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VOL. 40 | NO. 23 | Friday, June 3, 2016

Tennessee’s top 25 college coaches

By David Climer

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David Climer's "purely subjective" list of the top 25 college coaches in Tennessee:

1. Tim Corbin

Vanderbilt baseball

Corbin

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

In 14 years, Corbin has built Vanderbilt baseball into a perennial national power through exceptional recruiting and player development.

A typical Corbin team has quality pitching, solid defense and an offense that puts pressure on the opposition with aggressive base-running. The Commodores don’t rebuild; they reload. Despite losing three first-round picks in the Major League Draft off the 2015 team, the Commodores went 18-12 in the powerful SEC.

2. Butch Jones

Tennessee football

Jones

-- Andrew Bruckse/Tennessee Athletics/Utsports.Com

Mere numbers don’t do justice to the rebuilding job Jones has done with the Vols. In 2013, he inherited a program that had endured three straight losing seasons and four in the previous five years. With his brick-by-brick approach to recruiting, Jones has positioned UT for a possible run at the SEC Eastern Division title in the upcoming season. UT’s junior class – Jones’ first full recruiting class – is loaded and includes a number of likely NFL draft picks.

3. Tubby Smith

Memphis men’s basketball

Smith

-- Ap Photo/Orlin Wagner

A number of eyebrows were raised when the Tigers hired the well-traveled, 64-year-old Smith to replace Josh Pastner. Is he over the hill? Far from it.

In exchange for a five-year, $15.45 million contract, Memphis is getting a coach who has won a national championship (1998 at Kentucky) and has taken five different schools to the NCAA tournament. He is coming off a season where he led Texas Tech to the NCAAs in his third season in Lubbock.

4. Rick Byrd

Belmont men’s basketball

Byrd

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Belmont University

About the only thing you can find to criticize Byrd is the fact that he has never won an NCAA tournament game. So what? Working at a program whose budget is dwarfed by some of the in-state competition, Byrd has coached the Bruins to the NCAAs in seven of the last 11 seasons. Since moving from the Atlantic Sun to the tougher Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont has finished first or tied for first all four years. Could he have succeeded at a bigger program? Absolutely.

5. Dean Hayes

Middle Tennessee men’s and women’s track

Hayes

Longevity? Check. Success? Check. Influence? Check. Hayes has all the bases covered. In a half-century – yes, 50 years – of directing the MTSU program, Hayes has recruited and developed quality athletes who have competed at the top level of track and field.

His teams have won 47 conference (OVC, Sun Belt) championships and finished in the top 25 of the NCAA national championships 18 times. His athletes have won five NCAA individual titles. He also has coached US athletes in the World University Games, Goodwill Games and the Olympics.

In addition, Hayes recruited the first African-American scholarship athlete to MTSU.

6. Geoff Macdonald

Vanderbilt women’s tennis

VU tennis coach Geoff Macdonald celebrates 2015 NCAA championship with player Astra Sharma.

-- Ap Photo/Lm Otero

When Macdonald arrived in Nashville 22 years ago, the women’s tennis program at Vanderbilt had never been ranked higher than No. 28 in the nation. In the 2015 season, the Commodores won the national title, beating defending champion UCLA 4-2 in the tournament final.

Macdonald, who played professionally for three years, takes a hands-on approach to his job. He doesn’t just recruit talented players; he develops them.

7. Ralph and Karen Weekly

Softball Tennessee

Are two head coaches better than one? In the case of Vols softball, the answer is an emphatic yes. The husband-wife tandem has taken the Vols to the NCAA tournament 13 consecutive years, including this season’s team, which finished 43-16.

Since taking over the UT program, their overall record is 754-233-2. They have coached 13 All-Americas at UT, including Monica Abbott, one of the most dominant pitchers in the game.

8. Rick Stockstill

Middle Tennessee football

It took Stockstill 24 years as an assistant before finally getting a chance to run his own program. He has made the most of the opportunity with the Blue Raiders.

