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Stan Becton | | March 25, 2023

Here's how many coaches have reached the Final Four in their first year

Full final 3:32 in UNC-Duke Final Four instant classic

Ten DI men's basketball coaches have made the Final Four in their first years as head coaches, with North Carolina's Hubert Davis the most recent to join the list in 2022. Here's a rundown of the coaches and their Final Four history.

The origin years

In the first NCAA tournament, Oklahoma's Bruce Drake led the Sooners to the Final Four in his first year in 1939. A few years later in 1943, DePaul's Ray Meyer and Texas' Bully Gilstrap made the Final Four.

None of the three coaches won a game in the Final Four. In both 1939 and 1943, there were only eight teams in the tournament.

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The first to reach a title game

In 1957, Kansas' Dick Harp led the Jayhawks to the national title game out of a 23-team field, becoming the first coach to do so. While Harp and crew would lose in triple overtime in the championship game to North Carolina, Kansas star Wilt Chamberlain earned Most Outstanding Player honors. 

The fourth-place coaches

Wichita State's Gary Thompson reached the Final Four in his first year as a coach in 1965, but lost to the defending and eventual champion UCLA led by John Wooden. Thompson did get a shot at third place against a star player Bill Bradley and Princeton but lost that game too, finishing fourth out of 23 teams.

In 1972, Louisville's Denny Crum ran into the gauntlet that was the UCLA dynasty in the Final Four, losing in the semifinal round the eventual champion Bruins and Most Outstanding Player Bill Walton. Crum and crew fell to North Carolina in the third-place game to finish fourth out of 25 teams.

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The highest-rated game in college basketball history

In 1979, coach Bill Hodges led Indiana State and basketball legend Larry Bird to the national championship game with an undefeated team at 33-0. Hodges, Bird and the Sycamores fell to a Michigan State team featuring Magic Johnson to finish as runner-up.

The 1979 championship game remains the highest-rated game in the history of college basketball. The 1979 tournament also was the first and only tournament with 40 teams and it was the first tournament where every team was seeded by the DI basketball committee. 

The national champion

Michigan's Steve Fisher became the first first-year head coach to win a national title in 1989 against a 64-team field. Fisher's path to becoming Michigan's head coach was as untraditional as it comes.

During the regular season, coach Bill Frieder led the Wolverines. However, Frieder accepted a head coaching position at Arizona State after the season just before the start of the NCAA tournament. That led Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler to fired Frieder before the tournament, naming Fisher the interim coach.

From there, Fisher led the Wolverines, powered by Most Outstanding Player Glen Rice and his 184 points in six games, to the 1989 title.

North Carolina's first rookie coach

Almost a decade after Fisher won the title, North Carolina's Bill Guthridge led the Tar Heels to the Final Four in his first year in 1998. Guthridge took over as head coach with less than two months before the season after legendary coach Dean Smith unexpectedly retired. Guthridge took over a team fresh off a Final Four run a year prior.

Despite the circumstance and huge footsteps to follow, Guthridge led North Carolina to a then-school record 30 wins entering NCAA tournament and a No. 1 seed. Once the tournament began, he led the Tar Heels to the Final Four become the rare coach who also made the semifinals as a player (1964).

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Into the 21st century

In 2022, North Carolina's Hubert Davis became the second Tar Heel coach to reach the Final Four in his first year after replacing the legendary Roy Williams. Davis lost in the championship game, but he knocked out rival Duke and Mike Krzyzewski in the Blue Devil coach's final game.

Every first-year men's basketball coach to reach the Final Four
Year Coach School Result
2022 Hubert Davis North Carolina Runner-up
1998 Bill Guthridge North Carolina Final Four
1989+ Steve Fisher Michigan National Champion
1979 Bill Hodges Indiana State Runner-up
1972 Denny Crum Louisville Fourth-place
1965 Gary Thompson Wichita State Fourth place
1957 Dick Harp Kansas Runner-up
1943 Bully Gilstrap Texas Final Four
1943 Ray Meyer DePaul Final Four
1939 Bruce Drake Oklahoma Final Four

+Steve Fisher took over as the interim coach once the tournament started.

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