For the last week or so we've been killing some summer downtime by ruminating on who would make an all-star Xavier squad to play in The Basketball Tournament. I took a crack at picking a starting five, and then Joel filled out the bench with five more players from the KenPom Era. While Mark Lyons didn't make the squad, the ten guys that did would present a challenge for any of the teams currently in TBT. That still leaves us with the question of who would coach this team though. As we've limited ourselves to the KenPom Era, there are only three choices.
Thad Matta: 78-23, Elite Eight
Pete Gillen and Skip Prosser brought Xavier to the brink of national notoriety, but it was Thad Matta that took the team over the top. Xavier's first Elite Eight came under Matta, who took a team led by Lionel Chalmers, Romain Sato, and Anthony Myles and very nearly made the Final Four. Thad's recruiting laid the base for Xavier's dominance of the Atlantic 10 and gave Xavier the core of team that made two incredible runs. Matta was an up and coming firebreathing young coach from Butler when he arrived, and the hottest commodity in basketball then he left. Leaving aside any remaining acrimonious feelings for a moment, most Xavier fans would say that the Musketeers rise to being a national power started with Matta.
Sean Miller: 120-47, Two Sweet Sixteens, Elite Eight
Matta left and Xavier suffered the inevitable down year. Sean Miller made sure that didn't last. Miller's teams honed the packline ideals and his relentless recruiting landed Xavier Jordan Crawford, Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, Jason Love, BJ Raymond, and CJ Anderson among a handful of others. Xavier went from being scrappy overachievers (at least in the media's eyes) to a team consistently loaded with top tier talent. Miller lost two hard luck NCAA tournament games against Gonzaga and Thad Matta's Ohio State before taking his team to the Elite Eight. That team played one of the more memorable games in Xavier history in beating West Virginia and Bob Huggins before succumbing to a loaded UCLA squad. Miller and Stanley Burrell's tear filled embrace at the end of that game symbolized what the young coach meant to the program.
Chris Mack: 134-68, Three Sweet Sixteens
Don't let the 68 losses fool you, Coach Mack has been very nearly as successful as the other two names on this list. No longer content to feast on lesser teams like Rhode Island, Fordham, and Charlotte up to six times a year, Xavier now plies its trade in the Big East. Coach Mack has handled that transition by taking both Big East squads to the tournament and landing in the Sweet Sixteen this year before following the Xavier tradition of losing to one's predecessor. For the time being, Coach Mack seems like the long-term answer at Xavier. A hometown boy who played for the school, he recruits nearly as well as Miller and is sitting on a loaded roster for the coming season.
Those are the three coaches who have guided Xavier since Ken Pomeroy came on the scene in 2002. It may be an arbitrary cut off point, but it's the one we have. All three have had great moments, and all three have had some high profile missteps. If you were taking just one to coach Xavier's all-star The Basketball Tournament squad, who would you have?