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CBB: Changing the Culture

Posted by Neil Paine on March 9, 2010

Note: This post was originally published at College Basketball Reference, S-R's brand-new College Hoops site. All of the data used here can be found at S-R/CBB, so when you're done reading, go over and check it out!

In the media, you often hear about certain players or coaches "changing the culture" of a program, ostensibly meaning they fostered a new atmosphere in the locker room, installed a new playing style, or gave their players newfound confidence in themselves. But has anyone measured which coaches "changed the culture" of a school's hoops program the most?

Today, I'm going to take a stab at this. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but S-R College Basketball boasts the win-loss record for every known coach in major college basketball history, so for all of those coaches I looked at the school's W-L% before he took over the program, and compared it to their W-L% during their tenure with the school. Also, I separated out coaches with multiple stints with the same school into multiple entries, but I didn't count any previous wins under their watch when tallying the program's WPct before they took over again. Let's look at an example, Lou Carnesecca:

Year School Conf G W L T
1966 STJO IND 26 18 8 0
1967 STJO IND 28 23 5 0
1968 STJO IND 27 19 8 0
1969 STJO IND 29 23 6 0
1970 STJO IND 29 21 8 0
1974 STJO IND 27 20 7 0
1975 STJO IND 31 21 10 0
1976 STJO IND 29 23 6 0
1977 STJO IND 31 22 9 0
1978 STJO IND 28 21 7 0
1979 STJO IND 32 21 11 0
1980 STJO BIGE 29 24 5 0
1981 STJO BIGE 28 17 11 0
1982 STJO BIGE 30 21 9 0
1983 STJO BIGE 33 28 5 0
1984 STJO BIGE 30 18 12 0
1985 STJO BIGE 35 31 4 0
1986 STJO BIGE 36 31 5 0
1987 STJO BIGE 30 21 9 0
1988 STJO BIGE 29 17 12 0
1989 STJO BIGE 33 20 13 0
1990 STJO BIGE 34 24 10 0
1991 STJO BIGE 32 23 9 0
1992 STJO BIGE 30 19 11 0

In 1970, Carnesecca left St. John's to coach the ABA Nets, returning to the Redmen in '73. In this study, I considered Carnesecca's 2 stints at SJU separately, so after leaving in 1970 he would have been 104-35 (.748) for a program that was 881-397 (.689) when he arrived, and after leaving again in 1992, he was considered to be 422-165 (.719) for a program that was 937-424 (.688) when he arrived. (Frank Mulzoff went 56-27 in the 3 years Carnesecca was gone, which explains the difference in "arrival records" for his 2 stints.) This is a rare occurrence, but I thought I'd explain the process anyway.

So with that in mind, here are the coaches with a minimum of 120 games coached (at a school that had >= 120 GP before he arrived) who "changed the culture" of a program the most from a W-L% perspective:

