On Wednesday, the ESPN college basketball hive mind released its consensus rankings of every high-major college basketball coaching job in the country. (We also named our best and worst jobs in every mid-major league.)
Naturally, this created no small amount of discussion among readers and commenters, discussion that we here at ESPN.com were already bandying about throughout the voting process.
Which got yours truly thinking: Now that we've ranked the best jobs in every league in the country, how would we rank the best of the best -- the jobs every aspiring coach spends a lifetime pursuing? Consider what follows my humble attempt to do exactly that.
For the sake of consistency, I'm using the same criteria we established for our initial voting, which was laid out in the rankings (see above link): "This is not an attempt to rank the programs or their histories. … When voting, our 14 panelists were asked to take into consideration facilities, expectation level, athletic budget, wins and losses, recruiting base, fan support/pressure and all of the other factors that go into determining the 'best' jobs in the ever-crazy profession of college basketball coaching."
Based on that criteria, here's how I see the top 10 jobs in college basketball, from No. 10 to No. 1:
2. Kentucky Do you hear that clicking sound? That's the sound of approximately 4 million members of Big Blue Nation (give or take a few) readying their angry replies to their beloved program's placement at … well, anywhere but No. 1 overall.
Indeed, that may be Kentucky basketball's greatest strength: its fan base. UK fans are like no other in the sport, and like few others in any sport. The connection between huge swaths of the Commonwealth and the program it cherishes runs as deep as any such connection possibly could. That intensity alone ensures that Kentucky, come hell or high water, will compete for national championships on a regular basis. Big Blue Nation won't settle for anything less.
That intensity also makes the job an unusually challenging one. Managing the expectations of an entire state -- or trying to live up to them -- is no easy feat. Few have ever done it better than John Calipari, whose media savvy and insane recruiting acumen have turned Lexington into the country's annual one-stop shop for future NBA talent. The Wildcats are coming off an Elite Eight, a Final Four, and a national championship in just three seasons, with a score of NBA lottery picks to show for it.
So why isn't Kentucky No. 1? To my mind, the only thing holding it back -- besides the memory of the pre-Calipari days, and the sneaking suspicion that few others could possibly do the job Calipari has done -- is the aging state of Rupp Arena, which is in desperate need of that $300 million renovation that is reportedly coming sometime down the line. Were it not for Calipari's play-for-me-and-go-pro genuis, would Kentucky have as much to offer the nation's truly elite prospects?
We'll find out eventually, I suppose, but for now, the question is almost moot. As I wrote above, the differences between jobs at this level are almost imperceptible. The point is, Kentucky is one of the truly great programs in the country, backed by the best fans in the sport. If you're a coach, and Big Blue comes calling, you say yes. It's really just that simple.