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Evans Seven: College coaches who NBA might try to lure to pros

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John Calipari
John Calipari (AP Images)

Now that John Beilein has made it official by returning to Michigan and declining to further pursue the Detroit Pistons’ head coaching job, who might be the next college coach to be valued by the NBA? In this week’s Evan Seven, we examine seven such candidates that might draw the eye of NBA front offices in the coming years.

MORE EVANS SEVEN: Predicting which coaches will be the first to call 2020 prospects on June 15 | Prospects that could go No. 1 in future drafts

1. John Calipari 

This would not be a credible article if it did not begin with John Calipari. He has been the most talked about college coach to make the leap into the NBA for the past several years. And while he is being paid handsomely and his Kentucky basketball machine continues to run at an all-time high, the idea of making a push for an NBA gig will always be there. Over 20 years ago, Calipari made his first leap, as he coached the New Jersey Nets for two-plus seasons. While he will be remembered for his firing, what should not be forgotten is that he did have the Nets on the precipice of consistent playoff appearances until the NBA lockout, the injury of Sam Cassell and passing on Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA Draft. Things have worked out well since then. Calipari has successfully recruited such prospects as Anthony Davis, John Wall, Devin Booker and DeMarcus Cousins, so he's proven he can succeed at the college level. But the itch might be there for one last shot to prove the critics wrong and show he can win in the NBA.

2. Jay Wright 

Jay Wright
Jay Wright (AP Images)

There was talk earlier this spring regarding the New York Knicks pursuing Jay Wright for their head coach opening. Whether the position was ultimately offered to Wright could be debated, but what can't be debated is that Wright will continue to be a heavily coveted coaching candidate in the coming years. His legacy is cemented at Villanova, as he has doubled the program’s national titles and has pushed the school’s name into the argument for what a blueblood program is. Wright was ahead of the curve when it came to playing small ball, positionless basketball, and that reflects the genius that he is and his ability to play to his team’s strengths. He has had great success in developing talent at the guard position (Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye and Jalen Brunson), and his professional approach and players’ affection for him is evident. It would take a massive opportunity to pull Wright away from Villanova, but there is always a slight chance that something might pique his interest.

3. Bill Self 

Bill Self
Bill Self (AP Images)

Talk of Bill Self going to the San Antonio Spurs has persisted over the past few years. Whether Self is the ultimate hire to replace Gregg Popovich is up for debate, but Self's background with Spurs GM RC Burford (they spent time together at Oklahoma State and Kansas), only adds fuel to the fire that Self could be the next head coach of the Spurs if the job opened up. Self’s string of success since taking over in Lawrence has been nothing short of stupendous, as he has won 14 straight Big 12 titles. That reflects his coaching acumen, player development skills and ability to morph as the game and industry has constantly changed. He is a much- respected coach throughout the business, and he has done pretty much everything that can be done at the college level. Could the NBA be next?

4. Tom Izzo 

Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo (AP Images)

Five years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers took their shot at Tom Izzo. But as more time passes, the less likely it seems that Izzo would leave his comfortable Michigan State home. A slight chance will always remain, though, that an NBA franchise could give Izzo full control - the type of power that would likely be needed to pull Izzo away from East Lansing. Izzo is a Spartan to the core, but the recent scandals at the university that have caused the ousters of some of the top university and athletic administrators - including close friend and former athletic director Mark Hollis - could change how Izzo feels. Michigan State remains a rock-solid program that has not been short for recruiting wins and hardwood success, but the chance to compete against the very best might peel Izzo away and lead him to the NBA ranks.

5. Tony Bennett 

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett (AP Images)

Tony Bennett had a cup of coffee as a player in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets in the early 1990s before picking up the clipboard at Wisconsin. Since then, the head coach has cultivated talent such as Klay Thompson and Aron Baynes at Washington State before sliding across the nation and placing Virginia among the elite. At Virginia he has found under-the-radar talent and developed players such as Malcolm Brogdon, Joe Harris and Justin Anderson. The culture Bennett has instilled in Charlottesville is beyond impressive. He is not only going blow for blow with local bluebloods Duke and UNC, as Virginia has had more wins and league titles than each over the past five years. Some question UVA’s playing style and whether it would translate to the NBA, but there's no doubt Bennett gets the best out of his guys. He has a strong connection with RC Buford in San Antonio and if not Bill Self, Bennett could be the college coach that gets a hard look by the Spurs when the time comes to replace Gregg Popovich.

6. Ed Cooley 

Ed Cooley
Ed Cooley (AP Images)

One of the more underrated coaches nationally, Ed Cooley has created one of the sturdiest programs along the East Coast. He has put Providence in the upper echelon of the new Big East with underrated talent from the high school ranks and the occasional highly ranked prospect. A New Englander through and through, Cooley is one of the most easygoing, personable coaches in the business, the type of personality that is enjoyed by his players. He has had no problem developing recent stars Ben Bentil and Bryce Cotton, and Kris Dunn has shown what can happen if the best in the area decide to stay home. Cooley has the personality and coaching acumen that would make for a home run of a hire for not just an elite college program, but also by an NBA team.

7. Larry Krystkowiak 

Larry Krystkowiak
Larry Krystkowiak (AP Images)

Larry Krystkowiak has been no stranger to the professional ranks. Having played 10 years in the NBA for six franchises and spending three years on NBA benches with the Milwaukee Bucks and New Jersey Nets, Krystkowiak made the seamless transition to the college game seven years ago. Since taking over in Salt Lake City, Krystkowiak has transformed the once-dormant Utah program into a consistent NCAA Tournament contender by quickly developing stars who have made the Huntsman Center one of the hardest places to play on the West Coast. Whether it was Jakob Poeltl, Delon Wright or Kyle Kuzma, Krystkowiak has found success a variety of ways. Krystkowiak is a well-known tactician who brings a hard-nosed mentality to the coach’s box, a mentality that is reflected by his players. He continues to compete against the Pac-12 goliaths with lesser-valued talent, and he could very well pique the interest of NBA personnel in the future.