The best NCAA players turned coaches in college basketball
In only his second season at Michigan, Juwan Howard has his Wolverines ranked in the top-5 in the country, vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament next month.
Does that make the former Michigan forward, an All-American who helped UM to multiple Final Fours, the best former college star turned NCAA coach? Let’s look at the frontrunners, breaking them down into the first- and second-teams.
As a player: Hardaway spent only 2 seasons at Memphis State before departing for the NBA — the Orlando Magic made him the No. 1 overall pick in 1993 — but boy, they were fantastic years. As a junior (his second year eligible) in 1992-93, the lanky 6-7 point averaged 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists and was named an All-American for the second time.
As a coach: At Memphis, his alma mater (he graduated in 2003), since 2018, Hardaway’s achievement so far have been mostly in recruiting, hauling in the top-ranked recruiting class nationally in 2019, per 247Sports, and No. 6 in 2021. In his first 2 1/2 seasons in Memphis, Hardaway has a 55-30 record (as of Sunday), including an NIT trip in Year 1.
As a player: A two-time First-Team All-American, Alford led the Hoosiers to the 1987 National Championship by averaging 22 points and 3.6 assists per game. But more impressive than any of the other numbers, Alford hit 53% of his 3-pointers as a senior, an Indiana single-season mark that is likely to never be broken.
As a coach: Alford has experienced a number of coaching stops, including high-profile gigs at Iowa and UCLA, taking the Bruins to the Sweet 16 in 3 of his first 4 seasons. But like many of his other coaching opportunities, Alford eventually wore out his welcome. With a career 619-317 record, Alford is in his second season at Nevada.
As a player: In his second (and last) season at North Carolina in ’94-95, Stackhouse, a First-Team All-American, led the Tar Heels at 19.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, helping UNC to the Final Four. Departing UNC early, he was picked No. 3 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in ’95 NBA Draft.
As a coach: Only midway through his second season at Vanderbilt, in what is his first significant head coaching gig, Stack is still building. In his 1.5 seasons, the Commodores are a combined 16-30 with only 4 SEC wins in 24 opportunities.
As a player: A member of the Fab Five, Howard enjoyed an All-America career at Michigan, which included three trips to the Final Four from 1992-94. Howard averaged nearly 21 points and 9 rebounds as a junior, capping his career with 1,526 points and 745 rebounds.
As a coach: Howard’s hire at his alma mater in 2019 came with questions, mostly surrounding his lack of experience coaching at the collegiate level or being a head coach. He’s answered those and more so in only a year-and-a-half, with a 32-13 overall record. His COVID-idled Wolverines are 13-1 and considered one of the top teams in the country.
As a player: Ewing enjoyed one of the most storied careers in NCAA history, taking Georgetown to 3 Final Fours during his 4 seasons from 1982-85. Ewing helped the Hoyas to the ’84 NCAA title, when he outdueled Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Cougars. Ewing was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and college basketball’s player-of-the-year.
As a coach: Ewing was hired at Georgetown in 2017, but the Hoyas have yet to recapture the magic of his playing days. In 3 1/2 seasons, Ewing’s record as head coach is an even 54-54, including 22-40 in the Big East.
As a player: In 4 years at Duke from 1989-93, Hurley helped lead the Blue Devils to 3 Final Fours and 2 national championships. Not a bad run. As a senior, Hurley averaged 17 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He still holds the NCAA record for career assists, with 1,076.
As a coach: Hurley has enjoyed a fine coaching career — following the family business — at Buffalo and Arizona State, taking the Sun Devils in his third and fourth seasons. In 7-plus seasons as a head coach, Hurley has a 98-77 record.
As a player: One of the best players under legendary Arizona head coach Lute Olson, Stoudamire helped the Wildcats to the 1994 Final Four during his junior year. As a senior, he averaged nearly 23 points and more than 7 assists per game and was a First-Team All-American.
As a coach: Stoudamire is in his fifth season as the head coach at Pacific, although the Tigers have had only one season above .500, that coming last year. As of Sunday, Pacific was 5-5 this year. In his career, Stoudamire has a 67-73 record.
As a player: Dawkins was the 1986 National Player-of-the-Year and a 2-time First-Team All-American at Duke, where he’s still the school’s second-leading scorer (2,537). His senior year was ridiculously good, as he averaged 20.2 points on 55% shooting, an incredible percentage for a shooting guard, while taking Duke to the national title game.
As a coach: Now in his fifth season at UCF after eight at Stanford, Dawkins has had his share of successes as a collegiate head coach, taking the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 in 2014 and the Knights to the second round in 2019. His overall career record is 244-172.
As a player: Dixon became a stud at Maryland, averaging more than 20 points, 4 rebounds and nearly 3 assists per game as a senior in 2002 in taking the Terrapins to the national title. He was named a first-team All-American.
As a coach: In his fourth season at Coppin State, Dixon is still working to turn around the Eagles’ program. Last year, Coppin State won 11 games, improving upon the totals of Dixon’s first two years. And this season, Coppin State is 5-1 in the MEAC, a significant improvement.
As a player: As a junior in 1994, when he was a First-Team All-American, Marshall averaged 25 points, 9 rebounds and more than 3 blocks per game for UConn.
As a coach: In his fifth season at Central Connecticut, Marshall is still trying to lead the Blue Devils to a breakthrough. They’ve not been better than the 14-18 mark during Marshall’s second season and have won only 8 of the previous 45 games in the last year-and-a-half.
The bench: Dan Hurley, Fred Hoiberg, Counzo Martin, Tony Bennett, Jim Boeheim, Chris Collins