The 2000s were a much different time for college basketball. Shortly after LeBron James went to the professional ranks straight out of high school, a rule was put into place that required players to attend college for at least one year. This caused the later part of the decade to have some elite talent that was NBA-ready.
Coaches of the time had to know how to utilize these players so that they could be part of a team after being the only piece of the puzzle while in high school. As a result, some coaches had a ton of success throughout the 2000s, with these five coaches being the best of the decade.
Jim Boeheim began his head coaching career at Syracuse back in 1976, but heading into the new millennium had never won an NCAA championship. The closest that his Orangemen had gotten was runner-up, losing the 1987 title game to Indiana. After a rocky start to the 2000s, Boeheim landed star recruit Carmelo Anthony, propelling Syracuse to the championship in 2003.
Outside of that, the ‘Cuse had five more appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including reaching the Sweet 16 twice. Boeheim’s teams never lost more than 14 games in a season during the 2000s, and during their championship campaign lost just five times. While he may have been inconsistent, the highs were definitely worth the lows.
Tom Izzo had the unenviable task of taking over a Michigan State team in 1995 that had been coached by Jud Heathcote for nearly 20 years. In the first two years, Izzo’s Spartans failed to make the tournament, but he capped off the 1990s with an appearance in the Final Four. Izzo then started the 2000s by winning the NCAA Championship, and the success didn’t stop throughout the rest of the decade.
Izzo led his team to the NCAA Tournament in each season of the decade, including another two trips to the Final Four. Izzo never had more than 13 losses in a season, and never finished lower than seventh in the Big Ten standings. He had a trio of Big Ten championships during the regular season, as well.
Coach K was already one of the best coaches in college basketball by the time the 1990s started, and that didn’t change at the start of the 2000s. After nearly winning the NCAA Championship in 1999, Krzyzewski began the 2000s with a 15-1 ACC record and a trip to the Sweet 16. The following year, Coach K led his team to a championship, his third with the program.
There was only one season in which Coach K finished with more than seven losses, and his team still made the NCAA Tournament. There were two trips total to the Final Four during the decade, as well as a quartet of Sweet 16 appearances. During that run, Coach K won the ACC four times.
Kansas needed a replacement for Larry Brown after winning the NCAA Championship in 1988, and they found the right man in the form of Roy Williams. Williams had a great run with the Jayhawks, which included two trips to the Final Four at the start of the 2000s. After nearly winning the 2003 championship, Williams departed for North Carolina and quickly found success.
In his second season with the Tarheels, Williams finished 33-4 during the regular season en route to his first NCAA championship. He would win another title to cap off the decade and added trips to the Final Four and Elite Eight in between. Overall, Williams won six conference titles during the 2000s between the Big 12 and ACC.
During the early 1990s, Billy Donovan was an assistant coach at Kentucky before becoming the head coach at Marshall for two seasons. During that time, Donovan had a 35-20 record and was hired to be the head coach of the Florida Gators in 1996. Donovan had a losing record in each of his first two seasons but turned things around with a Sweet 16 trip in 1999.
In his fourth season, Donovan’s Gators reached the NCAA Championship Game but came up short against the Michigan State Spartans. Donovan would become a mainstay of the tournament throughout the entire decade, and in 2006 he finally led his team to a championship. Donovan didn’t stop there, either, as the Gators won back-to-back titles.