We examined the ages of every head coach in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament for the past 10 seasons and uncovered a consistent trend: The older the coach, the more likely the team is to have success in the tournament.
- In nearly every round of every tournament since the 2009-10 season, the average age of winning head coaches has increased with every round.
- In almost every tournament, the average age of the coaches who lose in the first round is lower than the average age to make the tournament that year.
As you fill out your NCAA March Madness Bracket next year, you may want to consider the age of each team’s coach as you pencil in your winners.
Advance in age, advance in the tournament
Below is a detailed look at the overall trend over the past 10 NCAA men’s basketball tournaments.
- Selection Sunday
The brackets are in, and the average age of head coaches whose teams qualify for the Big Dance is 50.7 years old.
- Tip off time
Once play begins, younger coaches typically go home in the first round, while older coaches typically advance.
The average age of head coaches who lose in the first round is 49.6 years old (which is lower than the average age to make the tournament). The average age of head coaches whose teams win in the first round is 51.8 years old.
Only twice in the past 10 years (2010 and 2012) has the average age of head coaches winning in the first round registered under 50.
- The tournament — and the trend — continues
As March Madness continues, so too does the trend of older coaches advancing further in the tournament.
The average age of head coaches in the Sweet Sixteen since 2010 is 52.9 years old. That average increases to 54.1 years old in the Elite Eight and 55.6 years old in the Final Four.
While the average age of championship game coaches stays fairly flat at 55.3, the average age of championship winners since 2010 jumps to 57.8 years old.
Age trumps youth during March Madness
Over the last 10 NCAA basketball tournaments, coaches aged 49 and younger have gone just 254-308 (.452).
In that same period, only two coaches under the age of 50 have cut down the nets as champions at the end of the tournament:
- Tony Bennett, who was 49 years old when he coached Virginia to the 2019 championship
- Kevin Ollie, who was 41 when Connecticut won the title in 2014
Over the last 10 tournaments, head coaches age 60 and over have gone a combined 183-115 (.614) with 5 national championships and 15 Final Four berths.
The most seasoned coaches of the past 10 years
The oldest coaches to win a national championship since 2010 were Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and the University of Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, who each won at age 68. Kryzewski also won the national championship at age 63 in 2010.
Roy Williams coached the University of North Carolina to a championship victory in 2017 at age 66.
So who were the most successful NCAA tournament coaches of the past 10 years? As you can guess, the top 3 were also 3 of the more seasoned coaches in the league.
- Coach K has coached in each of the past 10 tournaments, from age 63 in 2010 to age 72 in 2019. In that period, he won 2 championships, appeared 5 times in the Elite Eight, appeared in 7 Sweet Sixteens and lost in the first round twice.
- Roy Williams has coached in 9 of the past 10 tournaments, from age 60 to age 68. In that span, he won 1 championship out of 2 appearances in the title game, and his teams appeared in the Elite Eight 4 times and the Sweet Sixteen 6 times.
- Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has coached in 8 of the past 10 tournaments, from age 65 to age 74. In that time, his teams reached the Final Four twice and appeared in the Sweet Sixteen 5 times.
Age may be just a number. But in March, those numbers typically add up to wins.