I voted for Dean Smith, but mainly because I’ve met both him and his wife, and he is truly one of the most decent, down-to-Earth, generous people I’ve ever met. He was an incredible coach as well and the impact that he had on so many players’ lives was enormous. I recall once there was a big reunion for the 1957 and 1982 NCAA Champ teams at UNC, with all the living former players and coaches. Michael Jordan was there and people went crazy when he was introduced - but the only person who received more applause was Dean Smith.
The other coaches are all legends in their own right. It’s fashionable for UNC fans to “hate” Coach K, but there’s no denying that he’s built an incredibly successful program at Duke and will forever be synonymous with that school (I’ve met him too, he’s a decent guy as well).
I think it’s remarkable what John Wooden accomplished in his career at UCLA. Their string of national titles in the '60s and '70s will probably never be duplicated or even approached by another team. Just amazing.
I’m not a fan of Bobby Knight personality-wise, but Coach K attributes a lot of his success to what he learned from Knight, so his coaching methods have certainly been a major influence on the game over the years.
Adolph Rupp was well before my time but he was another one of the great program-builders of this past century.
There have been other very influential coaches in the game as well, such as Phog Allen, one of the first great college coaches; Frank McGuire and Everett Case, who helped to make college basketball reach the mega-sport status it now enjoys in the South; and Clarence “Big House” Gaines who was one of the all-time great coaches of the CIAA.