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The Top Ten Mid-Major Coaches of All Time: Part 1

Counting down the greatest coaches in mid-major history

Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images

Mid-major basketball programs have produced some of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. Coaching legends like Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, John Wooden, Jim Calhoun, Bill Self, and Jim Valvano all began their head coaching careers at mid-major programs. While all the aforementioned coaches used smaller schools as a launching pad to a major Division I program, there are some who chose to make mid-major success their legacy.

Most of this list had opportunities to move on to a higher profile program but chose to stick it out and remain loyal to their respective programs. Without further ado, here are the 6-10 best mid-major coaches of all time.

10. E.A. Diddle Western Kentucky (1922-1964)

The godfather of mid-major college basketball, Diddle’s 42 seasons at WKU is tied with another coach on this list for the longest tenure at one school in Division I basketball history. Diddle’s legacy in the state’s NCAA history is often overlooked because Adolph Rupp was coaching just a few hours up the road at the University of Kentucky for much of Diddle’s career. Diddle led the Hilltoppers to 37 winning seasons, 32 conference championships and 11 postseason births in his 42 years at WKU. He retired in 1964 as the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.

9. Ray Meyer DePaul (1942-1984)

Meyer is tied with Diddle for the longest tenure at one school. He coached DePaul to two Final Fours (1943 and 1979), an NIT Championship in 1945 (when the NIT was respectable) and was named national coach of the year in both 1980 and 1984. Meyer’s greatest gift to the basketball world was Hall of Fame center George Mikan. At 6-10, Mikan was basketball’s first great big man. Meyer was the first coach to recognize the potential of using a player’s height as an advantage rather than a weakness.

8. Jim Larranaga Bowling Green (1986-1997) George Mason (1997-2011)

George Mason’s miracle run to the Final Four in 2006 will forever hold a place in every college basketball fan’s heart. The Patriots’ win over UConn is without a doubt one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. Larranaga led George Mason to four regular season CAA titles and five NCAA Tournaments during his 14 seasons at GMU.

7. Paul Westhead La Salle (1970-1979) Loyola Marymount (1985-1990)

The Guru of Go. Westhead is known as the architect of the run-and-gun style offense that he perfected during his five seasons at Loyola Marymount. Led by the dynamic duo of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, Westhead’s Lions won 74 games in three years from 1987-1990. LMU’s magical run came to a tragic halt when Gathers collapsed and died on the court during the 1990 WCC Tournament. Gathers’ passing inspired his teammates through their upstart postseason run to the Elite Eight that season. Westhead left LMU to coach the Denver Nuggets following the 1990 season, leaving many to wonder what could have been.

6. John Chaney Temple (1982-2006)

Chaney led Temple to a remarkable 17 NCAA Tournaments in his first 18 seasons as head coach. Chaney’s resume includes eight Atlantic 10 regular season championships, five Elite Eight appearances and one NABC Coach of the Year Award in 1988. He retired in 2006 with a .675 career win percentage at Temple. Chaney may be best remembered for threatening to kill John Calipari at a press conference in 1994, so bonus points there.

This is the first half of a two-part article. Check back next week for the top 5 mid-major coaches of all time.