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Part 2: Is Matt Painter A Top B1G Coach?

Today we delve a little deeper into each coaches individual record for the five seasons from 2007-2008 through 2011-2012.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we looked at the collective records over 2007-08 through 2011-12 of seven of the twelve coaches in the B1G using this table:


click to make larger

Let's now look at each coach individually over the same time period.

Matt Painter


Matt Painter has put together one of the best stretches of team performance in school history. His run of four straight 25 win seasons is the first in school history (and something no one else on this list can claim at anytime in their careers). He coached Purdue teams to six straight twenty win seasons (first one excluded here) something that had only been done once before in the storied history of the program (Gene Keady 1983-1988). The 29 win season in 2009-10 ties the record for most wins in a season set twice before (Keady: 1988,1994). Finally, the 107 wins from the 2007-08 through 2010-11 seasons is the best four year record in school history.

Some might say that this success was built on the backs of arguably the most heralded recruiting class in school history, the Baby Boilers (ESPN: Purdue relies on quartet of Freshman). Not to diminish the effort it took to secure that recruiting class but some might suggest it was virtually gift wrapped to him (All four grew up within 100 miles of Purdue) and that it had a level of cohesion and familiarity coming in rarely seen in the college game. There may be something to this as Painter has not been able to follow up that success since then. There were more four star or better recruits in the 2007-08 class than there have been in the next four years combined. Furthermore, Painter has gone head to head against Crean and Izzo for several high profile recruits over this time period (Dawson, Harris, Zeller, Ferrell) and lost out on each of them. He also chose not to offer legacy recruit Glenn Robinson III, who has been instrumental to Michigan's resurgence.

Painter has certainly earned his third best in conference contract of $2.3M/year from this success alone. In order to keep him, Purdue had to agree to upgrade it's facilities and pay his assistants better. We'll see if this pays off in the future. He deserves the opportunity to see the program through its current difficulty, based on his past success. But with the apparent rise of IU and his struggles on the recruiting trail against the Hoosiers and other B1G schools, he certainly has his work cut out for him if he is to continue to earn his salary. The current season, while incomplete, is hopefully an aberration. Should Purdue stumble again next year, it may point to the Baby Boilers success as his high water mark.

Tom Izzo


I am biased to be sure. Izzo is one of the top coaches in college basketball. He recruits well, he coaches well and his overall success leading his program can only be matched currently by a handful of coaches in the nation. During the period we are analyzing, he has the second most wins overall, the second most B1G wins overall, the second highest single season win total (31 - tied with Ryan and Matta), he's tied for the most B1G titles, and has nearly double the number of NCAA tournament wins of anyone on this list (Matta and Ryan are next with 8). The one blight on his record during this span is the 19-15 record during the 2010-11 season. Izzo's squads from the 2007-08 through 2010-11 seasons won two less games than Painter's teams during this period, but had a substantially better showing in the NCAA's.Tom Izzo is the highest paid coach in the B1G ($3.5M) as much for what he has done during this span as for his success over his entire career.

Izzo has put MSU at the top of the conference and has stated that he'd like to win at least one more title before he retires. My only hope is that he doesn't cling to the position (like Paterno or Keady) if he doesn't reach his goal and it becomes apparent that his best days are behind him.

Thad Matta


Matta consistently brings in top flight recruiting classes filled with NBA talent each season. In fact, he's lost more 4 star recruits to transfer and early entry than some of his contemporaries have recruited over their B1G careers. He is such a good recruiter that he didn't bring in a class for the the 2009-2010 season, yet he's still tops on teh list of 4/5 star recruits. Ranked first in B1G titles (tie), BTT titles, BTT wins, overall victories, and number of 4/5 star recruits, Matta certainly earns his keep. His $2.4M/year is only behind Izzo's annual salary. Matta has turned OSU into a finely tuned machine, accumulating impressive win totals both inside and outside the conference. He missed an NCAA tournament in 2007-2008 and that would be the only black mark I can find on his record. Still, he and Izzo are the only coaches to go to a Final Four both inside and outside this period.

Matta is young; OSU is humming; unless he decides to try the NBA or there is some skeleton in the program's closest, he'll be the Buckeye's head coach for the foreseeable future.

Tubby Smith


Move along. Nothing to see here. Smith simply has not been able to translate past history into success at Minnesota. While he has an overall winning record he has yet to post a winning season in the B1G. No B1G titles, no BTT titles, no NCAA tournament wins coupled with back to back six win conference seasons suggest that Smith's salary of $1.8M, good for sixth best in conference, is not in line with his performance. The whispers are getting louder in Minneapolis about how much longer he will remain their coach. A winning conference season coupled with strong tournament runs (BTT, NCAA) may be his only hope to remain in the position.

