Has a first-year coach ever gone to the Final Four? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Reaching the Final Four of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is quite the feat. But reaching the second to last day of the iconic event is even more impressive when the coach leading the team is in their first year.
While it is quite rare, there are a bunch of college coaches that have pulled off the milestone.
Ahead of this year’s event running from March 14 through April 3, here are the first-year head coaches that have reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament:
Bill Guthridge, North Carolina
In 1998, Guthridge led the Tar Heels to the Final Four as a first-year head coach. He took the squad to the semifinals again two years later in 2000.
Guthridge is one of five people to have appeared in the Final Four both as a player and coach and earned the prestigious Naismith College Coach of the Year honor in 1998.
Steve Fisher, Michigan
In 1989, Fisher led the Wolverines to the 1989 Final Four. Prior, he had been an assistant coach for Michigan beginning in 1982.
Fisher went on to become an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings (1989-1999) before becoming head coach of the San Diego State men’s basketball team (1999-2017).
Bill Hodges, Indiana State
In 1979, Hodges and Indiana State reached the Final Four. On the team was Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird.
Hodges had been the assistant for the team for three seasons prior (1975-89). He earned many awards in 1979, including MCV Coach of the Year and UPI Coach of the Year, among others.
Denny Crum, Louisville
Crum and the Cardinals made it to the Final Four in 1972. He went on to lead the team to five more Final Four appearances (1975, 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1986), tying him for seventh in all-time Final Four appearances with Adolph Rupp.
Crum continued to coach the Cardinals until 2001 before retiring.
Gary Thompson, Wichita State
In 1965, Thompson led the Shockers to the Final Four.
While head coach of Wichita State from 1964 to 1971, he compiled a 93-94 record. Thompson was the team’s assistant coach from 1957-1964.
Dick Harp, Kansas
Harp led the Jayhawks to the Final Four in 1957. Ahead of becoming head coach, he served as the team’s assistant coach from 1949-1956.
In 1986, Harp became the assistant coach of the University of North Carlina’s men’s basketball team.
Ray Meyer, DePaul
Meyer and DePaul reached the Final Four in 1943. While coaching at DePaul from 1942-1984, he led the team to another Final Four in 1979.
In 1945, Meyer led DePaul to win the National Invitation Tournament, the school’s only postseason title, as well.
Bully Gilstrap, Texas
In 1943, Gilstrap led the Longhorns to the Final Four. While head coach of Texas (1942-1945), he compiled a 43-28 record.
Gilstrap also served as the Texas football assistant coach from 1937-1956 and went on to be inducted into the University of Texas Athletics Hall of Honor in 1968.
Bruce Drake, Oklahoma
In 1939, Drake became the first, first-year head coach to lead a team to the Final Four.
As head coach of the Sooners from 1938-1955, he led the team to an NCAA final in 1947.
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