Coach FinalYr School Pre G Pre W Pre L Pre T Pre W-L% G W L T W-L% W-L% Diff
Dick Edwards 1972 PAC 278 94 184 0 0.338 240 168 72 0 0.700 0.362
Pat Page 1926 BUTL 146 61 85 0 0.418 129 100 29 0 0.775 0.357
Harold Anderson 1942 TOLE 236 101 135 0 0.428 183 142 41 0 0.776 0.348
Lefty Driesell 2003 GAST 657 212 445 0 0.323 162 103 59 0 0.636 0.313
John Wooden 1975 UCLA 569 286 283 0 0.503 767 620 147 0 0.808 0.306
Gregg Marshall 2007 WINT 365 145 220 0 0.397 277 194 83 0 0.700 0.303
Jim Calhoun 1986 NOEA 151 52 99 0 0.344 385 248 137 0 0.644 0.300
Larry Little 1976 CENT 305 138 167 0 0.452 133 100 33 0 0.752 0.299
Lake Kelly 1977 AUSP 186 72 114 0 0.387 159 109 50 0 0.686 0.298
Bobby Paschal 1986 LALA 134 47 87 0 0.351 238 153 85 0 0.643 0.292
Harold Anderson 1951 BGU 412 206 206 0 0.500 252 199 53 0 0.790 0.290
Bill Blakeley 1983 NTEX 450 149 301 0 0.331 219 134 85 0 0.612 0.281
Nolan Richardson 1985 TUL 1368 663 705 0 0.485 156 119 37 0 0.763 0.278
Peck Hickman 1967 LOU 438 189 249 0 0.432 626 443 183 0 0.708 0.276
James Freeman 1936 STJO 381 219 162 0 0.575 208 177 31 0 0.851 0.276
Hank Iba 1970 OKST 361 149 212 0 0.413 971 654 317 0 0.674 0.261
William Reinhart 1942 GEOW 284 132 152 0 0.465 138 100 38 0 0.725 0.260
Al McGuire 1977 MARQ 950 505 445 0 0.532 375 296 79 0 0.789 0.258
Don Haskins 1999 UTEP 735 304 431 0 0.414 1072 719 353 0 0.671 0.257
Lefty Driesell 1969 DAVI 955 452 503 0 0.473 241 176 65 0 0.730 0.257
Don Monson 1983 IDAH 1622 734 888 0 0.453 141 100 41 0 0.709 0.257
Davey Whitney 2003 ALCO 192 57 135 0 0.297 208 115 93 0 0.553 0.256
Frank Kerns 1994 GESO 214 84 130 0 0.393 375 243 132 0 0.648 0.255
Howie Dickenman 2009 CCON 276 78 198 0 0.283 383 205 178 0 0.535 0.253
Jim Christian 2008 KENT 1832 819 1013 0 0.447 196 137 59 0 0.699 0.252
Bruce Pearl 2005 WISM 487 216 271 0 0.444 124 86 38 0 0.694 0.250
Jack Gardner 1953 KSU 651 314 337 0 0.482 174 127 47 0 0.730 0.248
John Calipari 1996 UMAS 1033 500 533 0 0.484 259 189 70 0 0.730 0.246
Mark Few 2009 GONZ 1289 715 574 0 0.555 330 264 66 0 0.800 0.245
Bob Cousy 1969 BOSC 531 268 263 0 0.505 152 114 38 0 0.750 0.245
Tim Cohane 2000 BUF 157 35 122 0 0.223 173 80 93 0 0.462 0.239
Paul Westhead 1990 LOYM 942 421 521 0 0.447 153 105 48 0 0.686 0.239
Adolph Rupp 1972 KEN 352 205 146 1 0.584 1066 876 190 0 0.822 0.238
Mark Fox 2009 NEV 1533 778 755 0 0.508 166 123 43 0 0.741 0.233
Fred Luehring 1920 PRIN 184 86 98 0 0.467 143 100 43 0 0.699 0.232
Tom Blackburn 1964 DAYT 607 294 313 0 0.484 493 352 141 0 0.714 0.230
Dick Hunsaker 1993 BALL 491 252 239 0 0.513 131 97 34 0 0.740 0.227
Dan Spika 1970 NTEX 195 45 150 0 0.231 127 58 69 0 0.457 0.226
Tiny Grant 1986 FRES 287 143 144 0 0.498 268 194 74 0 0.724 0.226
Jamie Dixon 2009 PIT 2237 1249 988 0 0.558 208 163 45 0 0.784 0.225
Kirk Speraw 2009 UCF 248 81 167 0 0.327 480 264 216 0 0.550 0.223
Bob Marlin 2009 SAMH 384 152 232 0 0.396 323 200 123 0 0.619 0.223
Rome Rankin 1946 EKEN 310 153 156 1 0.495 188 135 53 0 0.718 0.223
Pete Gillen 1994 XAVR 1390 708 682 0 0.509 277 202 75 0 0.729 0.220
Hugh Durham 1978 FSU 247 121 126 0 0.490 325 230 95 0 0.708 0.218
Ed Jucker 1965 CIN 1009 589 420 0 0.584 141 113 28 0 0.801 0.218
Buster Sheary 1955 HOCR 416 248 168 0 0.596 191 155 36 0 0.812 0.215
Eddie Hickey 1958 SLU 548 269 279 0 0.491 300 211 89 0 0.703 0.212
Ozzie Cowles 1943 DART 669 380 288 1 0.569 164 128 36 0 0.780 0.212
Joel Eaves 1963 AUB 605 283 321 1 0.469 306 208 98 0 0.680 0.211
Jimmy Earle 1979 MTEN 404 163 241 0 0.403 267 164 103 0 0.614 0.211
Billy Donovan 2009 FLA 1754 878 876 0 0.501 436 310 126 0 0.711 0.210
Kenneth Loeffler 1955 LASA 370 232 138 0 0.627 172 144 28 0 0.837 0.210
Fred Schaus 1960 WVIR 891 525 366 0 0.589 183 146 37 0 0.798 0.209
Bob King 1972 NMEX 917 417 500 0 0.455 264 175 89 0 0.663 0.208
Edmund Dollard 1924 SYRA 137 70 67 0 0.511 210 151 59 0 0.719 0.208
Bobby Braswell 2009 CNOR 164 53 111 0 0.323 386 205 181 0 0.531 0.208
Kevin Mackey 1990 CLEV 283 132 151 0 0.466 211 142 69 0 0.673 0.207
Chuck Noe 1962 VIRT 849 405 444 0 0.477 160 109 51 0 0.681 0.204
Bo Ryan 2009 WISC 2207 1151 1056 0 0.522 266 193 73 0 0.726 0.204
