NEW YORK — 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 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 night's Rutgers-Villanova game at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
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 is the fourth USF coach to earn Big East Coach of the Year honors. Softball's Ken Eriksen won in 2008, baseball's Lelo Prado in 2009 and women's golf's Marci Kornegay in 2010.