Top 10 Pac 10 Coaches of last 20 years?

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has a look at the top Pac 10 coaches of the last 20 years. I bet you can guess who comes in at number 1, but I paused for a moment at # 10:

10. Larry Smith, USC: Yes, Smith struggled in his final seasons -- struggled far more than the USC coach should struggle. But his first four years coincide with the first four years of my timeframe, and during that span the Trojans were 26-3-2 in Pac-10 play and went to three straight Rose Bowls.

That's a fair point, I suppose, and it meshes with my memory of my undergrad years which were not flawless but aside from the losing streak to Notre Dame didn't suck.

On to the top of the list:

1. Pete Carroll, USC: Sure, he's got all that tradition to recruit to. Sure, he's got all those players within 100 miles of campus. Yes, the admissions door is wide open. And yes, Carroll runs a loose ship that has resulted in NCAA/Pac-10 investigations, arrests, assaults, suspensions, academic woes and dismissals. But how can you not have Carroll at the top of a "Best Coaches" list when he has 59 wins in the last five years? Bottom line: He's a great college coach, one of the best ever. Given that he wasn't USC's first choice to replace Paul Hackett, or even its second, I'd say the Trojans got pretty lucky.

Holy cow: investigations, arrests, assaults, suspensions, academic woes and dismissals? Has he been working off a certain ucla blog's crib sheet? I'm surprised he left off money laundering, election rigging, gun running, affray, and noodling*.

Wilner is right about the who'd-have-thunk-it success levels though. Lucky doesn't even begin to cover it. Mike Garrett looks good now, but if Pete Carroll hadn't worked out, Garrett would have been counseled out - the way he got played in the media by Robinson over Robinson's departure was not the work of a top-notch AD, for instance, and another Hackett would have been curtains.

Incidentally, there was one omission from the list that frankly surprised me:

Who didn't make the list? The biggest name was Terry Donahue, whose last nine years at UCLA fell into the timeframe I looked at.

In my mind, Donahue underachieved in Westwood from 1987-95. He had all those players within two hours of campus, a terrific academic institution to recruit to and a mediocre crosstown rival.

And yet, during that span, Donahue finished first or second only three times -- and two of those came when he had Troy Aikman.

Cue the fatwa for Jon Wilner. It was nice knowing you, sir.

In the meantime: any thoughts / quibbles / additions to the list, feel free to add a comment below...

*Seriously, people do this. For fun. Even though Booty is from Louisiana, though, I'm inclined to think that he's most likely to go after catfish from the relative safety of a boat...

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