Busting Brackets

NCAA or NBA, a Coach’s Dilemma


Mar 20, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo addresses the media during practice the day before the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at The Palace. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With Brad Stevens getting ready to begin his career as an NBA coach, it begs the question, why don’t more NCAA coaches make the move over to the NBA? Guys like Mike Kryzewski and Tom Izzo have been pursued by many professional teams that are hoping to improve their rosters and yet, most times, NCAA bench bosses will stay in school. It works in the opposite way that players tend to react.

The biggest example of a successful NCAA coach making a good move to the NBA is in Larry Brown who has found ways to win a lot of games at both levels. The reality is that Brown is unlike most coaches in that he is constantly on the move. While he has won a lot, he has also left a lot of teams crumpled in the dust as he moves on to a new opportunity.

While Brown might have had success moving on, most people would point to Rick Pitino as the ultimate example of NCAA turned NBA coach. The fact that his tenure with the Celtics is still remembered so vividly in 2013 might be why a lot of guys decide to stay in college instead. Having managed to not only make himself the Celtics’ coach, Pitino was also the General Manager, CEO and President of the team. Over his four year tenure from 1997 tp 2001, he traded players like he was playing NBA 2K13 and gave up on promising rookies far too easily. Boston fans quickly turned on him and still have not forgotten how he almost destroyed their precious Celtics.

With a guy like Pitino, who has always been on of the most respected college coaches in the nation, getting rag-dolled like he did in the NBA, it can certainly scare away a lot of other guys in his position. When combined with the fact that a lot of big time coaches are celebrities at their schools, it becomes a much tougher decision for them. It would make no sense for a guy like Mike Kryzewski to leave Duke campus, where he makes millions of dollars every year and knows he will never be fired, for the chance at coaching a bad NBA team and probably being canned within five years when the fans turn on him.

For there to be a chance at a guy like that leaving, it has to be a perfect situation and that almost never comes along. When Izzo was approached by the Cavaliers in the summer of 2010, the prospects of coaching Lebron was almost too much for Izzo to reject and Michigan State fans were on edge for weeks. Ultimately, Izzo decided against it and Lebron chose Miami. Even the best player in the world was not enough to convince Izzo to leave his comfort and security of his school.

That is why it is a very bold move for Stevens to leave Butler for the NBA. Especially as a young guy who has a lot of his career left ahead of him. It is a big risk that could lead him back to a small division one school within a matter of years. If he has success though, it is possible that he could change the mainstream thought of leaving the NCAA for the pros and open the floodgates for other young coaches to try out the NBA.