The one-time Florida State quarterback has taken MTSU to five bowls, including the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl last season. His teams have been bowl-eligible two other seasons but were snubbed. He has produced five NFL draft picks, including safety Kevin Byard, a third-round pick by the Titans this year.

9. Rick Barnes

Tennessee men’s basketball

Don’t be fooled by his 15-19 record in his first season with the Vols. Barnes inherited a program in disarray after the firing of Donnie Tyndall.

Better days are ahead, based on Barnes’ track record. He took Texas to the NCAA tournament in 16 of his 17 seasons there and also had successful runs as coach at George Mason, Providence and Clemson. A victory over Kentucky was the highlight of Barnes’ inaugural season with the Vols.

10. Jim Foster

UT Chattanooga women’s basketball

UT-Chattanooga women’s coach Jim Foster, who was formerly the head coach at Vanderbilt.

-- Submitted

Since landing at UTC, Foster has won three straight Southern Conference titles. Nobody should be surprised. Prior to joining the Mocs, he became just the second coach in college basketball – men’s or women’s, in any division – to win 200 games at three schools.

In 37 years as head coach at St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio State and UTC, Foster is a combined 865-326. He’ll play anyone anywhere. He used his connections in the sport to secure games against UConn and Notre Dame next season.

11. Woody Hunt

Cumberland baseball

Hunt

-- Submitted Photograph By Steve Wampler Courtesy Of Cumberland University

With NAIA national championships in 2004, ’10 and ’14, Hunt has achieved extraordinary success at the school in Lebanon, where the baseball stadium bears his name.

His teams have played in the 12 NAIA World Series, including six in the last 13 years. His career record is 1,503-666-5 and he has won 40 or more games in 20 seasons, including a 59-24 mark in 2004. Hunt is only one of six coaches in NAIA history to win 1,000 games.

12. Rick Insell

Middle Tennessee women’s basketball

Nobody really knew what to expect when Insell left high school powerhouse Shelbyville Central to coach at his alma mater. He made the high school-to-college transition seamlessly.

In 11 seasons, Insell has taken the Blue Raiders to nine NCAA tournaments and two WNITs. This year’s team went 24-9, losing to Florida State in the first round of the NCAAs. Insell ranks fifth among active coaches in winning percentage.

13. Ken Sparks

Carson-Newman football

With 334 victories, Sparks is the winningest active college football coach in the country and ranks fifth on the all-time list.

At age 72, he continues to succeed despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring of 2012. He has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and experimental drugs, but he continues to oversee an Eagles program that won five NAIA national championships in the ’80s. The Eagles went 9-3 last season and made the NCAA Division II playoffs for the 15th time in the 22 years.

14. George Pitts

King University men’s basketball

If you can coach, you can coach – regardless of the level of competition. Pitts transitioned from an ultra-successful high school coaching career at Science Hill in Johnson City and Brentwood Academy near Nashville to the college game.

At King, he oversaw the school’s move from the NAIA to NCAA Division II by winning 97 games in his first four seasons. His teams are a combined 34-6 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference in the last two years.

15. Kermit Davis

Middle Tennessee men’s basketball

When the Blue Raiders claimed their bracket-busting victory over No. 2 regional seed Michigan State in the NCAA tournament in March, much of the college basketball world was shocked. But Davis and his players weren’t. That’s the attitude Davis has instilled in the MTSU program.

Over the last seven seasons, the Blue Raiders have won or shared the conference title five times. Davis’ teams play relentless defense are share the ball offensively.

16. Holly Warlick

Tennessee women’s basketball

Too often, the conversation focuses on what Warlick has not accomplished with the Lady Vols. She has not won a national championship. She has not coached the Lady Vols to the Women’s Final Four. She has not been able to challenge UConn coach Geno Auriemma for supremacy in the women’s game. In short, she is not Pat Summitt, the coach she succeeded in the spring of 2012.

But Warlick has taken UT to the Elite Eight in three of her four seasons as head coach.

17. Mark Brew

Lee College baseball

Brew

When the liberal arts school in Cleveland made the switch from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 2014, many wondered if the baseball program could maintain its high level of success.

