the third most behind Pitino and Coach K) and two more from his 2nd branch. Shaka started under Oliver Purnell, one of the most mediocre coaches of all time; here's hoping Smart surpasses his sensei:

Bob Huggins

Notable Offspring: Frank Martin, Mick Cronin, Brad Underwood (grand kid)

It makes too much sense that Mick Cronin and Frank Martin are two apples that fell from the Bob Huggins tree:

Roy Williams

Notable Offspring: Mark Turgeon, Jerod Haase, Tad Boyle (grand kid)

Ole Roy showed the way for Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who in turn has built a nice little tree of his own:

Skip Prosser

Notable Offspring: Chris Mack

Skip Prosser, the long-time Wake Forest and Xavier head coach, left his mark on college basketball that is shown today through three current head coaches, two of which are well on their way to building a family tree of their own: