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The Best Big Ten Basketball Coaches of the 00s Decade

The 1900s that is

New Basketball Hall Of Fame
The peach basket era
Photo by Tom Herde/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Inspired by Kind of...’s attempt to arbitrarily rank the 100 best B1G teams since 2000 and not wanting them to be the only person to randomly rank things on OTE, I’ve taken it upon myself to rank the best Big Ten basketball coaches of each decade from the 1900s to the 2010s. Unfortunately for Penn State, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland fans they weren’t invited to the best conference in the country until recent decades so they won’t see the names of their best coaches until the end of this series - or perhaps not at all as their Big Ten coaches haven’t exactly accomplished all that much.

Assuming we start ranking coaches with the introduction of Big Ten conference play, there have been 184 head men’s basketball coaches in Big Ten history. According to my sources which are definitely wrong, an additional 11 men coached basketball at Big Ten universities before the conference began sponsoring play. I’ll be mentioning a few of those 11 in today’s article as I’ve only got 4 years of conference play to work with in this decade.

We start our journey in the aughts of 1900-1909. Basketball had been invented fairly recently in 1891 at Springfield YCMA by some guy named James Naismith. The first public basketball game at the YMCA school in 1892 involved Amos Alonzo Stagg - yes, that Amos Alonzo Stagg - scoring the only point for the faculty as they lost to the students 5-1. Purdue and Minnesota would start teams the same year the Big Ten Conference was founded (1896) but Chicago (where Stagg coached football) was naturally the first university out of what would become the Big Ten to have a basketball team when they created one for the winter of 1893-94.

The Big Ten conference did not start sponsoring men’s basketball until the 1906 season which was won by the Minnesota Gophers. As a result, this “decade” of Big Ten basketball is really just four years: 1906-1909. Without further ado, here are the best head coaches and a couple of guys that deserve mentioning for being the opposite of the best during that timeframe:

Embarrassment(s) of the decade:

Frank Pinckney (Illinois Fighting Illini*)

1907-08 season. 1-10 record (0-8 in conference play).

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 11 Arizona at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pinckney’s 1-10 record was easily the worst of the decade for any Big Ten coach, but this really shouldn’t be held against him. Pinckney had played football at Illinois as a fullback in 1905 and 1906 and had no experience coaching before this point. Furthermore, the Illini had just started their basketball program the previous season under Elwood Brown. Pinckney’s single win came against Peoria YMCA and it ties him for the record of least wins by a Big Ten coach with someone we will get to in a couple of weeks.

*not their team name at the time

James Horne** (Indiana Hoosiers)

1901 season. 1-4 record

Larry Bird’s Hometown of French Lick, Indiana Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Indiana had joined the Big Ten in 1899 so Horne was a basketball coach of the Hoosiers after the university had joined the conference but before it became a basketball conference. Luckily for him, Indiana was still experimenting with this basketball thing and only played 5 games. Had he been a coach in the Big Ten, Horne would be in a 3 way tie for least wins by a Big Ten coach. Instead he merely goes down in history as the Indiana basketball coach with the least amount of victories.

**never coached a Big Ten game

Honorable mention(s):

C.I. Freeman** (Purdue Boilermakers)

1903 season. 8-0 record

Train service to the Brocken suspended Photo by Matthias Bein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Even though he is the only men’s basketball coach at a Big Ten school to not ever lose a game, Freeman is limited to a honorable mention since his single season of coaching came before the conference started sponsoring the sport. Freeman did not win the Big Ten title since it didn’t exist.

**never coached a Big Ten game

The Top Whatever of the Decade - this decade it is 3:

No. 3: Emmett Angell (Wisconsin Badgers)

Coached from 1905-1908. 43-15 record (19-5 in conference play), 2 shared conference titles (1907, 1908)

Animal feeding in the game park Photo by Jonas Walzberg/picture alliance via Getty Images

Despite winning 2 conference titles in 3 seasons of Big Ten play (and out of the 4 of the decade), Angell only finishes third on the decade’s list of B1G coaches because he shared those conference titles. Angell would leave Wisconsin to take the same position at Oregon State following the 1908 spring semester.