Lou Henson 1975 NMXS 1078 544 532 2 0.506 244 173 71 0 0.709 0.203
Mike Montgomery 1986 MONT 1421 659 762 0 0.464 231 154 77 0 0.667 0.203
Jack Ramsay 1966 SJOE 870 491 379 0 0.564 302 231 71 0 0.765 0.201
Butch van Breda Kolff 1967 PRIN 1263 718 545 0 0.568 134 103 31 0 0.769 0.200
Pat Foster 1986 LAMA 315 168 147 0 0.533 183 134 49 0 0.732 0.199
Jerome Jenkins 2008 CSAC 241 37 204 0 0.154 227 80 147 0 0.352 0.199
Rick Pitino 1983 BOSU 920 410 510 0 0.446 142 91 51 0 0.641 0.195
Fran Fraschilla 1996 MANH 1794 939 855 0 0.523 120 86 34 0 0.717 0.193
Guy Lewis 1986 HOU 148 72 76 0 0.486 871 592 279 0 0.680 0.193
John Brady 1997 SAMF 514 177 337 0 0.344 166 89 77 0 0.536 0.192
David MacMillan 1927 IDAH 199 106 93 0 0.533 130 94 36 0 0.723 0.190
Stew Morrill 2009 UTST 2014 1119 895 0 0.556 358 267 91 0 0.746 0.190
Mike Jarvis 1990 BOSU 1121 532 589 0 0.475 152 101 51 0 0.664 0.190
Bob Reinhart 1994 GAST 321 74 247 0 0.231 255 107 148 0 0.420 0.189
George Smith 1960 CIN 799 435 364 0 0.544 210 154 56 0 0.733 0.189
Everett Case 1965 NCST 588 324 264 0 0.551 511 377 134 0 0.738 0.187
Frank McGuire 1980 SCAR 1052 504 547 1 0.480 425 283 142 0 0.666 0.186
Jim Valvano 1980 IONA 472 232 240 0 0.492 139 94 45 0 0.676 0.185
Tom Davis 1977 LAFA 1214 656 558 0 0.540 160 116 44 0 0.725 0.185
Maury John 1971 DRAK 979 424 555 0 0.433 342 211 131 0 0.617 0.184
John Wiethe 1952 CIN 646 329 317 0 0.509 153 106 47 0 0.693 0.184
Norm Ellenberger 1979 NMEX 1181 592 589 0 0.501 196 134 62 0 0.684 0.182
George McCarty 1959 UTEP 553 211 342 0 0.382 133 75 58 0 0.564 0.182
Bill Rohr 1957 MIAO 683 326 357 0 0.477 138 91 47 0 0.659 0.182
Gary Waters 2001 KENT 1644 697 947 0 0.424 152 92 60 0 0.605 0.181
Neil Cohalan 1942 MANH 349 169 180 0 0.484 248 165 83 0 0.665 0.181
Willard Witte 1939 WYO 246 134 112 0 0.545 185 134 51 0 0.724 0.180
Mike Montgomery 2004 STAN 1636 855 781 0 0.523 560 393 167 0 0.702 0.179
Glenn Curtis 1946 INDS 540 298 242 0 0.552 167 122 45 0 0.731 0.179
Lute Olson 2001 ARIZ 1577 936 640 1 0.594 579 447 132 0 0.772 0.178
William Reinhart 1935 ORE 253 117 136 0 0.462 281 180 101 0 0.641 0.178
Jim Harrick 1988 PEPP 620 282 338 0 0.455 264 167 97 0 0.633 0.178
Blaine Taylor 1998 MONT 1801 910 891 0 0.505 207 141 66 0 0.681 0.176
Eddie Sutton 1985 ARKA 1196 718 478 0 0.600 335 260 75 0 0.776 0.176
Bobby Dye 1995 BOIS 343 151 192 0 0.440 346 213 133 0 0.616 0.175
Ben Braun 1996 EMIC 338 138 200 0 0.408 317 185 132 0 0.584 0.175
John Thompson 1998 GTWN 1221 661 560 0 0.541 822 589 233 0 0.717 0.175
Donald Starn 1943 KENT 218 79 139 0 0.362 207 111 96 0 0.536 0.174
Lefty Driesell 1986 MARY 1056 542 514 0 0.513 507 348 159 0 0.686 0.173
Billy Tubbs 2002 TCU 1833 822 1011 0 0.448 251 156 95 0 0.622 0.173
Tim Floyd 1998 IAST 1881 881 1000 0 0.468 128 82 46 0 0.641 0.172
Tom Asbury 1994 PEPP 884 449 435 0 0.508 184 125 59 0 0.679 0.171
Tiny Grant 1991 COLS 1541 719 822 0 0.467 127 81 46 0 0.638 0.171
Hugh Greer 1963 CONN 553 298 255 0 0.539 386 274 112 0 0.710 0.171
Shakey Rodriguez 2000 FIU 227 85 142 0 0.374 145 79 66 0 0.545 0.170
Mike Krzyzewski 2009 DUKE 1719 1117 602 0 0.650 502 411 91 0 0.819 0.169
Dutch Lonborg 1950 NORW 301 111 190 0 0.369 440 236 203 1 0.538 0.169
Billy Tubbs 1994 OKLA 1485 817 668 0 0.550 465 333 132 0 0.716 0.166
John Mauer 1947 TENN 472 279 191 2 0.593 166 126 40 0 0.759 0.166
Bobby Rogers 1963 TXAM 902 427 475 0 0.473 144 92 52 0 0.639 0.165
Pops Harrison 1950 IOWA 673 360 313 0 0.535 140 98 42 0 0.700 0.165
Bill C. Foster 1984 CLEM 1268 545 721 2 0.431 262 156 106 0 0.595 0.165
Dave Bliss 1999 NMEX 1657 879 778 0 0.530 354 246 108 0 0.695 0.164
Jack Leaman 1979 UMAS 442 207 235 0 0.468 343 217 126 0 0.633 0.164
Tex Winter 1968 KSU 879 461 418 0 0.524 379 261 118 0 0.689 0.164
Danny Kaspar 2009 SFA 437 192 245 0 0.439 262 158 104 0 0.603 0.164
Tom Young 1985 RUTG 1079 551 528 0 0.511 355 239 116 0 0.673 0.163
Van Holt 2008 ARPB 136 17 119 0 0.125 174 50 124 0 0.287 0.162
Chuck Orsborn 1965 BRAD 1002 615 387 0 0.614 250 194 56 0 0.776 0.162
Bruce Stewart 1991 MTEN 808 398 410 0 0.493 216 141 75 0 0.653 0.160

