NBA, NCAA Basketball

4 NCAA basketball coaches most likely to jump to the NBA

John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats

John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats. (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

College coaches have not fared well in the NBA. Which current coaches will likely try to make the jump and are attractive to the NBA?

As difficult as it is for college basketball players to take the next step and succeed in the NBA, it’s been far more difficult for college basketball coaches. There have been a number who have tried over the last 20 years and Brad Stevens’ move from Butler to the Boston Celtics is the only one that worked out.

Lon Kruger, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tim Floyd, Mike Montgomery, PJ Carlesimo, Reggie Theus, Leonard Hamilton and Stevens combined to coach 36 years in the NBA but make the playoffs in only 12 of those seasons. Stevens accounted for eight of those, as well as 38 of this group’s 44 playoff wins. His three trips to the Conference Finals are the only times one of these coaches got out of the first round.

Is Stevens’ move from the bench to the front office a sign that college coaches can’t make it in the NBA?  No. But that doesn’t change the fact that the odds are against a successful transition.

While it might not be this year, there will again be an NBA team that hires their new coach from the college ranks. And that will happen soon. The college game is about to change dramatically and when it does, there will be a domino effect on the NBA. That change will come because even more of the top players will be skipping college because of three fairly new opportunities.

  1. NBA: Players directly out of high school will again be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2022. Since 2004, players have had to be one year removed from high school before entering the draft.
  2. G League: The G League has become a viable alternative to college for top high school players. Top players can now earn up to $500,000 while they wait for the NBA Draft. Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga skipped this past college season to play in the G League and are each projected to be taken within the first five or six picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.
  3. Overtime Elite: This new league for 16-18-year-olds just signed twin 6-foot-9 five-star prospects Matt and Ryan Bewley. The Bewley’s will be skipping their junior and senior high school seasons and give up their college eligibility to play in this new league. They signed two-year contracts for a minimum of $100,000 per year and will get $100,000 for college if they don’t make it professionally.

Top players skipping college means those players will end up in the NBA sooner and need more development than has been the case even today. The type of coach needed to successfully navigate the new waters might just be best suited coming from the college ranks. Understanding and relating to young players will be an even more important job requirement in the NBA.

So, let’s just be daring enough to try and identify four college coaches that are most likely to attempt to alter the results of recent colleagues who have tried their hand at the NBA.

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