On Coach K, #903, and HistoryPosted by nvr1983 on November 16th, 2011
Last night was a celebration of sorts for Mike Krzyzewski, which at times was more of a coronation than an actual sporting event. The crowning had a very realistic potential to be derailed by a Tom Izzo-led Michigan State team that might not have had the preseason expectations that recent Spartan teams have had to endure, but still posed a threat to a talented but flawed Duke team. As he had done 902 times before, Krzyzewski found a way to guide his team to victory. It certainly was not the biggest win of his career (the 1991 UNLV game, 1992 Kentucky game, or any of his four national championships certainly rank well above it no matter what anybody tells you this morning), and it wasn’t the prettiest game of his career (we imagine that his current players will have to endure an epic film session based on the team’s horrendous play in the last four minutes when they nearly blew a 14-point lead), but in typical Coach K fashion, his team found a way to get it done.
We have no idea how long Krzyzewski will coach before he decides to walk away from the sideline forever, but the odds are that he will finish his career with more than 1,000 wins as a Division I men’s basketball coach, which would put him comfortably ahead of his nearest threat. His current closest threats — Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun – both come from the Big East. As of this morning, Boeheim has 856 wins (now 47 behind Krzyzewski) and turns 67 tomorrow, while Jim Calhoun has 855 wins (48 behind Krzyzewski) and is already 69 and has dealt with multiple well-chronicled medical issues in recent years. We do not want to assume anything about the health or personal issues of any of these three coaches, but it seems unlikely that Boeheim or Calhoun would be coaching for two more seasons after Krzyzewski retires and it is unlikely that they will begin to win games at pace that significantly exceeds what Krzyzewski is already doing at Duke. Even if they win five more games per year than Krzyzewski it would take them another decade before they would pass him. Once you get past these two, the difference between Krzyzewski and his competition is jarring.
After Boeheim and Calhoun it is a long way down to Roy Williams, who is 61 years old and “only” has 643 wins. Sorry Tar Heel fans, but there is no way that Williams is catching Krzyzewski, a man who is less than four years older but is a whopping 260 wins ahead of Williams. If it is any consolation, you can always focus on the number of national championhipss where Williams is only two behind Kryzewski and could very well only be trailing by one after the nets are cut down in Atlanta in April.
Who then could realistically challenge Kryzewski’s mark? Honestly, Krzyzewski is so far ahead of everybody else that we are forced to look far into the future to find challengers with even a potential chance of approaching 903 wins or whatever ridiculous number Krzyzewski puts up. The two names of promising young coaches that we hear thrown around as realistic possibilities are Brad Stevens and Josh Pastner. Stevens, who is 35 years old and already has 117 wins to go along with back-to-back appearances in the national championship game and being the rumored heir apparent at Duke when Krzyzewski finally steps down, seems like a reasonable choice. Pastner, on the other hand, seems like a potential challenger because… well mostly because he is young. Pastner is just 34 years old, but he only has 50 wins. To humor you, we will throw him in the analysis because he is young and a lot of people mention him as an eventual challenger.
For Stevens the challenge is basically this — win 30 games per year (essentially his average rate during his first four seasons at Butler) for the next 26 seasons and then you are within striking distance of Krzyzewski by the time you are 61. That is assuming that Krzyzewski retires today and Butler keeps up its historic run. It is possible that Butler or whatever school Stevens ends up coaching at could win more than 30 games per year for an extended period like many of Krzyzewski’s teams did over the past quarter century, but the odds are much more likely that Butler will revert to being just another good but not transcendent mid-major program.
For Pastner, the challenge is even more daunting: win 30 games per year (five more games per year than he has done to start his coaching career over two seasons) for the next 28 seasons (he would be 62) and he will be 14 away from where Krzyzewski sits today. Now, a program like Memphis certainly brings in enough talent and plays in a weak enough conference (for now) that a few 30-win seasons do not seem impossible. The thing is that Pastner hasn’t done anything yet to convince anybody that he has done anything other than inherit a program/brand built by John Calipari and not wrecked it (yet). In fact, the most memorable moment of Pastner’s tenure at Memphis thus far may have happened yesterday when UNC point guard Kendall Marshall tweeted that Pastner’s Memphis team looked like an AAU team. Trust us that isn’t a compliment.
While it is possible for a current coach to catch Krzyzewski in total wins as a Division I coach unless Krzyzewski retires in the very near future, don’t bet on it happening any time soon. If you are looking for someone to catch Krzyzewski, your best bets are the old-timers Boeheim and Calhoun. If we have to pick one right now, we would probably go with Boeheim given the fact that he is two years younger than Calhoun (still two years older than Krzyzewski) and the things that we have heard about Calhoun’s health and the things we haven’t heard about Boehiem’s health. If neither of those two don’t catch Krzyzewski, it will be at least 25 years or so until we see someone approach Krzyzewski’s mark, and that is only if things work out perfectly. So for the time being, this record appears to be one that will be untouchable for the foreseeable future.