When Dick Edwards arrived at the University of the Pacific in 1963, he took over a program that had never been coached by anyone but Van Sweet, and a program that had just 1 winning season (15-11 in 1956) in 11 years of play, culminating in a brutal 19-59 (.244) stretch in the 3 years leading up to Edwards' hiring (Sweet is apparently a much better golf coach than a basketball coach, btw). So Edwards promptly (and dramatically) changed the culture: the Tigers went 15-11 in his first year at the helm, and within 3 seasons they were 22-6, conference champions, and made the regional semifinal of the NCAA Tournament (they were even better the next year, 1967, going 24-4 and making it to the regional final). In 1972, Edwards' Tigers also upset 3rd-ranked Long beach State, coached by towel-chomping Jerry Tarkanian. By the time Edwards left for Cal in 1972, he had completely turned around the moribund Pacific program, leading them to 20+ wins 4 times and a winning record in all nine of his seasons as coach. And his successor Stan Morrison, while not as successful as Edwards, went 100-88 (.532) with only 2 losing seasons after taking over, proving that Edwards had truly expunged the culture of losing that had plagued Pacific under Sweet. Coaching performances like that are what this list is all about, so it's fitting that Edwards ranks #1.

Also of note is the great John Wooden's epic turnaround at UCLA. The Bruins were a strong program as independents under Fred Cozen and Caddy Works, peaking at 14-2 in 1926, but their record slipped drastically upon joining the Pac-10 in 1928. It took Wooden's predecessor Wilbur Johns 8 years to build the Bruins back up to 18-7 following the disastrous final years of Works' regime, but after falling to 12-13 in 1948, he became the school's athletic director and hired Wooden, a 38-year-old coming off a 27-7 season at Indiana State (Wooden had actually wanted to coach at Minnesota, but a weather-related phone mishap prevented the Gophers from hiring Wooden before UCLA did). Wooden immediately turned UCLA around, going 22-7 and 24-7 in his first two seasons, respectively, in Westwood, earning a regional semifinal berth in 1950. From 1949-1963, Wooden's Bruins went 285-125 (.695), a far cry from the mediocre program he had inherited from Johns. That would have been enough to solidify himself as the 69th-best culture-changing coach on our list, but in 1964 John Wooden became John Wooden -- installing a zone press defense, he took a talented but undersized UCLA squad (their tallest player was 6'5" Fred Slaughter) to a brilliant 30-0 National Championship season that few pundits saw coming. And it was no fluke, either: from '64 until his retirement in 1975, Wooden proceeded to go on a tear unlike any college basketball coach (perhaps any coach, period) has ever experienced -- he followed up the perfect '64 season with 3 more 30-0 romps, including an 88-game win streak from 1971-74, 9 more National Championships in the next 11 years, and a monstrous 335-22 (.938!!!) record that will likely never be approached ever again.

