More and more every year, it becomes more evident that the West Coast Conference has some of the best coaches in the nation.
As the WCC’s prominence has grown in the last years, especially with the additions of Pacific and BYU, the coaching in the WCC has kept pace. All of them are competent in-game coaches and all of them are bringing better talent through recruiting.
The writers at West Coast Convo and I tried our hand at ranking all of the coaches in the WCC, 1-10. Each voter valued different aspects more than others, but recruiting prowess, knowledge of the game, use of X’s and O’s and their presence on their program were all considered when formulating ballots.
Unlike the list that is being compiled by ESPN.com right now, our list takes into account past achievements.
Before clicking on, how would you rank the coaches in the WCC? Compare your list with ours and tell us what you think!
Voters: Josh Horton (Lead Editor), James Pigott (General), Andy Buhler (Gonzaga), Simon Tyzna (Saint Mary’s), Max Graves (Santa Clara), Cameron Newton (LMU), David Thompson (Portland), Mary Harvill (General) and George Robles (Saint Mary’s)
10. Ron Verlin (Pacific)
Ranking Last Year: 10
By James Pigott (Twitter Handle: @jpnets54)
Coach Verlin has only been the head coach for one fairly disappointing season, so it comes as no surprise the he came in at the bottom of the rank of WCC head coaches.
Pacific was coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in their last year in the Big West before joining the WCC in 2012-13. They returned a majority their players and had a senior laden team in 2013-14. For these reasons, the 6-12 WCC record was a disappointment. But thanks to their strong non-conference performance, where the Tigers went 3-0 against the Mountain West Conference. They made it to the CIT, where they made it to the semifinals.
However, most of those players are gone (either due to graduation or transfer), so Verlin will have to regroup again. Seeing as he didn’t have much success with an experienced group, it is likely that he will struggle even more with a very young and inexperienced team next season, which is why he has a good chance of staying at the bottom of this list.
9. Mike Dunlap (Loyola Marymount)
Ranking Last Year: 9
Loyola Marymount was the only school in the conference to change their head coach, and they decided on Mike Dunlap.
Dunlap is a well-traveled, well-respected head coach that has roots at LMU. Dunlap played at LMU in the 1970’s and was an assistant coach from 1980-1985. He has also been an assistant at Iowa, USC, Arizona, Oregon, Saint Johns, as well as stints in the NBA as the head coach in Charlotte for a season (2012-2013) and as an assistant in Denver (2006-2008). Other than serving as the interim head coach at St. Johns for a short while, Dunlap has been a head coach at Metro State, California Lutheran and in Australia in his long coaching career.
With Dunlap’s experiences and connections to the university, he should provide a nice presence at LMU. Although there is a lot of turnover, when Dunlap settles in he should make a major impact on a school that is primed for success.
8. Marty Wilson (Pepperdine)
Ranking Last Year: 9
By James Pigott
After inheriting a team in the fall of 2011 that had lost high scoring guards Keion Bell (transfer), Mychel Thompson (graduation), and Lorne Jackson (ACL injury) from a team that had gone 5-9 in the WCC the year before, Coach Wilson has had a lot of catching up to do.
The Waves did not have enough offensive firepower or depth his first two seasons as head coach, which wasn’t really his fault. However, year three was much more productive for Coach Wilson as he began to bring in his own players. He did a great job in bringing in a talented high major big man in Brendan Lane, who was probably overlooked by many when he decided to transfer from UCLA after sparing playing time throughout his three years there. Lane, along with the development of Stacy Davis and the energy from freshman guards Jeremy Major and Amadi Udenyi, allowed Coach Wilson to have a great deal of success during the 2013-14 season.
With the core of Major/Davis/Udenyi back next season, Pepperdine could be a top 5 team. And with Wilson’s ability to develop players, he will likely have some strong Waves teams for years to come and move up the ranks of WCC coaches fairly quickly.
7. Kerry Keating (Santa Clara)
Ranking Last Year: 7
Kerry Keating always seems to strike when everyone least expects it.