No. 2: Louis Cooke (Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Coached from 1898-1924. Record during the decade: 119-34 (24-18 in conference play), 2 conference titles (1906, 1907 shared), 1902 Helms National Champion, 1902 and 1903 Premo-Porretta National Champion

Jerry Holt/Star Tribune 10/10/2005 Little Brown Jug trophy-------Ryan Lee junior a the University of Minnesota can not believe what he is looking at the ìLittle Brown Jugî trophy one of the oldest trophies in college football. Minnesota beat Michig Photo by JERRY HOLT/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Cooke won the inaugural Big Ten championship and shared the title the following year as well. Although not playing basketball in the Big Ten at the time, Cooke and the 1902 Minnesota Gophers squad was retroactively award the 1902 Helms Foundation National Championship. As we all know, the Helms Foundation National Championships definitely count equally to the NCAA tournament championships of today. Some enlightened individuals might even say they are worth six times as much. Both the 1902 and 1903 went undefeated and in additional to the Helms Foundation natty for the ‘02 squad, the Premo-Porretta Power Poll retroactively awarded the Gophers the national title for both of those years as well (Helms chose the 15-1 Yale Bulldogs as the ‘03 champ).

Cooke was the first basketball coach in Minnesota Gophers history. When not serving as basketball coach, Cooke was a Professor of Physical Education (yes, he was a P.E. teacher) and worked as the athletic director or assistant athletic director for Minnesota for a long time. It was in his role as athletic director that Cooke came into possession of the Little Brown Jug and refused to return it to the Wolverines.

Cooke’s all time records and accomplishments will have to hold off until a future article as he wasn’t done being one of the best coaches in the conference at the close of the nineteen aughts.

No. 1: Joseph Ravcroft (Chicago Maroons)

Coached 4 seasons from 1906-1910. Record during decade: 56-4 (25-3 in conference play). 3 conference titles (1907, 1908*, 1909*) *shared. 1907, 1908, and 1909 Helms National Champions. 1909 Premo-Porretta National Champions.

Hyde Park campus, University of Chicago. Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ravcroft only coached at Chicago for 4 years, but he won the Big Ten title all four of those years. In addition to that, the Maroons took home the National Titles for all 3 of his seasons coaching them in the 00s when they were retroactively awarded them by the Helms Foundation. The 07 and 08 teams won 21 and 23 games respectively and the 09 team went 12-0. Ravcroft’s tenure ended with a 66-7 record and his 90.5% winning percentage ranks #1 all-time among Big Ten coaches who actually coached in the Big Ten (Purdue’s C.I. Freeman and Alpha Jamison percentages top his but predate the development of Big Ten basketball).

Raycroft would leave Chicago for a position as Chairman of the Department of Health and Physical Education at Princeton University in 1911. He would hold that position until his retirement in 1936.

Disagree with my order? Angry I didn’t mention the Michigan Wolverines, Northwestern Wildcats, or Iowa Hawkeyes? Want to tell us your fond memories of these coaches? Let us know in the comments and feel free to speculate wildly about which Big Ten university will win the most OTE basketball coach of the decades. Feel free to even make a bet with me on it and see what happens.


Best coaching name of the decade?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Alpha Jamison
    (17 votes)
  • 11%
    Phelps Darby
    (11 votes)
  • 7%
    Elwood Brown
    (7 votes)
  • 9%
    Doc Stewart
    (9 votes)
  • 17%
    Herb Juul
    (17 votes)
  • 36%
    Zora Clevenger
    (36 votes)
  • 1%
    Other - tell us in the comments
    (1 vote)
98 votes total Vote Now


Best coach of the nineteen aughts decade?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Joseph Raycroft of course. BoilerUp89 is never wrong.
    (30 votes)
  • 29%
    Louis Cooke because of the Little Brown Jug
    (21 votes)
  • 23%
    C.I. Freeman for going undefeated
    (17 votes)
  • 4%
    Other - tell us in the comments
    (3 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now