Barnes, Bennett, Holtmann and Wright Seek 2018 Top Honor

ATLANTA (March 15, 2018) – The Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year finalists, announced today by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, feature two coaches whose names are already engraved on the trophy, and two others hoping to join elite company. The final ballot includes Rick Barnes (University of Tennessee), Tony Bennett (University of Virginia), Chris Holtmann (Ohio State University) and Jay Wright (Villanova University).

In the history of the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year award, only three coaches have won the title multiple times – John Calipari (University of Massachusetts, University of Memphis and University of Kentucky) and Mike Krzyzweski (Duke University) have each won three. Wright has claimed a pair, winning most recently in 2016, and aims to become a three-peat winner.

With his first Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year in 2007 at Washington State University, Bennett looks to join Calipari, Krzyzweski and Wright as the fourth coach to win the title multiple times and would be only the second coach to win at two different schools, following Calipari. A win for Bennett would further extend the ACC’s lead of having the most wins of any conference with seven.

Barnes and Holtmann hope to claim their first Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year honor this season. If Barnes takes home the award, he would propel the SEC into a tie with the BIG EAST with the second most wins (five) of all time. Holtmann would join Randy Ayers (1991) as the Ohio State University’s honorees and make Holtmann the first Big Ten winner since Bruce Weber at University of Illinois in 2005.

“These coaches have greatly impacted the sport of basketball on the court and have led their teams to remarkable seasons as we start the tournament,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “There were so many talented candidates, so seeing these four make it to the final stage underscores the remarkable seasons they’ve enjoyed. And it will be that much harder to single out the winner.”

“We are proud to be associated with the Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year award again this year,” said Chris Filardi, vice president of marketing at Werner Co. “It has been a great season of basketball, and all of these coaches deserve recognition for their accomplishments.”

Fans will have a chance to vote for their favorite coach beginning March 19 and running through 6 p.m. EDT on March 30. By visiting, fans can cast their ballot for the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year honor. The fan component makes up five percent of the overall vote.

The winner of the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year will be announced on Sunday, April 1, 2018, at the Naismith Awards Brunch during the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas. The entire awards presentation, held at Pearl Stable, will be broadcast live at and also simulcast on Sirius XM ESPNU Radio, Channel 84.

About the finalists:

Rick Barnes, University of Tennessee

  • Coaching a team with just one senior on the roster, Barnes led the Vols to a regular season conference championship and an SEC tournament title game appearance and was named SEC Coach of the Year.
  • Tennessee was picked 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC preseason media poll, yet finished the season at No. 12 nationally in the polls.
  • The Vols started SEC play 0-2 after losses to Arkansas and Auburn, but rebounded by winning 14 of the last 17 games of the regular season to finish 25-8 (15-3).
  • Tennessee enters the NCAA Tournament in the South Region as the No. 3 seed.

Tony Bennett, University of Virginia

  • Bennett was named the ACC Coach of the Year, his third such honor in the past five seasons.
  • Unranked in preseason polls and picked to finish sixth in the conference, Virginia rose to No. 1 in mid-February and won the league regular season going away with a 17-1 mark.
  • Virginia (31-2 overall) defeated North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game.
  • The Cavaliers are the overall top seed of the NCAA Tournament, placed in the South Region.

Chris Holtmann, Ohio State University

  • The first-year Ohio State coach led the Buckeyes to a second-place conference finish (15-3, 24-8 overall).
  • With a 9-0 start in Big Ten play this year, Holtmann became the first coach in 95 years to win his first seven conference games, and propelled the Buckeyes to their first top-10 ranking in four years.
  • He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by other league coaches and media members, his second consecutive conference Coach of the Year award (BIG EAST, 2017).
  • The Buckeyes are a No. 5 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.

Jay Wright, Villanova University

  • Wright became the Wildcat all-time wins leader (414) during this season, then led Villanova to its second consecutive BIG EAST tournament title, and third in the past four years.
  • He has led the Wildcats to 30 wins in four straight seasons.
  • He is one of only three coaches to have won the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s College Coachof the Year more than once, having claimed the honor in 2006 and 2016.
  • The Wildcats are the top seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.

The four finalists were chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom based their selections on the outstanding coaching performances during the 2017-18 college basketball season. The vote was tabulated and certified by Aprio, formerly Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, the largest full-service, independent CPA-led business advisory firm, based in Atlanta.

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Celebrating 50 Years of the Citizen Naismith Trophy

Founded during the 1956-57 season, the Atlanta Tipoff Club is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club administers the Naismith Awards, which have become the most prestigious national honors in all of college basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, the Naismith Trophy recognizes the top Men’s and Women’s College Basketball Players of the Year. Other Naismith Awards are presented to the Men’s and Women’s College Basketball Coaches of the Year, Boys’ and Girls’ High School Basketball Players and Coaches of the Year, Basketball Officials and Outstanding Contributors to the game. Celebrating its 50th year by honoring past winners, the Citizen Naismith Trophy was first presented to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1969. Old Dominion’s Anne Donovan won the inaugural Women’s Citizen Naismith Trophy in 1983.


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Media Contact:
Traci Messier
Jackson Spalding for the Atlanta Tipoff Club