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Top Ten: Coaches Under 40

By Mike Rabon and Kif Richmann

Inspired by the 2nd run to the final four by by  Butler and baby-faced head coach Brad Stevens, we thought we’d take a look at the best young coaches in major American sports.

10. Jeff Capel, currently unemployed, age: 36

Yes, Capel was recently fired as head basketball coach of Oklahoma University, but don’t let that fool you, he’s still one of the best young coaches.  During his tenure with the Sooners he coached the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Blake Griffin.  His 2008-2009 Oklahoma Sooners won 30 games and reached the Elite Eight.  Capel was also the Head Coach at VCU from 2002-2006.  Currently unemployed, Capel would still be a tremendous hire.

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9. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern football, age: 36

While Fitzgerald’s Wildcat teams haven’t finished better than 4th in the Big Ten, the fact that Fitzgerald is getting competitive Northwestern teams on the field is an accomplishment in and of itself.  The Wildcats have gone to three straight bowl games, and although Fitzgerald is 0-3 in those games, 2 of the losses have been in overtime and the other was by 7 points.  He may not be lighting up the win column, but he gets more production out of less talent, which is mandatory at a school like Northwestern. 

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8. Josh Pastner, Mephis basketball, age: 33

Pastner replaced Jim Calipari has the Head Coach at Memphis after Calipari left for the Kentucky opening.  Pastner was an assistant for legendary Arizona Wildcats Head Coach Lute Olson from 2002-2008.  In Paster’s two seasons at Memphis the Tigers have made it to the 2nd round of the NIT and made it to the newly formatted 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.  He was named Sporting News C-USA Coach of the Year in 2009-2010. 

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7. Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee basketball, age: 39

The recently hired Martin will be 40 by the time he leads the Volunteers in a game for the first time, but for now he’s eligible for our list.  While an assistant at his alma mater the Purdue Boilermakers made an Elite eight appearance and fought to the round of 32 twice.  In 2008 he was named assosiate  head coach of the year beore leaving for the head position at Missouri State. Despite sub .500 season in his first year, Martin’s Bears finished improved to 26-9 in year three. 

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6. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Bucaneers, age: 34

Although the Bucs only won three games in his first season, Morris quickly turned the team in to a winning product in 2010, going 10-6 and just barely missing the playoffs. Morris learned from the best, serving as defensive quality control coach under Monte Kiffin during Tampa Bay’s 2002 Super Bowl year and holding positions such as defensive assistant and defensive backs coach before Kiffin left for Tennessee. Morris’ Buccaneer defense was #9 in the league in points allowed, and with a little improvement from QB Josh Freeeman, the should break into the playoffs in 2011. 

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 5. Buzz Williams, Marquette basketball, age: 38

Brent “Buzz” Williams replaced Tom Crean at Marquette after Crean left to take the vacant Indiana Hoosiers job.  In his 3 seasons as Head Coach, Williams has taken the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament every year, including a Sweet 16 berth in 2011.  Williams was given the nickname Buzz because he was notorious for “buzzing” around the Navarro College basketball program.  Williams’ eccentric behavior and southern accent have made him a media darling in the college basketball world.

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4. Chris Mooney, Richmond basketball, age: 38

Mooney has taken the Richmond Spiders from the doormat of the A-10 Conference an upper-tier mid-major.  In the last two seasons, Richmond is a combined 26-6 in conference play and 55-17 overall.  The Spiders achieved a Sweet 16 berth in 2011 and fell to the Kansas Jayhawks.  Mooney coached one season at Air Force after Joe Scott left for Princeton in 2004.  He was a 4 year player at Princeton and played under legendary Head Coach Pete Carril.  Mooney recently signed a 10 year contract extension through 2021-2022. 

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3. Cael Sanderson, Penn State wrestling, age: 31

When Cael Sanderson left his alma mater for the recruiting goldmine of Pennsylvania, many people questioned the decision, claiming he was only trying to escape the shadow of the power house Hawkeyes.  Whether true or not, it looks like Sanderson made a pretty good choice, as he can add Big Ten Coach of the Year and an NCAA team championship to his already impressive list of credentials. At only 31, the future is bright for Sanderson and the rest of the Mount Nittany faithful.  

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2.  Brad Stevens, Butler basketball, age: 34

In all 4 seasons at Butler Brad Stevens has won or tied for the Horizon League regular season championship; he’s also won the conference coach of the year honors twice.  In 2010, his Bulldogs earned the program’s first ever trip to the Final Four, a feat which he has now repeated.  Although they would lose to Duke in the championship game, after the miracle tournament run student inquiries for enrollment jumped 67% and transfer requests increased by 61% according to a report by Mike Lopresti of USA Today.  Brad Stevens is notable not only for his success at Butler but for the mild and humble demeanor in interviews.  With the way things are going for Butler, expect a big time program to give Stevens a big time contract. 

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1. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers, age: 39

Tomlin was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers in early 2007 and is the third youngest coach to ever take over an NFL franchise. Tomlin kept the winning tradition alive, as he had Pittsburgh in the playoffs his first season, and won a Super Bowl in his second.  In 2008 he was named NFL Coach of the Year and currently owns a 5-2 post season record.  Some might say he inherited an already powerful Steelers team, and those people would be right, but he also has improved those same Steelers.  One of the best coaches at the highest level of sports makes Mike Tomlin our #1 coach under the age of 40. 

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