INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – Mark Few,
who takes his undefeated Gonzaga team into the NCAA Tournament as
the top overall seed, joins Scott Drew of Baylor
and Juwan Howard of Michigan, two other No. 1 seeds,
and Alabama’s Nate Oats as the four finalists for
the Henry Iba Award, given annually by the U.S.
Basketball Writers Association to its national coach of the year.
All four coaches guided their programs to regular-season conference
championships and two of them to conference tournament titles.
Few won the Henry Iba Award in 2017 following a 32-1 regular
season and will try to become just the ninth coach to win the award
multiple times. Drew, Howard and Oats would be first-time winners.
The award is based on regular-season performance and the winner
of the award will be announced on Friday.
Few has coached the Bulldogs from the top spot in the national
polls all season and led Gonzaga to its first unbeaten regular season
in program history (26-0) with a ninth straight West Coach Conference
regular-season title. He earned his 14th WCC Coach of the Year honor
and this week also garnered the USBWA District IX Coach of the Year
honor. Gonzaga placed four players on the All-WCC First Team and
three Bulldogs – Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme – are
USBWA All-Americans contending for multiple national honors. Joel
Ayayi was the other all-conference player, marking the fourth time
in WCC history for one team to have four first team members. Gonzaga,
also the WCC Tournament champion, has won 25 or more games in 14
consecutive seasons and faces either Norfolk State or Appalachian
State in the NCAA Tournament’s first round Friday.
Howard is in his second season as head coach at Michigan following
a 25-year career in the NBA, 19 as a player and six as an assistant
coach. The District V Coach of the Year led Michigan (20-4) to its
first Big Ten regular-season title since 2014 and the Wolverines
are the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s East Region, taking
on either Mount St. Mary’s or Texas Southern in the first round
Friday. Michigan jumped out to an 11-0 start for a second straight
season, and Howard’s 39 wins in his first two seasons make him the
winningest Michigan coach through two seasons, passing his Steve
Fisher (37). Johnny Orr is Michigan’s only previous Henry Iba Award
winner in the 1975-76 season.
Drew earned the Big 12 Coach of the Year honor for a second consecutive
season after leading the Bears to their first conference championship
(with a 13-1 record) since sharing the 1950 title in the former
Southwest Conference. He earned the District VII Coach of the Year
nod earlier this week as well. Known for his up-tempo style – All-America
guard Jared Butler was a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection
and is a candidate for a host of postseason awards – Drew had Baylor
winning with a tight defense this year as well. Davion Mitchell
became the first player in program history to win a conference Defensive
Player of the Year honor and Mark Vital was unanimously named to
the Big 12 All-Defensive Team for a second straight season. Baylor
finished the regular season ranked No. 2 nationally with a 21-1
record, winning more conference games (13) than any other league
team despite having four games cancelled. Drew would be the first
Henry Iba Award winner for Baylor, which faces Hartford in Friday’s
first round of the NCAA Tournament.
In his second year at Alabama, Oats has taken the Crimson Tide
to a 24-6 record and their first regular-season Southeastern Conference
championship in 19 seasons and tied the school record for most SEC
wins (16). Alabama’s 10-game win streak early in the season was
its longest since the 1996-97 season and its SEC Tournament title
last week was the school's first since 1991. Senior Herbert Jones
was the SEC’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year,
only the third player to earn both – Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (2011-12)
and Tyler Ulis (2015-16) are the others – and only the fifth Tide
player to earn conference player of the year honors. Oats and Jones
are the first Alabama duo to sweep those two honors since Mark Gottfried
and Erwin Dudley did it in 2002. The District IV Coach of the Year
would be the first Henry Iba winner for Alabama, which faces Iona
in Saturday’s first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Henry Iba Award is named in honor of the
legendary coaching great at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State)
who won two NCAA championships and two gold medals and one silver
as coach of the U S. Olympic teams.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in
1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential
organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America
team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA
and its award programs, contact executive director Malcolm Moran
Henry Iba Award