September 1, 2010

Longest tenured coaches bring stability

One could win "Jeopardy," "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" or even a friendly wager with the answer to this question: Who are the three longest-tenured active coaches in college basketball?

There's Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and ... who?

The answer is Dave Bike, who actually was hired at Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn., two years before Duke hired Krzyzewski.

Entering the 2010-11 season, 14 Division I basketball coaches have been at their programs for at least 20 seasons. (As a contrast, there are just three FBS football coaches: Joe Paterno at Penn State, Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Larry Blakeney at Troy.)

Some are the top of their profession. Boeheim, Krzyzewski, Maryland's Gary Williams and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun have won the national title and reached multiple Final Fours. Others are perfectly happy out of the spotlight. And their schools are thrilled to have that kind of stability on the bench.

Truly, these coaches are campus institutions. Their schools mean as much to them as they mean to the school. Here's a look at the coaches who have been at their job for at least 20 seasons heading into the 2010-11 season.

First season: 1976-77
Record: 829-293, 27 NCAA tournament appearances, one national title
Buzz: Boeheim is the textbook example of a campus fixture in college basketball. He walked onto the Syracuse team in 1962 and played on the school's second NCAA tournament team in 1966, sharing a backcourt with All-America Dave Bing. Boeheim returned as a graduate assistant in 1969 and eventually was elevated to coach. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, but he hasn't let up. Syracuse's 30-win season in 2009-10 was its fourth under Boeheim.
2. Dave Bike, Sacred Heart
First season: 1978-79
Record: 494-444, no NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and Calhoun aren't the only national championship coaches on this list. Bike's title, though, came in Division II in 1986. Sacred Heart still is looking for its first NCAA tournament berth since moving into Division I. The Pioneers are inching closer, losing by four points to Central Connecticut State in the Northeast Conference tournament title in 2007. A Sacred Heart alum, Bike also graduated from Notre Dame Catholic High School across the street from campus. During the handful of years he has spent away from Sacred Heart during his adult life, he played catcher in the Detroit Tigers' minor-league system from 1965-72.
First season: 1980-81
Record: 795-220 at Duke, 26 NCAA tournament appearances, four national titles
Buzz: From Krzyzewskiville - the make-shift tent cities erected by Duke students waiting for game tickets - to Coach K Court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, few coaches are as synonymous with their schools as Coach K. A testament to the standard he has set: Duke went through a five-season absence from the Final Four and two-year absence from the Sweet 16 to set off a string of "What's wrong with Duke?" columns. Turns out nothing is wrong with Duke. The Blue Devils won the 2010 national title and should be the preseason No. 1 for this season.
4. Don Maestri, Troy
First season: 1982-83
Record: 473-341, one NCAA tournament appearance
Buzz: Maestri and West Virginia's Bob Huggins have won conference coach of the year awards in five leagues, which is the NCAA record. Maestri has done it in the Gulf South (Division II), East Coast (a now-defunct Division I league), Mid-Continent (now called the Summit), Atlantic Sun and, most recently, the Sun Belt. Before Troy moved to Division I, Maestri led the Trojans to two Division II Final Fours. The Trojans also became the only NCAA team to score 200 points in a game by beating DeVry 258-141 on Jan. 12, 1992; Troy hit a record 51 3-pointers during that game. Longevity is big at Troy: Maestri's top assistant, David Felix, was hired a year before Maestri and Blakeney is the third longest-tenured active FBS football coach.
5. Greg Kampe, Oakland
First season: 1984-85
Record: 444-322, two NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Kampe's father and brother played football at Michigan, but Kampe blazed his own trail at Oakland. Sitting in the shadow of Michigan and Michigan State (Oakland is in Rochester, Mich., a Detroit suburb), the Grizzlies' decision to move to Division I was a difficult one, but they have proved they belong. After winning the Mid-Continent Conference tourney in 2005, Oakland returned to the NCAA tourney last season by winning the Summit tournament.
6. L. Vann Pettaway, Alabama A&M
First season: 1986-87
Record: 440-264, one NCAA tournament appearance
Buzz: Pettaway is another coach who shepherded his program from Division II to Division I. If there's been one constant to the Bulldogs under Pettaway, it has been the coach's pressure defense. He led Alabama A&M to its only NCAA tournament appearance in 2005. While A&M has struggled in recent seasons (19 combined wins the past two seasons), Pettaway remains the face of the program. He has won 440 games as coach, and the program has 326 wins without him.
7. Rick Byrd, Belmont
First season: 1986-87
