USF's Heath named Big East Coach of the Year
USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath, who has the Bulls on the verge of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years, was honored at the Big East tournament in New York on Tuesday as the conference's Coach of the Year.
The same league coaches who picked USF to finish 14th in the conference recognized Heath for guiding the Bulls to a 12-6 league mark, good enough to tie for fourth place and carry the No. 6 seed in the Big East tournament. Accepting the award was the only thing Heath had to do at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, as his team earned a first-round bye and will play the winner of Tuesday's Rutgers-Villanova game at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"The list of coaches that are Hall of Famers that have won an award like this, to be on that list, I'm very humbled," said Heath, who had his assistants in attendance when he was presented the trophy by Big East commissioner John Marinatto. "I think it's a team award. My players did an unbelievable job of coming together, playing hard and winning games."
In going from 3-15 last season to 12-6, USF matched the second-best improvement in Big East history, trumped only by Boston College's worst-to-first rise in 2001. It's the second time Heath has won a conference coaching honor -- his first year as a head coach, at Kent State in 2002, he was the MAC Coach of the Year after guiding the Flashes to a 30-6 record and the NCAA's Elite Eight, as well as the conference's regular-season and tournament championships.
Heath said this award means that much more, given the incredible collection of coaches and coaching efforts in the Big East this season.
"It's the best basketball conference in the country," Heath said. "To be voted by your peers means a lot. Jim Boeheim wins all of his games but one. It's unbelievable. Mike Brey loses his best player, and the job he did. John Thompson (III) has a young basketball team, Mick Cronin, the way his team played, and Buzz (Williams), what an exceptional year Marquette has had. I know this award could have gone in a number of directions, and I'm truly honored that my peers decided, majority-wise, maybe it was me."
Heath is just the fourth USF coach to win a Big East Coach of the Year honor since the Bulls joined the league in 2005 -- softball coach Ken Eriksen won in 2008, baseball coach Lelo Prado did in 2009, and women's golf coach Marci Kornegay in 2010.