Bet on Great Coaches

Quick quiz: Who's Pat Summit?

Tick ... Tick ... Tick. Bzzzzzzzzt. Time's up. Still don't know? I'm not surprised. It's not because you aren't smart. You are. (And handsome, too.) You're to be forgiven because Coach Summit, for all her greatness, has toiled in the relative obscurity of NCAA women's basketball.

Here's what I mean by greatness: Summit is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. Yes, you read that right. Not even the legendary Dean Smith, winner of two NCAA men's basketball championships and 879 games over 36 seasons for David Gardner's beloved North Carolina Tar Heels, has achieved what Summit has. Here's the breakdown:

  • 909 games won (and counting, since her Tennessee Lady Volunteers are in this year's NCAA tourney as the second seed in the Cleveland bracket)
  • .838 winning percentage all-time
  • Six NCAA women's titles, including three straight in the late '90s

None of this is to denigrate either The Dean or any other coach. (Who would dare?) My point is simply this: Hall of Famers exist outside the purview of the bright lights of big media. This truism also holds for the stock market's best coaches. I'm talking, of course, about championship fund managers.

An investor's winning formula
Summit, Smith, and the other greats employ a coaching philosophy that leads to winning. Her personal take has been called the Definite Dozen, a list of bullet points for success at Tennessee. Among the list:

  • Be responsible.
  • Work hard.
  • Play smart.
  • Handle success and failure.
  • Be a competitor.

The best investors stick to similar principles in managing their portfolios. Take a look at how this list might look when viewed through a stock-picking lens:

  • Know the businesses you're investing in.
  • Study financial statements.
  • Invest only when the odds favor you.
  • Learn from your bad picks.
  • Aim to crush the market.

I'm a fan of Shannon Zimmerman's Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter in part because he picks funds run by managers who espouse these principles as part of a core stock-picking strategy. Take Fairholme (FUND: FAIRX  ) as an example.

This fund is co-managed by Bruce Berkowitz and Larry Pitowsky, whose dedication to the teachings of legendary investor Warren Buffett have led them to invest nearly 19% of Fairholme's assets in Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRKa  ) (NYSE: BRKb  ) stock. Of course, that shouldn't come as a surprise: Berkowitz and Pitowsky tend to eschew wide diversification and concentrate resources on their best ideas, which, as of November, included Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE: CNQ  ) , Leucadia National (NYSE: LUK  ) , EchoStar Communications (Nasdaq: DISH  ) , and Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD  ) .

So far, the strategy has paid off. Fairholme has beat the S&P 500 by more than 10 percentage points since its inclusion in the Champion Funds portfolio last April. It boasts the same market-crushing record over the past five years.

Invest with the greats
Most of the Champion Funds selections have a similar record. Indeed, by siding with the greats, Shannon has managed to beat the benchmark with 29 of his 37 picks. As a whole, the portfolio is outperforming the market by nearly 11 percentage points since its inception in 2004.

You can get this performance for your own portfolio by applying Coach Summit's principles to your stock and fund investing. Or you can get more help with a free ticket to Champion Funds. It will last for the duration of both the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, granting you a risk-free chance to learn from the best coaching minds in the investing game today. If that sounds enticing, click here to get started right away.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers thinks the women's college hoops tourney is underrated. Tim owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. You can find out what else is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.

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