November 20, 2011

Roundtable: College hoops' Mount Rushmore?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski set the Division I men's coaching wins record Tuesday night. Presumably, he would be on your Mount Rushmore of all-time great men's college basketball coaches - or would he? Who is your quartet?

Pat Forde's answer:
My Mount Rushmore four would be, in order of merit, John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Dean Smith. All four won multiple titles. Three of the four at one point held the career victories record - and the fourth, Wooden, has multiple untouchable records on his resume. Nobody will ever win 10 national titles again, nobody will ever win seven titles in a row again and nobody will ever win 88 consecutive games again. Knight's enduring mark is having coached the last undefeated team in college basketball. That was 1976 - 35 years and counting, and the only team to make a serious run at that since was UNLV in 1991, which made it to the Final Four before being beaten by ... Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils. Coach K winning four titles now is probably the equivalent of Wooden winning eight because it's roughly twice as hard to win it all now as it was then. You have to play more NCAA tournament games and against more national competition. As for Dean Smith, he earned his place on my Mount Rushmore because of consistent excellence - 27 consecutive 20-win seasons and 13 consecutive trips to the Sweet 16. Etch it in stone: These guys are the four best coaches in college basketball history.

[Forde: Krzyzewski adapts to become the best]

David Fox's answer:
My four are Phog Allen, John Wooden, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. Allen's basketball roots trace back to James Naismith. He was the game's first great coach and his lineage continues today. At Kansas, he coached Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith. In some ways, Allen is responsible not just for building Kansas' powerhouse program but also North Carolina's and Kentucky's. Wooden needs little explanation. His 10 national titles were only a slice of his impact. His "Pyramid of Success," among other treatises on leadership, is a staple for high school coaches and corporate CEOs. Smith was the first to break Rupp's wins record and left a legacy great players and great coaches. Krzyzewski, at least in wins, surpassed them all and could be the first coach to the 1,000-win mark. He's done this at a time when the game never has been tougher - the tournament is expanded, more teams at all levels are better, egos are bigger and the spotlight is brighter.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Picking the four biggest winners - Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp - would make for an impressive group. But that group also doesn't include the No. 1 guy, John Wooden. My other three would be Krzyzewski, Knight and Rupp. Krzyzewski has four titles and could win one or two more before he is done. Knight has three national titles. Rupp won four rings. While Smith also enjoyed a phenomenal career, I also think he had a few more teams that should have won it all. No coach on this list had more talent than Smith. In 1977, though, his over-coaching cost UNC a national title against Marquette.

[Wetzel: It's time to stop deifying college coaches]

Steve Megargee's answer:
I think Mike Krzyzewski and John Wooden are the two obvious choices. Wooden is the architect of the greatest dynasty in college basketball history. Krzyzewski's four national titles, 11 Final Four appearances and Olympic gold medal made him a clear-cut pick even before he became the career wins leader. From there, the choices get much tougher. You could make strong arguments for Phog Allen, Jim Calhoun, Bob Knight, Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith, among others. I eventually narrowed my choices to the post-integration candidates (Calhoun, Knight and Smith) and opted for Knight and Smith. Knight had the career wins record until last week and led his teams to three national championships and a gold medal. Smith gets some criticism for winning only two national titles at North Carolina - Roy Williams already has matched that total - but his record otherwise is spotless. He owned the wins record before Knight, reached the Final Four 11 times and earned an Olympic gold medal. Calhoun, who built Connecticut into a national power, put his name into the conversation by winning a third national title last season. If he were to win a fourth championship before retiring, Calhoun could work his way into my top four. Michigan State's Tom Izzo also eventually could crack my top four. Although he has only one national title, Izzo has reached the Final Four six times already.

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