Here are the best college coaches not in D1, that probably deserve to be or at least get a look. Keep your eyes on some of these younger guys. Bruce Pearl, Steve Forbes, and Bo Ryan say this is a viable path. Sure there are some failures but I think when you have shown excellence at any level you are doing something. Everything is still pretty relative at these levels and the chasm that exist in D1 where millions can separate isn’t the case here. Winning big at these level’s in many cases is just being the better coach with the better players you recruited.
Dave Smart Carleton 591-48 13 Canadian National Titles
All that winning must get old. He stepped down as head coach to be the Director of Operations and book flights and stuff in 2019 at the age of 52. He’s also a consultant for Ottawa Senators and an assistant on the Canadian National team. His teams routinely beat or destroyed D1 teams in Summer Exhibitions. The list includes schools like Wisconsin, TCU, and a 25 point win over an eventual top 25 Wichita State team. Some D1 should make the call.
Ben McCollum Northwest Missouri State 334–83 (.801) 4 D2 National title.
Yes I repeat 4 D2 national titles. That’s after starting 22-31, this 41 year old’s team has been a machine. He has won 4 of the last 5 NCAA D2 titles (covid year, not played). Not much else to say but damn.
Stacy Hollowell Loyola New Orleans 166-78 with 1 NAIA National Title
He just took home the 2022 NAIA National Title a few weeks ago. What is maybe more impressive is two of his players off that team went portalling to Marquette and Ole Miss. He certainly should be given some credit for finding them and helping them move up. It was beneficial all involved. Now it’s probably time he moves up too.
Todd Franklin 647-150 Vincennes 1 NJCAA National Title
The National title was 2019 so it’s not ancient history. He is only 53ish year old and already inducted in the hall of fame. Who couldn’t sell that hire to a D1 fanbase?
Chris Bridges Georgetown 290-77 with 2 NAIA National Titles 3 more Finals
40ish year old with 2 national titles and 5 title games, what am I missing. D1’s should target him.
Jay Herkelman Coffeyville 687-196 1 NJCAA National title
In his early 60’s now, unlikely to get a chance but the record is impeccable and the National Championship came in 2021 so he’s just getting better with age.
Steve DeMeo Northwest Florida State 265-97 (.732) 1 NJCAA title
He’s back at the place of his biggest success (170-27, 86.3%) where he won a national JUCO title and went to at least the elite 8 the last 5 years of his 6 year tenure there. That was also his most recent head coaching job. He has been an assistant at Providence, St. John’s, UCF, Hofstra, and most recently ECU. 58ish years old. Steve Forbes preceded him at NWFU and that worked out well.
Ben Howlette West Liberty 128-21 with a D2 Elite 8
He was left an incredible program from Jim Crunchfield who he played and coached for, but he has just continued the success and wild scoring. Only mid 30’s, someone to watch.
Jim Crutchfield – NovaSoutheastern 459-82 3 Final 4’s
Speaking of the Legend himself, I’ve been following this guy for over a decade since the ringer profiled him and his crazy offenses at West Liberty. He left West Liberty and pretty much founded another program and is still rocking after taking over a 6-20 team. They were 32-1 last year. Unfortunately he’s old now so we will never get to see what he could do leveling up, but clearly one of the best non D1 coaches in the college game.
Kris Korver Northeastern 523-212 with 2 NAIA National Championships
54 years old. At some point you just have to wonder why they don’t get a chance.
Andy Brokema – Feris State 200-76 1 D2 national title
Only 38 years old
Tom Brown West Texas A&M 210-50 with two Final 4’s
They were 10-17 the year before he took over. Nice turnaround for the 52 year old
Josh Gamblin MidAmerican Christian 159-73 with 1 NAIA National Title
Youngest coach at the age of 27 to win a national champion at a 4 year college ever. Also worked for the Clippers as a video coordinator and was a grad assistant at Oklahoma. Seems to be trending down lately or he would be higher on the list.
Hank Plona 196-30 Indian Hills JUCO and ranked all but 1 week in his tenure
He’s in his early to mid 30’s, so keep your eye on this guy. He was a student manager at Providence under Keno Davis. Not much high end finishes yet but he’s just early in his career.
Kim Elders Cornerstone 732-270 Three NAIA National Titles
He’s in his late 60’s, so this is where he finishes his career you would think. Another legend that should be recognized on this list.
Kyle Blankenship LSU Shreveport 214-78 with 2 NAIA Final 4’s
Larry Cordaro LSU Alexandria 181-33 2 NAIA Final 4’s
42 years old
Mark Vanderslice 279-110 USC-Aiken
Most of his damage was as Louisburg JUCO where he was 152-20 in NJCAA DII and had a #1 team. What is interesting about his tenure at USC-Aiken was his portal haul last year. He came to my attention after landed former Southern Conference Freshman of the year 17.5ppg D1 scorer Preston Parks to D2 last season as well as several other D1’s.
Bret Ballard Wasburn 137-79
He played for and was on staff at Kansas under Roy Williams, as well as assistant at Tulsa and Wake Forest. 42 years old
Matt Logie Point Loma 239-51 D2
Early 40’s, no deep runs but clearly a winner at a big clip