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5 Responses to “CBB: Changing the Culture”

  1. Alvy Says:

    John Wooden is the man! Are you going to publish something similar for NBA coaches?

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    I could, but I'd probably have to limit it to the team's record in the 5 years or so before he took over. College is different in the sense that the coaches are bigger than the players (power-wise), and they have complete control over the program, so when a coach turns a team around you can be pretty sure that they're responsible. In the NBA, the stars are more important than the coaches, coaches rarely stay for long with any one team, and organizational philosophies are often dictated from above the coach's head. I'm not saying the coach has no power or anything, but I am saying it's difficult to apply the same study to them because coaching in the NBA is so much different from coaching in college.

  3. Mike G Says:

    "when a coach turns a team around you can be pretty sure that they're responsible. "
    Infinite wisdom trumps all.

    If an NBA coach's tenure coincides with a team's turning their fortunes around, that surely can't count against the coach. If he can do this repeatably, that's a positive indicator.

  4. Downpuppy Says:

    UMass is on the list twice, but both times the culture snapped back to mediocrity pretty quick.

    I'm not sure that Erving & Camby had less to do with the turnarounds than Leaman & Calipari.

  5. DSMok1 Says:

    Neil: would it be possible to look at college coaches through the lens of the previous, say, 10 years also? I did this exact thing over at OUHoops.com to rank the current coaches: I looked at each coach's record at each school at which they had coached, and compared that to the record before they had been there. "Rank the Big XII coaches"

    It would be possible to rank all coaches by looking at the school's records before each stint at each place, compare to the records when they were/are there, and weight by the number of years at that location. The result could be a wining percentage delta, or even better that winning percentage could be converted to a "margin" so that improving from 0.800 to 0.900 would be worth more than improving from 0.450 to 0.550.

    Interesting work.