Busting Brackets

SEC Basketball: Ranking all 16 head coaches for 2024-25 season

Alabama head coach Nate Oats encourages his team against Connecticut during the Final Four semifinal
Alabama head coach Nate Oats encourages his team against Connecticut during the Final Four semifinal / Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY
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10. Lamont Paris (South Carolina)

Few knew about Paris in his earliest days as a player at Wooster or coach at other non-D1 schools. He spent several years with Keith Dambrot at Akron before joining Bo Ryan’s staff at Wisconsin. After helping the Badgers to a pair of Final Fours, Paris got his own head coaching career started at Chattanooga in 2017. After four seasons building up the program, the Mocs broke through in Paris’s fifth season, returning to the NCAA Tournament with a SoCon title.

Paris opted to depart, taking the South Carolina job shortly thereafter. Nothing of note transpired in his first season in Columbia but year two was a significant step up for the Gamecocks.  South Carolina got their season off to a great start, beat numerous SEC contenders, and tied for 2nd place in the conference, returning to the Big Dance for the first time in seven years. Paris certainly elevated himself even though his Gamecocks didn’t win a Tournament game.

9. Mark Pope (Kentucky)

Back in 1996, Pope was a forward at Kentucky, helping take the Wildcats to the national championship. He played professionally for a decade before beginning his own coaching career at the college level. A former assistant at Georgia and Wake Forest, Pope led Utah Valley on a tremendous rebuild before taking the BYU job back in 2019. Suffice to say he had enough success in those next five years for the Wildcats to want him back in Lexington.

BYU remained a contender in the WCC in his first four seasons before Pope lead a successful transition to the Big 12 this past season. Entering the season written off by many, BYU surprised the nation with a 5th place finish and returned to the NCAA Tournament. After a wild coaching carousel saw Kentucky’s job suddenly open in early April, Pope accepted the job back at his alma mater. He hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game yet but has shown immense promise at his first two jobs and has incredible resources at his disposal with the Wildcats.