clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who are the worst coaches in the 2021 NCAA Tournament?

A handful of underachieving head coaches will pace the sidelines of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.

Oregon State v UCLA Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The NCAA Tournament can bring out both the best and a lot of times worst in otherwise relatively successful college basketball head coaches.

While the term “worst” is subjective and can skew towards a multitude of negative characteristics about a coach, for this list we’ll lean more towards underachieving and talk about a few coaches in this field whose past NCAA Tournament resume leaves a lot more to be desired.

Rick Barnes, Tennessee

Tennessee v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Barnes has been a head coach in the Division I ranks since 1987 and even with the success he’s amounted for over three decades, he has still relatively underachieved in The Big Dance. With one Final Four appearance to his credit, Barnes has only made it past the first weekend of the tournament a total of seven times throughout his entire lengthy career.

Hired for the 2007-08 season, Barnes’ Texas teams consistently hit 20 wins or more during the regular season but failed to reach the Sweet 16 throughout the rest of his tenure in Austin, leading to his firing in 2015. Through his previous five seasons at Tennessee, he has just one Sweet 16 bid on his resume in Knoxville, and enters this upcoming tournament as a potential 5-12 upset victim against Oregon State.

Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Georgia Tech v Florida State Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Continuing along the lines of underachieving is Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner who ironically may have just saved his job with the Yellow Jackets winning the ACC Tournament. Through stints at Memphis and Tech from 2009 onward, Pastner’s team’s have failed to make it to the second weekend in each of their trips to the tournament and missed the tournament five different times altogether.

As an eight-seed in this tourney, Tech will have their hands full when taking on Loyola-Chicago, and his job just got a lot tougher by losing ACC Player of The Year Moses Wright for the first weekend. It’s a devastating blow, and one so bad you won’t be able to hold any postseason shortcomings against Pastner this year.

Mick Cronin, UCLA

USC v UCLA Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

One of the more prickly personalities in college basketball, Mick Cronin has also underachieved on the big stage throughout a head coaching career that has spanned nearly two decades.

A rising coaching candidate after leading Murray State to two tournament appearances, Cronin set up shop in Cincinnati for the next 13 seasons where out of nine straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, he only got one Sweet 16 berth to show for it. Jumping to UCLA last year, he seemed to have the Bruins poised for a Pac-12 regular season title run before plummeting by losing five of their last nine games before getting bounced by Oregon State in round one of the Pac-12 Tournament. Now they’re in a play-in game this evening for no reason but a meltdown.

Speaking of Oregon State...

Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State

Oregon State v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a ho-hum run through the regular season, Tinkle’s Beavers got things clicking at the perfect time to win the Pac-12 Tournament and sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid.

This serves as a highlight of a seven-year tenure in Covallis for Tinkle that includes only one other NCAA Tournament appearance, as well as a horrific 5-27 campaign during the 2016-17 season. The former CBA All-Star arrived to OSU in 2014 after a successful stint at Montana. But a deep run here might help to put away his reputation for missing big wins in March.