Well, the Flames are doing just fine under Brew’s leadership. This season, Brew’s 10th as head coach, Lee went 30-18. His combined record in the NAIA and Division II is 444-126 – a winning percentage of .779. In 2013, Brew had a school-record five players drafted.

18. Bryce Drew

Vanderbilt men’s basketball

The Commodores got a needed boost of excitement with the hiring of Drew to replace Kevin Stallings, who left for the coaching job at Pittsburgh. In his five years as head coach at Valparaiso, his alma mater, Drew averaged 25 wins a season and won four regular-season championships in the Horizon League.

His Crusaders went 30-7 last season and reached the finals of the NIT. His immediate challenge is proving he can recruit SEC-caliber talent.

19. Chandra Cheeseborough-Guise

Tennessee State men’s and women’s track and field

As a former star for the TSU Tigerbelles and a three-time Olympian, Cheeseborough-Guise brings a unique perspective to the men’s and women’s programs.

She has been named coach of the year in the Ohio Valley Conference eight times. Beyond college coaching, she was an assistant for Team USA in the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015, working directly with the women’s sprinters and hurdlers.

20. Josh Schertz

Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball

Schertz received the Clarence Gaines Division II Coach of the Year award after leading the Railsplitters to a 34-3 record and a national runner-up finish this season. Lincoln Memorial went 22-0 in the South Atlantic Conference to win its fourth straight title. Schertz’s team averaged 96.2 points per game and its victories were by an average of 18.8 points. In eight seasons at LMU, Schertz has a record of 204-47 and has won at least 25 games in each of the last six years.

21. Mark Campbell

Union women’s basketball

Campbell

-- Submitted Photograph Courtesy Of Union University

How’s this for a coaching resume: 509-74 in 17 seasons for a winning percentage of .879? That’s what Campbell has done at the private, liberal arts school in Jackson. Campbell’s teams have won five national championships – four in the NAIA and the 2014 title after Union transitioned to NCAA Division II. In one remarkable stretch in 2008-12, the Lady Bulldogs went 178-9. Campbell has spent his entire coaching career at Union, first as an assistant then as head coach.

22. Dale Neal

Freed-Hardeman women’s basketball

Neal just keeps on coaching – and keeps on winning. He recently completed his 46th year of coaching and his 22nd at Freed-Hardeman, where he bumped his career record to 604-173 – a winning percentage of .777.

He may be saving his best for last. In the last three seasons, the Lady Lions have gone a combined 98-12. Freed-Hardeman is only one of two programs that has won at least 20 games and competed in the NAIA national tournament in each of the last 22 years.

23. Dana Ford

Tennessee State men’s basketball

Coach Dana Ford’s TSU Tigers improved to 20-11 this year after winning just five games in 2015.

-- Submitted Photograph By Sam Jordan Courtesy Of Tennessee State University

Based on what we saw this season, the sky is the limit for Ford. At age 31, he’s the youngest head coach in Division I basketball.

His Tigers went from 5-26 in his first season as coach to 20-11 in 2016 and was named Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year. He also received the Ben Jobe Award as the nation’s top Division I minority coach. Ford, who played collegiately at Illinois State, served as an assistant to Gregg Marshall at Wichita State in 2011-12.

24. Matt McCall

UT Chattanooga men’s basketball

After going 29-6 in his first season as a head coach, the only question about McCall is how much of that success was due to the talent left by his predecessor, Will Wade. But McCall’s coaching pedigree suggests he is up for the challenge. He worked for a total of 10 years in various capacities for Billy Donovan at Florida and also was an assistant coach for Mike Jarvis at Florida Atlantic for three seasons. The Mocs beat Georgia and Illinois this season.

25. Mike Clary

Rhodes, women’s golf

Although he now coaches the women’s golf team at the NCAA Division III school, Clary truly is a coach for all seasons. He coached the Rhodes football team in 1984-96 and is the program’s all-time winningest coach in that sport. He also has coached track and swimming.

On top of that, he’s the school’s athletics director. His women’s golf team just won its second Division III national championship in the last three years.

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