The Broncos have oscillated from the bottom of the WCC to the top year by year, and Keating has been behind some great seasons for the team, albeit some bad ones. Santa Clara became the first school ever to win both the College Insiders Tournament (CIT) and the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Also, the Broncos went 0-16 in the WCC season in 2011-2012.
The biggest knock on Keating is inconsistency. He has had some highs and some lows while at the helm at Santa Clara, and adding more successes to the list will help his ranking.
6. Bill Grier (San Diego)
Ranking Last Year: 8
By James Pigott
Grier is one of only four current WCC coaches to lead their current team to the NCAA Tournament, where they knocked out UConn in the 2008 NCAA tournament in Grier’s first season as head coach. That one season alone is probably enough to put Grier past Kerry Keating, who has won two postseason tournaments (CBI and CIT) in the past four seasons.
However, since that season, the program has been plagued with injuries, suspensions, dismissals, transfers, and most notably the Brandon Johnson point shaving scandal. For six consecutive seasons, the Toreros have been under .500 in conference play, and their only other postseason appearance came this past season, where they made the quarterfinals of the CIT.
If the Toreros can capitalize on their potential during Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson’s last season at San Diego, Grier could potentially be in line to move past Eric Reveno in the ranks of WCC head coaches. However, Grier has yet to show the ability to be successful with players he recruited (the 2007-08 NCAA Tournament team was not comprised of his recruited players). Grier has had some good wins over Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s in the past two seasons, but his teams has never sustained that high level of effort and consistency throughout an entire conference season. If Dee and Anderson’s senior year is not a success, expect Bill Grier to be on the hot seat.
5. Rex Walters (San Francisco)
Ranking Last Year: 4
Love him or hate him, Rex Walters is at the University of San Francisco and he is here to stay.
Walters has been heavily criticized by some for his firey personality on the sideline, a high-transfer rate and an ugly incident regarding departed point guard Cody Doolin. However, what he has done with the USF program is impressive enough to put him at No. 5 on this list.
Last season, the Dons finished tied for second in the final WCC standings, the schools best season in quite some time. Walters also led them to the semifinals of the WCC tournament, and helped them earn a berth into the NIT.
Walters has turned USF into a budding program by bringing in good talent and putting it in the right spots to succeed. He takes a lot of flak, but he has USF in a position to take the next leap.
4. Eric Reveno (Portland)
Ranking Last Season: 6
By David Thompson (@Davidvthompson)
Portland Head Coach Eric Reveno comes in at number 4 in our WCC Coach Rankings. The twitter all-star has now been in charge of the Pilots for eight full seasons and has yet to make a real push for an NCAA Tournament bid, a fact that Portland die-hard’s are fully aware of. Despite his lack of post season appearances (and lack of success when in the post season) Reveno is well liked and respected by the Administration, Pilot fans, other coaches, media members, fans of other WCC teams (as shown by Reveno coming in after Few, Rose, and Bennett in this survey), little old ladies, grumpy cat, and pretty much everyone else in the world.
There are many facets of coaching the Reveno does very well. He utilized technology and is an amazing tweeter. He is a great motivator and consistently seems to get the most out of his players. Most of the roster is made up of guys who were overlooked by other schools, but Rev and his staff saw enough in them to take a chance. There have been instances when the recruit doesn’t pan out, but there have been a lot of examples where it does (Nik Ravio, TJ Campbell, Luke Sikma, Jared Stohl, Ryan Nicholas, Bryce Pressley). Reveno has also shown an ability to recruit internationally consistently finding guys from all over the world who contribute. Most importantly however, may be Reveno’s commitment to recruit the right type of student-athlete. Portland has put an emphasis on high quality students who are also high quality athletes and Reveno’s recruit’s academic track record speaks for itself.
