RTC’s Mount Rushmore – Top Four (And More) Most Significant People in College Basketball History

Posted by EJacoby on February 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

As we celebrate President’s Day on this Monday, it’s a good time to reflect back on the significant accomplishments of George Washington and the other great leaders of our country’s 236-year history. That got us to thinking: Who are the most significant people in the history of college basketball? The game is not quite as old as the United States of America, but there are many options to choose from in a sport that’s over 100 years old, from prodigious coaches to superstar players. In the end, we determined that no single player, in a maximum of four years of eligibility, has had as much impact on the sport as any of the four coaching legends that we selected. Head coaches are responsible for shaping the lives of hundreds of players during their tenure and thus have a greater opportunity to impact the game than anyone else. Here’s a look at the accomplishments of four of the all-time great coaches in college basketball history that compose our RTC Mount Rushmore (these are in no particular order):

Mike Krzyzewski – You may not be able to spell or pronounce his full last name, but ‘Coach K’ is one of the first names that comes to mind when discussing the greatest coaches in basketball history. Krzyzewski became the all-time winningest Division I men’s basketball coach when he recorded his 903rd victory to surpass his former coach at Army, Bobby Knight, earlier this season. Coach K has been at Duke since 1980 and has led the Blue Devils to four National Championships, 11 Final Fours, and 12 ACC regular season titles. He also coached the USA Olympic ‘Redeem Team’ in 2008 to a gold medal. Mike Krzyzewski was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, still remains the head coach of one of the top contenders in the country every year, and doesn’t appear to be calling it quits anytime soon.

Adolph Rupp – A man known for his obsession with winning, Adolph Rupp is perhaps the single most successful head coach in NCAA history, statistically speaking. Rupp is fifth on the all-time men’s coaching wins list (876 victories), and he did it with the second-best winning percentage of all time, at 82.2%. Rupp spent his entire 41-year coaching career at Kentucky, where he guided the Wildcats to six Final Fours and four National Championships. His tournament records could have been even more impressive if it wasn’t for his team’s two-year hiatus from the postseason in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons. Rupp also led UK to 27 SEC regular season titles in 41 years and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame while still coaching in 1969. Shortly after he retired, Big Blue Nation named their home court after him, and Rupp Arena remains one of the historic landmarks in college basketball today.

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ATB: Damen Bell-Holter Hits the Reverse Laettner Shot

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2011

Monday’s Lede. The story of tonight was supposed to be that there was no story. With only a few games on the schedule, and that handful of matchups involving the likes of Dillard, Arcadia, Coastal Georgia, and St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn), there wasn’t even going to be an ATB this evening. The beauty of this sport, though, is that it always finds a way to test our assumptions and surprise us. And the payoff is that on a dark and rainy December Monday, we’re rewarded with one of the most compelling buzzer-beaters you’re sure to see — eat your heart out, Indiana.

Your Watercooler Moment. Oral Roberts Hits the Reverse Laettner Shot.

When Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Steve Shields drew up his team’s final play with three seconds remaining in a tie game tonight against Oral Roberts, he went with the tried-and-true Hill-to-Laettner play. The premise: Have senior guard Tramar Sutherland fire the ball the length of the court to the opposite foul line where his teammates would converge and grab the pass, turn, dribble and shoot to win the game. The only problem is that ORU junior forward Damen Bell-Holter must have seen that play somewhere before — he intervened in UALR’s plans by snatching the long pass out of the air, taking two quick dribbles upcourt, leaving his feet as a defender ran at him, and rifling the ball at the opposite rim. Glass, rim, bottoms, bedlam.

In one of the most unlikely turns of fortune we’ve ever seen on the basketball court, Oral Roberts won the game. Had they been playing at home, this would have definitely been RTC-worthy. How unlikely was it? In addition to the broadcaster on the above feed, even the ESPN gametracker thought the game was headed to overtime!

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Duke’s Post Players: Has Reality Caught Up with Perception?

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

For the last ten years, fairly or unfairly, Duke has had the perception of being all backcourt all the time. Long gone are the days where Christian Laettner, Elton Brand or Carlos Boozer graced the court in Durham. In describing his recruitment decision to attend Michigan last week, Mitch McGary let it all out: “all [Duke’s] big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.”

Josh McRoberts' Relative Lack of Success at Duke Still Haunts the Blue Devils

Duke Hoop Blog looked at this perception, which moves closer to reality as the memory of its last dominant big man, Shelden Williams, fades out of casual fan memory. The author comes to the conclusion that the Williams/Redick era is the answer, and I see his argument. But I don’t think it’s that simple, or even the biggest factor in Duke’s relative decrease in a post presence over the last ten years. I think the real argument is much more complex and is a combination of four main factors:

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Christian Laettner and the Profitability of Big Blue Hate

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 25th, 2011

Since 1992, former Duke forward Christian Laettner has been remembered in the dark recesses of every Kentucky fans’ heart. Beating The Unforgettables — the senior class of Wildcats who overachieved through Kentucky’s probation in the early 1990s — on a last-second shot created an entire generation of fans who harbor special hatred for Laettner and his stomp of Wildcat Aminu Timberlake’s chest.  After a decent pro career and some financial difficulties, Laettner re-engaged with Big Blue Nation Monday night. Laettner wanted to be hated; more specifically, Laettner wanted to get paid for being hated.

