CBB’s Top 10 Most Hated Coaches Ever
10. Jerry Tarkanian
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After our list of the Top 10 Most Hated College Basketball Players Ever struck a chord with people, we felt obligated to compile the most hated coaches in college basketball history. Notice that the common denominator among these coaches is jealousy fueled by many wins.
“Tark the Shark” won big while also getting in trouble with the NCAA at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State - all of which were hit with NCAA penalties on his watch. The most infamous incident was a picture of Runnin’ Rebels basketball players from the 1989-90 national title team in a hot tub with notorious gambler Richie “The Fixer” Perry that eventually led to Tark’s 1992 resignation.
Not only did the NCAA fail to get rid of Tarkanian, they also lost $2.5 million to him in a 1998 harassment lawsuit. Only someone like Tarkanian could escape that much NCAA inquiry and end up richer for it.
9. Jim Calhoun
Calhoun personified “Bostonian” as UConn’s head coach from 1986 until 2012: Tough, blue-collar, unapologetic, prickly and profane.
While Calhoun did a lot of great things in the community, don’t tell that to opposing Big East fans that hated his guts. He had his share of coaching feuds - most notably with John Calipari - and was always ready to blow a fuse with the media when someone questioned his coaching ability or salary.
Calhoun always wanted things done his way and had a quick temper when that didn’t happen. When he finally retired before this college basketball season, he prolonged the decision long enough that it forced UConn to name Kevin Ollie his successor - just as Calhoun wanted.
It was a perfectly fitting way for him to go out.
8. John Chaney
Chaney holds the distinction of being the only coach on this list to threaten to kill another coach in a room full of cameras. Somehow, Chaney only received a one game suspension following that 1994 incident with John Calipari. And it wasn’t the last time Chaney would resort to violence.
In 2005, Chaney admitted to sending in backup forward Nehemiah Ingram to commit hard fouls against St. Joseph’s because he was unhappy with poor officiating. “I’m going to send in what we used to do years ago, send in the goons,” said Chaney. The tactic resulted in St. Joe’s John Bryant breaking his arm. Amazingly, Chaney again only served a one-game suspension.
A constant fit of rage on the Temple bench who routinely tore apart his own wardrobe during games, opposing A-10 fans didn’t shed any tears when Chaney called it quits in 2006.
7. Bob Huggins
Huggins’ nickname is “Huggy Bear,” but this hated coach sure isn’t known for being cuddly.
Hatred for him began at Cincinnati, where he was perceived to coach “thugs” (most notably Kenyon Martin). A paltry 28% graduation rate among his Beracat players only added ammo to those who felt Huggins was terrible for college sports. Also a hot head on the bench, Huggins further damaged his reputation when he pled no contest to a DUI in 2004, which played a part in his resignation later that year.
That notoriety followed Huggins to Kansas State when he hired Dalonte Hill as an assistant coach in a shady “packaged deal” with super recruit Michael Beasley, who played for Hill’s AAU team in Washington, D.C. The hatred has quelled since he arrived in Morgantown in 2007. However, he’s made it clear even to his own students that you still won’t like Huggy Bear when he’s angry.
6. Rick Pitino
It’s a good thing New Yorkers have thick skin, because this sweet-talking Long Islander native has been called every name in the book over the last two decades in the NBA and college basketball.
Shameless self-promoter. Egomaniac. Whiner. Opportunist. Weasel. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No one hates Pitino more than the fans in Lexington, who watched him leave a dream job at Kentucky only to return to college four years later to coach bitter rival Louisville.
Fans like to point out that Pitino looks a lot like Al Pacino in the 1997 film The Devil’s Advocate - especially in his patented white suit. In case you haven’t seen the movie, Pacino plays Satan.
We’re guessing that vanity is also Pitino’s favorite sin.
5. John Calipari
With his slicked-back hair and expensive Armani suits, John Calipari is the Gordon Gekko of college basketball coaches. Those snake-oil salesman mannerisms rankle a lot of people - among them Jim Calhoun, who called Calipari “Johnny Clam Chowder” for faking a Boston accent while coaching at UMass.
A lot of fans think Calipari’s as crooked as Gekko too. Final Four appearances at UMass and Memphis were vacated due to NCAA violations. These days, many are unwilling to believe that his success at Kentucky - with rosters full of one-and-done future NBA lottery picks - is legit, even though he’s never been personally implicated by the NCAA.
There was even an accusation that while an assistant at Pitt in 1986, Coach Cal told a recruit that then-St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca was dying of cancer in an effort to convince the recruit to sign with the Panthers.
All of this makes Kentucky’s struggles in 2012-13 very sweet for Calipari haters.
4. John Thompson
Nowadays, Thompson comes across as a gentle old papa bear for his son, current Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. How quickly people forget the disdain he once faced.
With the Hoyas, he was notorious for his profanity-laced tirades. Like the one that got him assessed three technical fouls during one play of a 1990 game against Syracuse - after which Thompson mockingly waved to the Carrier Dome crowed while being ejected. Thompson was also no friend of the media, routinely restricting access to his team in what was dubbed “Hoya Paranoia.”
Sadly, a lot of the vitriol directed at Thompson was racist in nature for creating a team that was almost exclusively all-black - with players like Michael Graham, Allen Iverson and Victor Page - at an elite, private university made up of many privileged white students. A lot of ignorant white people even accused Thompson of being a reverse racist.
Not that any of them would tell the intimidating, 6-foot-10 former player that to his face.
3. Adolph Rupp
In his 42 years at Kentucky, Rupp became one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time - and also one of the most disliked due to his nastiness. Rupp ran his teams like a drill instructor, and years after playing for him, former players spoke of Rupp like an abusive father.
“He wanted everybody to hate him and he succeeded,” UK legend Bill Spivey once said. “He called us names some of us had never heard before.” Added former Wildcat Tommy Kron, “He was a tough, gruff kind of guy who would verbally abuse his players to get them to play harder.”The Wildcats’ domination of the SEC under Rupp proved that, to a certain extent, that tactic worked.
Rupp has been further demonized over the years by portrayals of racism, such as a very unflattering Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford. While accusations of racism have been strongly challenged in the Bluegrass State, the perception remains and tarnishes his legacy in the eye of the public.
2. Mike Krzyzewski
Krzyzewski has won four NCAA championships and more games than any other coach in Division I history. This in itself has made him one of the most hated coaches of all time.
The fact that Coach K is a media darling and has had most of his success at Duke - a school the rest of college basketball loves to hate for its spoiled brat reputation - hasn’t helped. It’s a lot like being Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars: You’re pretty much the face of evil and oppression to the rest of the galaxy (in this case, college basketball).
As a result, hating Duke and Coach K has become an art form, as signs like this indicate.
1. Bobby Knight
There was never any doubt with this pick, as Bob Knight is college basketball’s greatest villain ever.
At Indiana, he threw a folding chair across a court, choked a player, head butted another and kicked his own son in the leg. Those are just a few examples of Knight’s temper, infamous enough that it’s been the subject of entire highlight reels. He also drew controversy outside of the gym, like when he told Connie Chung during a 1988 interview: “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”
As proof of how poorly the American public still views Knight - now an ESPN analyst - Forbes ranked him the No. 9 most disliked person in sports in 2011 among the likes of Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez, Tiger Woods, Al Davis and Randy Moss.
Not that Knight cares. As he once eloquently put it, “I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass.”