Record: 488-273, three NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Belmont moved to Division I in 1999. Only nine years later, the Bruins came within one point of upsetting No. 2 seed Duke in the NCAA tournament. Ohio State's Jim Tressel is known for wearing a sweater vest on the sidelines, but Byrd has been wearing them since the 1970s. For a relatively unknown private school in Nashville, Belmont has its share of big-name fans. Country star Vince Gill, a friend of Byrd's, sits behind the Belmont bench at every home game.
8. Jim Calhoun, Connecticut
First season: 1986-87
Record: 575-221, 16 NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Calhoun has seen better days at Connecticut. The Huskies missed the NCAA tournament for only the second time in four seasons in 2009-10. Meanwhile, they are facing an NCAA investigation. The last four years have also offered a highlight of the Calhoun era with a Final Four appearance in 2009. Calhoun's bristly personality doesn't make him the most lovable character in the sport, but Connecticut would be nowhere without him. Like many coaches on the list, Calhoun took a program from Division II to Division I (Northeastern). He was the architect of a second program by building UConn into a two-time national champion and a pipeline to the NBA draft.
9. Fang Mitchell, Coppin State
First season: 1986-87
Record: 379-343, four NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Mitchell's signature win came in the 1997 NCAA tournament, when his 15th-seeded Eagles stunned second-seeded South Carolina 78-65 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. After earning the MEAC's first tournament win in conference history, Coppin State fell one point short of reaching the Sweet 16 in an 82-81 loss to Texas in the second round. It was the third of Coppin State's four NCAA tournament appearances under Mitchell, whose real first name is Ron.
10. Bob Thomason, Pacific
First season: 1988-89
Record: 387-275, four NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: A Pacific alum, Thomas remains third in school history in career free-throw percentage (83.7 percent) and 11th in career scoring. As a coach, Thomason ended an 18-season tournament drought by leading the Tigers to the 1997 NCAA tournament. His finest moment, though, came from 2003-06, as Pacific made three consecutive NCAA appearances and went 47-3 in Big West play. Thomason is one of three coaches on this list, joining Boeheim and Krzyzewski, in having a player selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft; Pacific's Michael Olowakandi went No. 1 in 1998, to the Los Angeles Clippers.
11. Homer Drew, Valparaiso
First season: 1988-89
Record: 347-294, seven NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: The name Drew is well-known around the Valpo campus. Homer's son, Bryce, is the school's greatest player, and he hit the famous game-winning 3-pointer in a 70-69 upset of fourth-seeded Ole Miss in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament. Homer Drew led Valpo to six NCAA tournament appearances in seven seasons before stepping aside to let son Scott become coach in 2002. Homer intended on retiring and moving into fundraising for the university, but he reclaimed his coaching job when Scott took the Baylor job after one season. This season, like Coach K, Drew will coach on a court that bears his name; Valpo will play on Homer Drew Court this season.
12. Bob McKillop, Davidson
First season: 1989-90
Record: 383-248, five NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Those with short memories will assume that Stephen Curry is the face of Davidson. That's not true. If you have any doubts, walk across the street from campus. That's where McKillop has lived since he took the Wildcats' coaching job in 1989. Before Curry arrived, McKillop led Davidson to three NCAA tournaments and three NIT appearances. Indeed, the McKillops are the first family of Davidson. His oldest son, Matt, is an assistant on his staff. His youngest son, Brendan, is a senior on this season's team. And his daughter, Kerrin, graduated from Davidson and married a former Davidson baseball player.
First season: 1989-90
Record: 442-238, 14 NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Along with Boeheim and North Carolina's Roy Williams, Gary Williams is one of three active coaches to lead his alma mater to multiple Final Fours. Williams never played for Lefty Driesell, but he returned the program to Driesell-like levels of prominence by reaching the 2001 Final Four and winning the 2002 national title. His no-nonsense demeanor doesn't make him the most endearing figure to Maryland fans (or his former athletic director), but no one can deny his impact on a proud Maryland program.
14. Dave Loos, Austin Peay
First season: 1990-91
Record: 331-276, three NCAA tournament appearances
Buzz: Naturally, most of the coaches on this list have coached at their schools long enough and won enough to carry their fair share of clout. Loos carries that clout in his title. He's the only men's basketball coach who doubles as athletic director, and he's done it for 13 years. Austin Peay has become the most consistent program in the OVC with 17 consecutive seasons with a winning record in conference play. In addition to the court bearing his name, Loos also has a scholarship for men's basketball graduate assistant with his name on it.
(Six other coaches have been at their schools for at least 15 seasons: Ron Hunter at IUPUI, Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Dave Loos at Austin Peay, Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph's, Scott Nagy at South Dakota State and Fran O'Hanlon at Lafayette.)

David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at

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