James Jones - Yale
The Jones defense is one of communication, aggression, and relentless rebounding with a purpose. Traditionally a half-court man-to-man style, Jones is not opposed to changing defenses, keeping teams off-balance with full-court, three-quarter-court, and half court defenses.
Jeff Jones - ODU
Modeled after one of man’s earliest inventions, “the wall”; Jones’ style of engaging defense, consists of contesting shots, limiting transitions, and directing the offense to the middle where the next block in “the wall” awaits.
Brad Brownell - Clemson
Brownell stands firmly in an overall belief illustrating defense as a way to build toughness. Guarding, as a team, through his gritty man-to-man scheme, smothering defense is the priority.
Danny Kaspar - Texas State
Originally using defense as a tool to leverage lower talent, Kasper now preaches defense as his staple. He has found a place to hang his hat as his teams continually rank among the top scoring defense in the country. Kaspar’s success is as easy as ABCD: A Brand of Championship Defense. The secret Kasper admits, is in transition, individual fundamentals, team fundamentals, rebounding and boxing out.
Russell Turner - UC Irvine
The up-and-coming Turner, teaches physical man-to-man defense. It’s a strategy he adopted during his time at Stanford with Mike Montgomery and it has worked well to build a powerhouse in Irvine CA.
Tubby Smith - Texas Tech
In Lubbock TX the ball-line is the quick and direct route to success. It’s a defensive concept of increased pressure on the ball, lean closeout techniques, forcing the offense to put the ball on the floor and a unique boxer stance for aggressive denial.
Jim Boeheim - Syracuse
Everyone is familiar with what is perhaps Syracuse’s longest tradition. Boeheim’s 2-3 zone forces your opponents to beat you from the perimeter while at the same time implementing pressure with an aggression. He redefined zone by using long, highly athletic personnel to execute it to perfection.
Matt Painter - Purdue
Focusing on the basics, Painter’s defense is predicated on the half court game, rebounding, valuing the ball, and transition. This cornerstone of Boilermaker basketball was passed down to Painter from his coach and predecessor, Gene Keady.
Kermit Davis - Middle Tennessee
Focused on man-to-man defensive principles his teams shut down guards and post players alike, while disrupting sets, forcing low-percentage shots, and even drawing charges. Davis demands attention to detail on the defensive end and will not tolerate otherwise. He guards the pick-and-roll to perfection while trapping in the half-court. And all of this with the next step in mind; to be in the best position to rebound.
Greg Marshall - Wichita St.
Marshall teaches a gap based defense. He teaches exploding to the ball and jumping to the ball line. This containment defensive philosophy is based on making opponents beat you with a tough shot. Key to its success is keeping the ball out of the paint. Defensive rebounding and contesting shots are paramount.
Jay Wright - Villanova
Wright’s defensive philosophy looks like the hybrid of the electric slide and a country western line dance. Stance, Step, Slide. Slide, Run, Slide. Wack Out! Deny, Back Cut, Post, Attack, Swim and repeat. Make no mistake, this aggressive, no-nonsense defense, will contain the quickest of the quick and shut down some of the the nation's most talented scorers.
Brad Underwood - SFA
Underwood is proving to be one of the better defensive coaches in the country in his young Division I head coaching career. The ultimate and highly successful goal of his pressure defensive system, is to prevent opponents from getting into the offense they want and force them to catch the ball further away from the basket, disrupting their offensive flow.
Ben Howland - Mississippi State
Howland built winning teams on the defensive end and playing a tough, physical man-to-man defense. Dedicated to defending the ball, not the man, his teams switch accordingly. All five of his players must guard all five opponents. It’s all defense, all the time, with Howland.
Steve Fisher - San Diego State
A team defense philosophy, Simply put, Fisher teams play sound, fundamental, and limit the opposition to few second chance points.
Sean Miller - Arizona
A big believer in defensive statistics, Miller divides the court into four distinct areas and encourages pack line defense. His focus on the individual execution to enhance what’s best for team defense in a system that echoes living legends Larry Brown and Dick Bennett.
Bruce Pearl - Auburn
Pearl's diamond press is an aggressive defense based on tremendous pressure on the inbound and first pass. Pearl is known for this fast tempo and full court pressure. The belief is that a breaking offense can create tempo, but the full court attack on defense can control tempo. He makes teams change their normal style and forces them to prepare specifically for this swarming and suffocating style of play.
John Calipari - Kentucky
You must be a great defensive coach when your roster turns over (due to NBA attrition) every year and you are teaching your concepts all over again to 18 year olds. Calipari's philosophy is to build from individual defenders to team defenders. Unlike most coaches, Calipari switches defenses to best utilize his talents, but one thing is constant; his defense is aggressive and lends to a fast paced game. Who can argue with his philosophies when he simply wins!
Larry Shyatt - Wyoming
Highly regarded by his peers for defensive intelligence, the Shyatt system boils down to three parts. One: Getting back and protect the paint to ward off easy early points. Two; Five guys play the ball. All eyes on the ball reacting to it’s position. Third: Prevent second chance opportunities. Rebound the ball!! The final key is his keen ability to teach in a clear and understandable way.
John Thompson III - Georgetown
While recent rule changes have dramatically altered Thompson’s defense causing an increase of fouls at almost 30%, the Hoyas are known for guarding you down to submission. Thompson's unique style of transition defense and grinding you down in the half-court has proved a nuisance to opponents.
Rick Pitino - Louisville
Pitino’s prolific coaching career was founded by defense. Pressing forty minutes from tip off of his very first game as a head coach, his teams create complete disruption for opponents. His defense driven system utilizes a full-court match up press with a unique match-up zone defense designed to create turnovers and easy baskets for the Cards.
Bob Huggins - WVU
Huggins name is synonymous with defensive-minded basketball. His schemes stress the importance of making the opponents uncomfortable. The ever educating coach has had his defensive concepts of yesterday enhanced to curtail the offenses of today. Thus, “Press Virginia” was born. And with it, he once again proves why he has long been regarded as one the best defensive strategists in the college game.
Shaka Smart - Texas
It's not uncommon to witness college kids turning tires and tossing kegs in a chaotic party atmosphere. Smart has his students creating the most frenetic discipline of controlled chaos imaginable. Forcing turnovers through this trapping terror strategy, Smart's "HAVOC" defense paralyzes opponents anywhere on the court and forces them to play at an uncomfortable pace. This system proved successful at VCU and will do the same over time at Texas.
Mike Kryzewski - Duke
True to his West-Point roots, Coach K’s philosophy is short and easily communicated. The Krzsewski style of intelligent basketball is predicated on four pillars of an attacking defense: Defense without fouling, Deny the first pass, Push the Post, and Ball Pressure.
Tom Izzo - Michigan State
Izzo puts a premium on physicality and rebounding on both ends of the floor. This lends itself well to the second point in the Izzo philosophy; stay in front of the ball; BALL PRESSURE! The result is a tough, hard-nosed group of young men who pride themselves in keeping their opponents from scoring by eliminating extra possessions.
Tony Bennett - Virginia
The Bennett family recipe for defense has been widely adopted by modern models of success such as Mack at Xavier and Miller at Arizona. Tony has taken his father's (Dick Bennett) "pack-line" to new levels at the University of Virginia. Opposing coaches dread playing Bennett's teams because they give up VERY little and are as close to flawless in their positioning as a team can be.
When voting on the best defensive head coaches in NCAA Division I basketball, our national panel considered coach's bodies of work over career, scoring defense, rebounding margins, forced turnovers, and overall defensive impact on their ultimate success as coaches.