The National Coach of the Year was without a doubt the most difficult award of the group to pick.
Arizona’s Sean Miller has a very strong argument to receive the award, as does Villanova’s Jay Wright, even though he may not even be the guy to get the award in the Big East, not with what Butler’s Chris Holtmann has done this season. Baylor’s Scott Drew, Kansas’ Bill Self, SMU’s Tim Jankovich, Florida’s Mike White and Northwestern’s Chris Collins deserve to have their name in the mix as well.
But we went with Mark Few.
And the reason is actually fairly simple.
Few couldn’t quite get Gonzaga to the NCAA tournament with an unblemished record, but he did get the Zags to 29-1 in the regular season in a year where his top five scorers played a total of six games last season. Nigel Williams-Goss and Johnathan Williams III both sat out last season as transfers. Jordan Mathews was a grad transfer, having played for Cal his first three years in college. Przemek Karnowski may not be fair to have on this list — he’s a fifth-year senior that was given a medical redshirt for last season — but Zach Collins not only may be better than Przemek, he’s only a freshman.
Few is far from the only coach that has to deal with roster turnover like that, but he is the only one doing it that plays the most important games of his season in November and December, when the team was still figuring out each other — their roles, when they get shots, how many minutes they’re going to receive, etc.
That’s the part of this equation that isn’t getting enough attention.
Gonzaga plays in the WCC, which means that they have to earn their seeding — in a different year, they have to earn their at-large bid — in the first two months of the year. They don’t have a dozen games against top 50 teams available to them in league play. Gonzaga had to. And despite playing with, essentially, an entirely new team, he still managed to beat Florida, Iowa State and Arizona before the calendar turned.
You can think whatever you want about the Zags’ chances of getting to the Final Four.
But there really is no denying the fact that Few has done a marvelous job with this group.