The Final Four isn’t just a battle between young players and school traditions. It’s also mind games between head coaches, with John Calipari (Kentucky) and Billy Donovan (Florida) representing the ones who have already won the national championship, while Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Kevin Ollie (UConn) are in the national semifinals for the first time in their career as head coaches.
John Calipari, Kentucky – He might not have invented the one and done, but he has certainly made the most of recruiting players whose goal is to stay one year in college and move on to the NBA. Calipari has a starting five of all Freshmen, the first to reach the Final Four since 1992 and the Michigan Fab Five. He is into his fifth season with Kentucky and reaching his third Final Four. The first was in 2011, losing to Connecticut in the semifinal, and the second one came a year later as his Wildcats beat Kansas for the national title.
He has an overall record of 151-36 (80.7%) as the Kentucky head coach. He previously was the head coach at Memphis (nine seasons, one Final Four) and UMass (eight seasons, one Final Four). He has an overall career record of 554-172 (76.3%) in College Basketball. He also was the Nets head coach in the NBA for three seasons. There have been plenty of controversies tied to him or happen under him, most notably with Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose who played for him in college.
Billy Donovan, Florida – Donovan has been a college basketball head coach since 1994, and is the most successful of the foursome in the Final Four in terms of winning national championships. He had two years with Marshall before moving on to bigger things in Florida, where he has won two national titles in 2006 and 2007, and has made the NCAA tournament with his team on 14 of 18 occasions. He is in the Final Four for the the fourth time, and the first since 2007.
Donovan accepted a $27.5 million for five years deal from the Orlando Magic following his national title in 2007, but regretted his decision almost a day later. He was able to get out of the contract, agreeing not to accept a contract in the NBA for the next five years. Donovan has a 451-168 record with the Gators, 72.9%.
Kevin Ollie, UConn – The youngest of the bunch, and someone who only recently retired from the NBA after an on and off career spanning 15 years. It’s only his second season as the head coach of Connecticut, replacing the man who coached him when he was a college player at Hartford, Jim Calhoun. Ollie led the Huskies to a 20-10 season in 2012-13, but they were ineligble to play in the conference and NCAA tournament. This season his team improved to 30-8, including 12-6 in conference play, making it to the Final Four for the first time since 2011, when the Huskies won the national title. He was an assistant during that season under Calhoun.
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin – Despite taking Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament in each of his 14 seasons in Madison, 2014 is the first time he’s been able to make it past the Elite Eight, a stage he has only reached once before back in 2005. Ryan has a 321-120 record with the Badgers, 72.8%. He previously worked at Milwaukee (two seasons, 30-27) and Wisconsin–Platteville, a division three team, where he was the head coach from 1984 to 1999. He was also an assistant for the Badgers from 1976 until 1984. He is one of 47 head coaches to have won more than 700 games in College Basketball.