March 4, 2024 

Coaches poll: Best X’s and O’s coach

Coaches select the best X's and O's coach in the country

We polled more than 50 coaches in the country on three different categories: the top X’s and O’s coach, the best recruiter and also the most underrated head coach.

This week we’ll start off the series by unveiling the results from the best X’s and O’s coach. 

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Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer is undeniably one of the best coaches in college basketball history — she’s the all-time winningest coach for men’s or women’s basketball. So it’s no surprise that when I polled coaches from all around the country on the best X’s and O’s coach nationally, VanDerveer’s name came up the most. 

She’s been the head coach at Stanford since 1985 — excluding the 1995-96 season when she stepped away to lead the U.S. Olympic team to gold in the 1996 Olympics — and has led the Cardinal to three NCAA titles (1990, 1992, 2021). She’s a 10-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year and a Naismith Hall of Famer.

At 70 years old, VanDerveer is still coaching one of the best teams in the country and arguably the best post player nationally in Cameron Brink. Her near-four-decade run at Stanford isn’t done yet, as the Cardinal are projected to earn a No.1-seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament — and no one wants to face Stanford at full strength. 

Sure, the talent level is elite. But when VanDerveer is on the sidelines making the calls and making halftime adjustments, whichever team is facing the Cardinal knows to be worried.

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Results: Who is the best X’s and O’s coach in women’s basketball?

Tara VanDerveer (Stanford) — 14 votes

Jeff Walz (Louisville) — 11 votes

Karl Smesko (FGCU) — 6 votes

Kevin McGuff (Ohio State) — 4 votes

JR Payne (Colorado) — 3 votes

Geno Auriemma (UConn) — 3 votes

Aaron Johnston (South Dakota State) — 3 votes

Wes Moore (NC State) — 3 votes

Jim Flanery (Creighton) — 3 votes

Lynne Roberts (Utah) — 3 votes

Dawn Staley (South Carolina) — 2 votes

Robyn Fralick (Michigan State) — 2 votes

Kenny Brooks (Virginia Tech) — 2 votes

Coaches receiving one vote: Jose Fernandez (USF), Bob Starkey (LSU), Teri Moren (Indiana), Jarrod Olson (Cal Baptist), Mark Kellogg (West Virginia), Larry Vickers (Norfolk State), Kim Barnes Arico (Michigan), Jason Glover (Grand Canyon), Michael Meek (Portland), Vic Schaefer (Texas), Lisa Bluder (Iowa), Scott Rueck (Oregon State), Cori Close (UCLA), Lisa Fortier (Gonzaga), Robin Pingeton (Missouri), Jennie Baranczyk (Oklahoma)

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Coach comments

“With X’s and O’s, it’s hard to take anything away from Tara V,” one associate head coach said. “She does such a great job of putting the defense in tough positions.” 

“She’s always been consistent on both sides of the floor for decades,” another assistant said. “She puts her players in the best position to be successful. I think she makes the best halftime adjustments as well.” 


Our cross-section of coaching voices featured the following breakdowns:

  • 60% assistant coaches/40% head coaches
  • 52% mid-major programs/48% Power Six programs
  • 60% white/40% Black coaches

Written by Talia Goodman

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