What stands out above all else every year when the Final Four is set is the importance of coaching in college basketball. Without exception, the field of coaches each year is deeply talented and wildly accomplished. That is, yet again, the case with the four coaches this year. You can see coaching mismatches in earlier rounds, but by this point things will be decided on the court, not in the coaches' rooms. This isn't quite the stellar group that was assembled last year - there are three national titles and 16 Final Four appearances amongst the four this year, down from six and 27 last year. When you consider that Coach K was in the group last year to push the average up, though, this year is still very impressive. Here's a look:
Roy Williams, North Carolina
We'll start with the guy with the most hardware amongst this group - the guy who provides two-thirds of the titles and half the Final Four appearances for the group. Williams is making his eighth appearance in the Final Four. He has won it all twice - in 2005 in his second year at UNC with the team led by Marvin Williams and three other lottery picks that year, and with the superpower unit led by senior Tyler Hansbrough four years later. He only made the NIT the year after that last title - though he did win it - but has won at least a game in the tournament every year since and made the Final Four in both 2011 and 2012. This year he has been front-running all year - the team was the preseason No. 1 in the AP poll. They weren't prohibitive favorites, though - the Top 6 teams were within spitting distance of each other in terms of votes. They had an up-and-down trip through the rankings over the season but never fell further than 11th. Keeping things on track - and sheltering the team from the distraction of looming NCAA infractions - means that Williams has done one of his better coaching jobs to get to this point.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
At 71, Boeheim is the elder statesman of this group of coaches. He also leads the way in wins with 988 in his college coaching career - though he and the team were forced to vacate 108 wins last year due to violations. All of those wins have been at Syracuse, a team he has led since 1976. He has announced that he intends to retire at the end of the 2018 season, so he will surely pass the 1,000-win plateau unless he changes his plans. A chance to go out on top with a title might be too much for him to resist. He won his one title in 2003 in that magical year with Carmelo Anthony on board. He made another run to the Final Four in 2013 before losing to Michigan. Overall he has five Final Four trips and has been runner-up twice. Like Williams, he is putting together one of his best coaching efforts this year. He was ineligible for the postseason last year due to the violations, and he has lost scholarships as well. The team looked to be struggling all year, and in the eyes of most people didn't belong in this field. They have found their form at just the right time, though, and are playing not only their best ball of the season but the best the program has played since the 2013 tournament. Whether they can keep it going or not - and it's very popular to bet that they won't - it's been a run to remember.
Jay Wright, Villanova
Wright has led the Wildcats to the second Final Four appearance of his tenure, which began in 2001. The last time, 2009, he lost to Roy Williams and the eventual champions from North Carolina in the semifinals. Before Villanova he spent seven seasons at the helm at Hofstra. He has 472 career wins and has been named conference coach of the year seven times, including each of the last three years in the Big East. He was also Naismith college coach of the year in 2006 - an award that Williams and Boeheim have also each won once since it was created in 1987. Since that last Final Four run, though, his teams have been defined either by underwhelming play or frustratingly premature tournament departures. Like North Carolina and Oklahoma, Villanova has spent time at No. 1 this year.
Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Kruger will be seen by many casual bettors as the outlier amongst these four coaches, but that isn't fair. He has been a head coach since he started at Texas-Pan American at 1982 and has been in college the whole time except for three years as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and a year as an assistant with the Knicks. This is the sixth team he has coached and the second he has taken to the Final Four - he led Florida there in 1994, losing to eventual runner-up Duke. He has no shortage of experience winning games but less than the other three when it comes to performing in the tournament. Still, it's not like he's going to be totally outclassed here.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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