Nowadays, it’s become common for college basketball coaches to bounce around from one school to the other. Sometimes they get fired, but other times they take off if they think they see greener pastures ahead. It’s rare for a coach to stay at the same school where he got his first head coaching job. Even the great Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t spent his entire career at one school, nor did the great Bobby Knight. It’s time to recognize some of the great coaches in college basketball who have stuck around the same place and dedicated their entire career to one school
Bob McKillop, Davidson
McKillop spent one season as an assistant at Davidson in between stints as a high school coach. But the Long Island native returned to the small North Carolina college in 1989 and settled in nicely. With the success he’s had with the Wildcats, most power-conference teams would be lucky to have him. However, McKillop has stayed at Davidson for over 30 seasons, turning them into one of the better mid-major programs in the country and even having the team’s home court named after him in 2014.
When McKillop took over Davidson in 1989, they were an independent program. Over the years, he’s taken them from the Big South to the Southern Conference and recently earned them an invitation to join the Atlantic-10. Under McKillop’s guidance, Davidson won the Southern regular season title 11 times and played in the NCAA Tournament over half a dozen times, including that magical run to the Elite Eight in 2008. McKillop also had a hand in the career of a guy named Steph Curry, who played at Davidson.
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Why would you leave your job for a powerhouse program when you can just build a powerhouse program where you are? That’s the policy of Gonzaga’s Mark Few, who has turned a program nobody knew about into one that’s a threat to reach the Final Four every season. Just a couple of years after graduating from Oregon, Few took a grad assistant job at Gonzaga and has never left. He was a full-time assistant for a decade and got the head coach job in 1999, taking over for Dan Monson, who took off for Minnesota.
In fairness, Few took over a program that went to the Elite Eight the previous year, so he didn’t exactly start from scratch. But that doesn’t mean it was easy turning a school in Spokane, Washington from the West Coast Conference into a national power. While taking the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in every year of the 21st century and dominating the WCC with ease, it would have been easy for Few to explore opportunities at bigger schools. But he’s remained loyal to Gonzaga and has built a program that most coaches envy.
Greg Kampe, Oakland
Kampe might have the most impressive resume of any coach on this list. He’s never won a national championship or been to a Final Four, but the way he’s built the program at Oakland is nothing short of astonishing. He got the gig in 1984 after serving as an assistant at Toledo for many years and taken the Grizzlies to places the program never could have dreamed about at the time. For the first 15 seasons of Kampe’s tenure, Oakland was still a Division II program.
When they made the jump in 1999, the Grizzlies immediately won the Mid-Continent Conference regular-season title, despite finishing with a losing record overall. Within six years, Krampe got Oakland to the NCAA Tournament. From there, he’s kept building the program, getting Oakland to the Big Dance a few more times and making the Grizzlies one of the top Horizon League programs year after year. Along the way, Krampe has collected over 600 wins and been inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Most people don’t realize that Izzo patiently waited his turn on the Michigan State bench as an assistant to Jud Heathcote for 12 seasons before getting his chance to be a head coach. Once he got the head coaching job in 1995, there was no reason for him to leave and no reason for Michigan State to doubt that he was the right person for the job.
While he took over a program the had been successful for many years under Heathcote, Izzo has sustained a high level of success in East Lansing. Despite NIT appearances in his first two seasons, Izzo won a national championship in his fifth season as the Michigan State head coach. It’s been a long string of Sweet 16 and Final Four appearances for Izzo and the Spartans ever since. He’s proudly become the longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten, spending over a quarter-century at Michigan State with little thought of coaching elsewhere.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
No college coach in any sport is as synonymous with his school as Boeheim is with Syracuse. He’s more or less been there his entire life. Boeheim grew up less than 60 miles from the Syracuse campus, enrolled as a student in 1963 and never left. His playing career at Syracuse ended in 1966 and after a brief pro career, he returned to Syracuse as an assistant under Roy Danforth in 1969. In 1976, Boeheim was made the head coach of the Orangemen (now Orange) and has had the job for over 40 years. There’s no other college coach in any sport who can match that kind of tenure, especially doing so at one’s alma mater.
The longevity of Boeheim’s tenure at Syracuse almost boggles the mind, as does the success. He’s won well over 1,000 games and has taken Syracuse to the NCAA Tournament nearly every season, making several Final Four trips, winning the national championship in 2003, and getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. Everything that Syracuse basketball has accomplished over the last 40-plus years started with Boeheim and happened largely because he has stayed on campus for so long.