I think there are there are areas of improvement for Reveno. First, Reveno needs to put together a season with NO bad losses. Portland has really struggled putting together a season when they beat every team they are supposed to beat. Every big win seems to be coupled with a loss to a Portland State, or a Montana State, or a North Texas. When your margin for error is so small, losses like this are devastating. Reveno also needs to land an impact recruit every now and then. The most highly touted recruit during Reveno’s tenure is Kevin Bailey. This year’s Jason Todd would also be considered an impact recruit. If Reveno can secure one of these guys a year, in addition to the staff’s ability to get the most out of their under-the-radar recruits, they can add depth, a key for all teams in the WCC. Finally, Reveno needs to improve his in-game coaching. There are times when Portland has gone through big droughts and it has cost Portland in multiple games throughout Reveno’s tenure. If Reveno can help the Pilots play a bit more consistently and can help them limit unforced errors, Portland could be a much stronger team.
With Reveno’s win-loss record being mediocre at best, he will always be on the hot-seat. Until Reveno leads Portland to some post season appearance and/or success, he will always be considered a second tier WCC coach. I personally believe he can get there, and sooner than most probably think.
3. Dave Rose (BYU)
Ranking Last Year: 2
Say what you want about BYU’s head coach Dave Rose, but his track record in unprecedented.
Under Rose’s leadership, the Cougars have never missed out on postseason action, whether it be the NCAA tournament or the NIT. To boot, Rose has won 70.0 percent of his games in the WCC.
With a ton of top local talent heading to BYU in the coming years, Rose will look to take BYU to places its never gone before; the top of the WCC standings. Once he does that, he may see his ranking improve; until then, no. 3 is a good spot for Rose.
2. Randy Bennett (Saint Mary’s)
Ranking Last Year: 3
By Simon Tryzna (@SimonTryzna)
Last year Saint Mary’s had a bad year. Last year Saint Mary’s won 23 games and lost to the eventual NIT Champion.
Winning 23 games in a “down” year is a sign that you have truly made it to be one of the elite programs in the country. A lot has changed since Randy Bennett has taken over Saint Mary’s, and with a new gym upgrade to McKeon Pavilion, odds are that the Gaels will continue to win year in and year out.
However, unlike some of the other mid-majors, like Gonzaga, Butler and VCU, the Gaels aren’t a household name, and that is the next challenge that is presented to Randy Bennett: get in the tournament year in and year out and become a dominant mid-major.
By landing three transfers from high-major schools, including two that are eligible to play this year, and combining them with seniors Brad Waldow, Garrett Jackson, and Kerry Carter, and redshirt junior Joe Coleman, and all of the sudden, the Gaels have the talent to get back into the tournament. If they mesh on the court and play well as a team is a whole another issue, but amid the NCAA sanctions, Randy Bennett has done more than enough to get Saint Mary’s fans dreaming of another tournament run.
1. Mark Few (Gonzaga)
Ranking Last Year: 1
By Andy Buhler (@A_buhla)
The easiest pick of the 10, Few has established the most successful current program in the WCC tallying up 403 (.801 winning percentage) wins in 15 years along with consecutive tournament berths since 1999.
Honestly, I would love to be entertained with arguments for Rose and Bennett, because in the end they are just not realistic. The WCC would not nearly receive as much national attention without Gonzaga as a year-in-and-year-out tournament team, and much of that is owed to Few. I mean, come one—the fact that the team is constantly very good puts into perspective what a stellar job Few does.
A label tough to dispute, Few’s dominance and consistency has cemented him at the top of the pack. While BYU’s Rose and St. Mary’s Bennett offer a high level of competition each year, Few has established a legitimate reign over the conference winning the regular season conference championship 14 times, and the WCC tournament 12 times.
Four current NBA players have played for Few, most notably 2013 NBA draft lottery pick Kelly Olynyk, whom Few successfully advised to redshirt halfway through his college career doing wonders to his physique and low post game. Not to mention the 10-time WCC Coach of the Year was recently ranked 17th among college coaches by ESPN. I do not expect this to change anytime soon, that being said the conference has a number of coaches potentially poised to make a mark of their own.
Tags: Basketball Brigham Young Cougars Gonzaga Bulldogs Loyola Marymount Lions Pacific Tigers Pepperdine Waves Portland Pilots Saint Mary's Gaels San Diego Toreros San Francisco Dons Santa Clara Broncos WCC