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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4. Rick Barnes (Tennessee)

Barnes has been a D1 head coach for nearly four decades, splitting time across George Mason, Providence, Clemson, Texas, and now Tennessee. The North Carolina native was very solid with both the Friars and Tigers before a great run of success with the Longhorns, including a Final Four back in 2003. Barnes won a ton of games before Texas decided to make a change and has been a similar godsend at Tennessee since 2015.

In his nine seasons with the Volunteers, Barnes has built consistency and success, including a pair of SEC titles and six straight trips to the Big Dance. That success includes three trips to at least the Sweet Sixteen, with this season being the highlight. Barnes just led Tennessee to a regular season title and their first Elite Eight run in fourteen years. You won’t find many, if any, head coaches in the nation with this type of experience and resume.

3. Bruce Pearl (Auburn)

After playing and coaching at Boston College, Stanford, and Iowa under the great Tom Davis, Pearl has embarked upon his own incredible had coaching career over the last three decades. He won a D2 national title at first job at Southern Indiana and took Milwaukee to a Sweet Sixteen in 2005, a wild accomplishment for that Horizon League school. Pearl had great success at Tennessee, with six Tourneys in six years, before a recruiting scandal cost him his job.

He’s bounced back nicely since taking the Auburn job in 2014. After a few rebuilding seasons for a program devoid of recent basketball success, Pearl’s Tigers have been a fantastic SEC program. He’s won two SEC Tournaments, two regular season titles, and took the 2019 team to the Final Four. The only blemish for Pearl is that that long run was his only trip beyond the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament with the Tigers, though you must remember he’s doing this at Auburn of all places.