Phil Jackson: University of North Dakota (D2)
Del Harris: Milligan College (NAIA)
Brad Stevens: DePauw University (D3)
Tom Crean (Georgia), Scott Drew (Baylor), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) and Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech): (didn’t play in college)
Level of play doesn’t mean you can coach, but it has a lot to do with where you coach.
- It helps to have a coaching tree. Nowadays, there are more managers, student assistants, graduate assistants, video operations, etc., (staffers) who are moving into full-time, on-the-road, Division I assistant positions. This is because they obviously work hard and are diligent about their craft, but make no mistake about it; when (insert Power-5 Head Coach here) makes a call to recommend a former staffer for a full-time position – mountains are moved.
- If you start your coaching career as a Graduate Assistant at a Division I school, you are more likely to continue to coach at the Division I level during your career.
- What about high school coaches, and non-Division I college coaches? The third fact is this: you are unlikely to become a Division I Head Coach if you don’t coach at that level first. There are few examples of Division I coaches getting hired from Division II Head Coaching positions (Chris Beard at Angelo State – Arkansas Little Rock – Texas Tech).
What is my point? As the title of this post reads, “Be Careful Listening To Labels,” the labeling of a coach is disingenuous. The level (D1, D2, D3, NAIA, NJCAA, etc.) that a coach works at doesn’t diminish his ability as a coach, but it doesn’t legitimize his ability either. Level of play has zero bearing on whether a coach can coach. However, level of play has major input to what level a coach will coach at.
My friends Lennie Acuff at Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA D2), Toby Carrigan at Mt. St. Joseph University (NCAA D3), Cory Baldwin at South Georgia State College (NJCAA), Kelly Wells at University of Pikeville (NAIA) and Donnie Holland at Lowndes High School (Valdosta, GA) all have Division I ability, but choose to coach at a different level. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to prepare to play them.
Be sure to not judge a coach’s ability by the level he coaches at.