Tom Crean


As I mentioned earlier, it is probably unfair to include Tom Crean on this list at this point in his B1G coaching career. He took over in Bloomington after a scandal resulted in the decimation of the program. It appears, he has the Hoosiers moving in the right direction. Although not included here, with IU's win over Purdue on Saturday, he is now at 78-78 (overall record) as a coach in the B1G. He has two wins in the NCAA tourney last year to his credit, but his fourth best in conference $2.2M salary looks like it's more for what he will do as for what he has done in the B1G.

I'll be honest, it was my hope that Tom Crean would succeed Izzo as coach in East Lansing, which is highly unlikely to happen now. He was a big part of MSU's early success under Izzo (assistant from 1995-1999). With the recruits he has secured, the history and tradition of IU, and skills he possesses, I do believe his future in the conference is very bright.

Bo Ryan


Bo Ryan is ranked first (tie) in B1G wins over these five seasons. Quick! Name the last high profile recruit Ryan has secured. If there is a coach in the country who does more with less, I'm not sure who it is. OSU under Thad Matta has had four classes during this span with as many 4/5 star recruits as Ryan has total over this span. Bo-ball is certainly ugly and not any fun to watch, but you can't argue with his conference success. Keep this in mind too, Bo Ryan's Badger teams have never finished lower than 4th place in any of the eleven complete season's he has led them. Wisconsin has been a solid contending team under Ryan, but the knock on him is that he has not translated that regular season achievement into NCAA tournament success. You'll consistently find a Bo Ryan coached team in the NCAA's, but you'll rarely see them after the first game of the second weekend. William Francis Ryan is the fifth best paid coach in the B1G at $2.1M and quite frankly this seems a little low for all he has accomplished in the B1G.

Ryan is the oldest coach on this list at 65. I'm sure due to his success that he will be at UW as long as he wants to coach. Is that 5 years? 10 years? At some point no matter what his level of success, age may become a factor in his ability to reach players. Knight was done at 68, Calhoun just retired at 70. Wooden was done at age 65.

John Beilein


John Beilein is the least accomplished in the conference of all the coaches we have looked at with at least one B1G title under their belts. He has the fewest overall wins of any on this list and, just like Crean and Smith, he has a losing conference record over the time span appraised here (with UM's win over PSU on Sunday he's now at 52-51 for his B1G career). Beilein also appears to have his program trending upward. He's a consistent recruiter and as he's been able to get his players into his system, they have had better success. His $1.6M salary is good for seventh best in the B1G but conversely, last on this list.

Beilein has had a winning record both in conference and overall at every stop in his career. Michigan has improved their facilities as well, so I can see him maintaining UM near the level they are now.

In Summation

As I mentioned yesterday if we only consider accomplishment over these five seasons, than clearly Matt Painter is one of the best coaches in the B1G. However, If we look at how the league is trending, I think that CMP's position near the top is less secure. If UM and IU have really returned to the league's elite, if Ryan continues to work magic in Madison, if Matta continues to recruit like he's handing out NBA lottery slots, and if Izzo remains, then the room at the top of the conference is noticeably smaller. Lest we forget, Fran McCaffery and John Groce have just taken over at Iowa and Illinois respectively. It remains to be be seen what they can accomplish once they start to get their own players.

If you forced me to rank the coaches based on what we analyzed here I would go with:

1) Tom Izzo

2) Thad Matta

3) Bo Ryan

4) Matt Painter

5) Tom Crean

6) John Beilein

7)Tubby Smith

Why would I rank Painter fourth? I believe that Izzo and Matta have clearly been more successful overall (one win in the conference standings over 90 games is effectively a wash) than any of the other coaches. Ryan and Painter are very similar in that they have had great success in the conference but little success in NCAA tournament. Ryan seems to find players that fit his system regardless of any ranking, while Painter it appears has been forced in many cases to settle for his second choices as he has lost a few battles on the recruiting trail. I do believe that in another two seasons Crean will be higher on this list. Beilein is going to be consistent and competitive getting the guys for his system but I think he's more a good coach, than a great coach. I'm not sure Tubby Smith will be in the league in two seasons.

Of course, the period in comparison does not include the whole of each coaches career. So in that respect the jury is still out on where they truly rank in their individual program's as well as B1G history.

Matt Painter is the youngest coach on this list at 42. Matta is next at 45 followed by Crean is at 46. Izzo is 58 while Beilein, Smith and Ryan are 60, 61, and 65 respectively. So there is still a lot of time for Painter to add to his legacy. He reminds me a little bit of Izzo in this respect. Through a stroke of luck (a rollover accident outside of Detroit), Mateen Cleaves ended up at MSU which started an ongoing investigation of UM basketball from 1997-2002 and enabled Izzo to assemble the Flintstones, MSU's most successful class in its history. So, much like Painter, Izzo was able to achieve success by the third year after his hire. Unlike Painter, Izzo has never yet had to endure a season like CMP is going through this year.

Is Matt Painter one of the top coaches in the B1G? Yes. Today. He'll have to find a way to replicate his prior success if he's going to stay there.