Who is the best college basketball coach in the country for the money? The calculations have been made and the results might surprise you. If you thought it might be a legend like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski or an upstart newcomer like Butler's boy wonder coach Brad Stevens, guess again, because they didn't even make the list. In fact, when it comes to a school's return on investment in basketball, #1 on our lists of the best college basketball coaches for the money are taken by Saint Bonaventure's Mark Schmidt (High-Majors) and South Dakota State's Scott Nagy (Mid-Major).
Schmidt helped lead the Saint Bonaventure Bonnie's to the Atlantic-10 Tournament title and and an appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2012, something that may not stack up to the resumes of legends Roy Williams of North Carolina (#10) and John Beilien of Michigan (#15), but extraordinarily impressive considering his budget was less than half his conference brethren, Chris Mack of Xavier (#7). In fact, our list of the best High-Major coaches for the money is a veritable array of coaches including veterans such as: San Diego State's Steve Fisher (#3), Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (#18), and California's Mike Montgomery (#13) as well as young guns like Purdue's Matt Painter (#12), Baylor's Scott Drew (#19), and Arizona's Sean Miller (#20) .
Ranking the quality of a team is never easy. Ranking the quality of a coach is even harder. There are so many factors that go into determining what exactly makes a good coach: wins and losses, recruiting success, overall basketball knowledge, the list goes on and on. What is most important to remember is that while a coach may excel at any number of these traits, history has shown that they certainly are not irreplaceable.
In compiling this list, we concluded that the best way to rank a coach relative to his peers is not to do so based on the number of wins and loses alone, but instead on how much a coach wins and losses as compared to the resources he has. Thus, the list we created is a ranking of the top college basketball coaches in the country based off the coaches "cost-per-win", calculated by dividing the total number of wins against Division I opponents during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons by their respective schools basketball budget for each year. In essence, this creates an equation in which the variable numerator among coaches, resources, is divided over a constant denominator, wins and losses against the same pool of competition.
Due to the quantity of schools at the Division I level (340+), there is of course an inherent disparity in the budgets of many of the smaller universities as compared to their much larger BCS brethren. As such, we created two separate rankings, one for coaches of "High-Major" schools, and the other for ones that coach at the "Mid-Major" level. Mid-Major, as defined by the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, are schools that play in the following conferences: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, WAC, and West Coast.
Using the most recent full season data sets available (2010-11 and 2011-12), a coach had to satisfy two basic criteria to make the list: 1) He was still coaching at the university this season, and 2) had to have a cumulative winning record against Division I competition if he was the coach of a mid-major program or a winning record during both seasons if his program was considered a high-major . The first criteria provides for consistency, the second sets a minimum threshold that insures that the coaches were not simply "one-hit-wonders". Moreover, coaches of high-major programs were held to a higher standard because of their ability to purchase guarantee games against smaller programs that could pad their records. Even with both criteria in place, only a handful of coaches were filtered from both lists.
The on court success of the Mid-Major coaches who made the list was equally impressive. In 2012, 19 of 20 coaches lead their teams to the postseason, 11 of them captured their conference regular season and/or tournament titles, and almost all accumulated more than 20 wins.
Scott Nagy, #1 on the our Mid-Major list, helped lead the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to their first NCAA Tournament appearance on the Division I level in school history on one of the smallest budgets in college basketball, an astonishing feat. Two of the top 10 coaches, Anthony Evans of Norfolk State (#4) and Brett Reed of Leigh (#8), helped guide their teams to only the 5th and 6th upset of a 15 over a 2 seeded team in the history of the NCAA tournament. Tommy Amaker of Harvard (#3) led the Crimson to their first Ivy League title and NCAA tournament appearance in over 50 years, while Bob Hoffman of Mercer (#9) led the Bears to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) title, the first postseason tournament win by any team in the history of the Atlantic Sun conference.
The average budget of the Mid-Major programs was $1,247,808, which is barely a quarter of the median of their High-Major counterparts. In fact, there is a difference of more than 300% between the highest cost-per-win on both respective levels, a statistic that gives significant relevancy to the efficiency of the coaches who are successful at the lower resource level. Not surprisingly, many of the coaches on this list will be taking over High-Major programs of their own come 2013 and beyond.