There’s a discussion that you and your friends have probably had before and you’ll have again. Perhaps you’ve come up with an answer, or perhaps you haven’t.
Well, I’ve got the answer to the question that we’ve all been waiting for.
That is, who’s the best football-basketball coach combination in the B1G?
Obviously that question is extremely subjective, so here are my parameters. I’m putting myself in the position of an athletic director who has 2 vacancies to fill. I’m saying, if every B1G school’s coach for football and basketball were a bundle and I had to hire the best one, who would I pick?
Here are my top 5 combos in the B1G:
5. Iowa: Kirk Ferentz and Fran McCaffery
If this was, “who would be the worst to be screamed at” among B1G coach combinations, Iowa might be No. 1.
Ferentz’s résumé has plenty of accolades to make him worthy of being considered one of the conference’s better coaches, most notably being the longest tenured Power 5 coach in America. Bowl games in 10 of the last 11 years, 5 top-10 finishes, 4 straight seasons of at least 8 wins are all solid marks.
McCaffery, given what he inherited at Iowa after the disastrous Todd Lickliter era, is worthy of some praise. Three straight NCAA Tournament berths isn’t an easy accomplishment at Iowa, and he’s only had 1 losing season in conference play in the last 7 years. Iowa is getting back to the NCAA Tournament this year. Maybe McCaffery can get over the hump and take Iowa to the Sweet 16.
Whatever the case, you can do much worse than Ferentz and McCaffery.
4. Wisconsin: Paul Chryst and Greg Gard
If this was “who is the quietest” among B1G coach combinations, Wisconsin might be No. 1. Both started the same school year, but came into different situations. Gard took over for an all-time great, and Chryst just tried to provide some stability. I’d argue that both have provided plenty of stability.
Chryst’s floor, for now, is an 8-win season. That’s probably the equivalent of an NCAA Tournament berth, of which, Gard has 2 of. Both of those were Sweet 16 appearances. He could make it 3 this year. Chryst, so far, has been more successful (42-12, 27-8) as a 2-time B1G Coach of the Year.
The Badgers might be the B1G’s combination of football and basketball in the last decade, and Gard and Chryst are significant parts of that. With more experience, they’ll rise on this list.
3. Purdue: Jeff Brohm and Matt Painter
You could probably make the case that 3-5 on this are pretty interchangeable. I’m extremely high on Brohm. Like, not just as a football coach. I’d want to go just hang out with him for a week and see how I attack each day with him at my side. Life goals.
But yeah, even though Brohm has been at his job for less time than any coach on this list, what he’s done in 2 years there is still enough to make him one of the conference’s top football coaches.
He’d love to get to the place where Painter is now. Painter is sort of becoming the Ferentz of B1G hoops. The 4-time B1G Coach of the Year (including this year) just won his third share of a B1G regular season title this decade. This will mark the fifth time in as many years that Painter:
- A) Won 20 games
- B) Finished in top 3 of B1G
- C) Made the NCAA Tournament
That’s about as steady as you can ask for. Is this finally the year that Painter makes it to his first Elite 8? It could be. Even if he doesn’t, he still has essentially a lifetime contract.
Oh, and Brohm basically does, too.
2. Michigan: Jim Harbaugh and John Beilein
And here’s where the controversy begins. Some might think this is too high of a ranking because after all, Harbaugh still hasn’t won a division title yet. Some might argue this is too low because for my money, Beilein has been better than Tom Izzo the last 5 years.
Those can both be true. Without this turning into a Harbaugh-based rant, it’s worth remembering that since he joined the B1G in 2015, here’s where he ranks among B1G coaches in that 4-year stretch:
- Overall record: 38-14 (3rd)
- B1G record: 26-9 (3rd)
- Top-15 seasons: 3 (T-2nd)
Harbaugh might not be able to beat Ohio State, but he’s still one of the B1G’s top coaches any way you slice it up. That much is obvious. Has Mark Dantonio done more with less over the course of his career? Yes. That’s why, in my opinion, he gets the nod.
In basketball, it seems like the opposite with Beilein and Izzo. It’s Izzo who signs elite recruits and Beilein who finds crafty ways to be just as good, if not better than MSU. In terms of all-time legacy, Izzo gets the nod above Beilein, but it is interesting to look at what they’ve done since the start of the decade (2010-11):
Interesting, isn’t it?
1. Michigan State: Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo
It’s close, but I’d give MSU the slight edge for duos. Unlike Michigan, I think it’s significant that both coaches have won B1G titles in the last 4 years. In fact, MSU is the only B1G team with a combination of active coaches who each won a conference title in their respective sports. That matters.
The thing I’ll give Izzo deserves more credit than Beilein for — besides having a national title — is that his floor is higher. The most underrated thing about Izzo’s résumé is that he’s never had a losing season in conference play. In case you forgot, Izzo is currently in his 24th (!) season in East Lansing. That’s absurd.
In the 21st century, Izzo fell short of 20 wins twice. He had 19 wins in both seasons. Oh, and MSU still made the NCAA Tournament. Actually, this will be his 22nd year with an NCAA Tournament ticket. Mike Krzyzewski is the coach with a longer active streak. Have Izzo’s teams always lived up to their seeding in the NCAA Tournament? No (see 2016, 2018), but 13 Sweet 16 appearances is no joke, and you can find plenty of examples of them outperforming their seed in March (see 2005, 2015).
And yeah, Dantonio’s résumé still is among the nation’s best. He’s got 3 conference titles and 6 top-15 finishes this decade.
MSU is No. 1 on this list until further notice.