We often hear the rhetoric about whether a coach is an offensive guru or a defensive specialist, and we usually accept that basketball analysis at face value. But what do the numbers say about how well a coach’s team performs in a certain aspect of the game?
ESPN’s John Gasaway sat down to evaluate the top performance in the country over the last five years based simply on the amount of points scored or points allowed. Teams were ranked based on their league average in conference play in a given characteristic, either offense or defense.
Gasaway ranked all of the coaches based on their top category, allowing them only one entry on the list. John Calipari’s offense at Kentucky came in at No. 4.
“Last season was, relatively speaking, a down year for Kentucky on offense, one in which the Wildcats were outscored on a per-possession basis by five teams in SEC play. Nevertheless, Calipari clocks in very high on this list on the strength of the previous four seasons.
“His 2014-15 group, the one that reached the Final Four with a 38-0 record, was pretty amazing on offense. What’s less commonly appreciated, however, is that each of the next two UK teams -- in 2015-16 (Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray) and 2016-17 (Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox) -- achieved similar or near-similar statistical results in terms of SEC domination on that side of the ball.”
Calipari could certainly slide a few spots in either direction if these statistics go back further in his Kentucky tenure, but this season has the potential to put up record numbers that could put him on top of the list.
Top Ten Statistical Coaching Characteristics
- Tony Bennett, Virginia Cavaliers, Defense
- Jay Wright, Villanova Wildcats, Offense
- Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Blue Devils, Offense
- John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats, Offense
- Sean Miller, Arizona Wildcats, Defense
- Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks, Offense
- Roy Williams, North Carolina Tar Heels, Offense
- Dana Altman, Oregon Ducks, Offense
- Tom Izzo, Michigan State Spartans, Offense
- Larry Krystkowiak, Utah Utes, Defense
Comparing a characteristic to the rest of a team’s league can certainly benefit some teams more than others, but that is probably the most fair way to look at this data.
Gasaway did not list the actual statistics that he used for these rankings, but I would be very interested in looking at these ten coaches in both categories and creating a combined ranking. For example, I could imagine No. 1 Virginia falling out of the top ten completely if offense was combined with defense somehow in this metric.
Are you surprised at where Calipari landed on the list?