Van Breda Kolff's father Butch, a journeyman coach in both the professional and college ranks, was once head coach of the New Orleans Jazz (now the Utah Jazz), and before that the University of New Orleans.
Van Breda Kolff played collegiately at Vanderbilt under Roy Skinner and led the Commodores to a share of the SEC Championship in 1974. He was named SEC Player of the Year in 1974, and later went on to play in both the ABA and NBA.
In 11 seasons as a collegiate head coach, van Breda Kolff compiled a record of 191-141 with two NCAA appearances. In addition to Vanderbilt and St. Bonaventure, he has coached collegiately at Cornell and Pepperdine.