The Big Blue Hate Trade isn’t quite as profitable as former Wildcat basketball player Jeff Sheppard and his production team hoped. This Villains exhibition game was the ninth and final game of the Big Blue All-Star Tour that stretched throughout the state of Kentucky in the last couple of weeks. Laettner’s fame as Wildcat Enemy #1 was supposed to be the big pull to draw repeat attendees. Instead the announcement of Laettner’s involvement sparked some heated debate within Big Blue Nation as some fans did not want him a part of the festivities. Even after nearly 20 years since Laettner’s shot and Kentucky winning two National Championships of their own, it is still too soon for some Kentucky fans to let bygones be bygones.

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ACC Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 25th, 2011

  1. The Mikan Drill: Florida State‘s defense last season was excellent, but its offense nearly tipped the scales back the other way with its ineptitude. The Mikan Drill
    takes a look at the Seminoles’ offense with short video clips and diagrams to back up their analysis. Essentially, the ‘Noles did well in the post but very poorly on pick and rolls. Another key in the dysfunctional cog was the team’s inability to take care of the ball. Overall, a very informative piece on one of the most under-the-radar teams in the country coming into the 2011-12 season.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: First, let me give a shout-out to the high-quality pieces Duke Basketball Report has been putting out this offseason (unfortunately, it’s because its Blue Devil Tip-Off magazine didn’t raise the funds to get published, leaving lots of great articles looking for a home). Second, here’s a roundtable article looking at Duke basketball legend Bill Brill. Brill was a distinguished sportswriter who covered the Blue Devils for over 35 years. The interviews are with many ACC journalists who tell personal stories from Brill’s respected career. One of the more interesting anecdotes was that Brill unintentionally co-founded bracketology long before it was a staple in college basketball’s coverage — it’s worth a look.
  3. Testudo Times: Speaking of roundtables, Testudo Times has a great preview of Maryland‘s basketball season. Topics cover everything from predicted offensive style to conference realignment and everything in-between. The Terrapins are one of the more interesting teams in the ACC this season, as they lost quite a bit of size and production from last year’s squad (in addition to a certain hall of fame coach).
  4. Syracuse.com: In a talk with ESPN‘s Andy Katz last week, ACC coaches weighed in on conference realignment. The general consensus was that the conference should expand to 16 teams provided the two new teams fit well. NC State’s Mark Gottfried was the most adamant that the conference will expand, though Mike Krzyzewski has made it clear in the past that he supports going to a 16-team format with divisions. Not surprisingly, commissioner John Swofford evaded the question like the adept politician that he is.
  5. Kentucky Sports Radio: Duke legend Christian Laettner laced up his coaching shoes in Kentucky’s Rupp Arena last night for a Jimmy V fundraiser. Unfortunately, a recent number of Kentucky-related scrimmages led to a meager crowd. But the game was good enough to go to overtime, where Laettner’s “Villains” won the game despite pregame chemistry concerns about Duke’s Nolan Smith and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansborough playing for the same team. Laettner embraced the moment, perhaps his only in Rupp Arena, by wiping down the UK hardwood (see video below) and getting ejected late in the second half.

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A Few ACC Villains Take On the Kentucky All-Stars Tonight

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2011

Tonight in Lexington, Kentucky, Duke’s Christian Laettner will lead a coalition of players that have terrorized Kentucky in the past against the Big Blue All-Stars, a group of UK alumni that includes Rajon Rondo, John Wall, and several other Wildcat standouts. Laettner is, of course, the natural choice to coach a team against Kentucky (something about a perfect game and a foot stomp?). Beyond Laettner, though, there are a nice pair of additional ACC players involved in this game on the villain side: Tyler Hansbrough and Nolan Smith.

Laettner Is The Arch-Villain in Lexington, but Tyler Hansbrough and Nolan Smith Make A Nice Pair of Henchmen

Hansbrough in particular is a nice pick-up for this team. Despite a lack of postseason showdowns, Hansbrough’s North Carolina team beat Kentucky in each of his four years in Chapel Hill. More importantly, though, is that he is Tyler Hansbrough, one of the most polarizing players in recent college basketball history. While North Carolina’s fans may adore him, Hansbrough’s awkward, sometimes-clumsy, and freakishly intense play irritated all sorts of college basketball fans on a national level. If I had to bet, I would expect that he will the recipient of some the night’s most fervent jeering. Nolan Smith is a more interesting case, mostly because he never played against Kentucky. However, as a Louisville native, the son of former Louisville star Derek Smith, and perhaps most importantly, a star player for the Duke Blue Devils, I expect that Kentucky fans will have no trouble summoning a healthy disdain for the reigning ACC Player of the Year.

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Dysfunctional Success: Documentary to Look Behind Duke’s 1992 National Championship Season

Posted by mpatton on October 13th, 2011

Christian Laettner has a reputation as a little bit of a jerk. He’s arguably the best college basketball player ever (he’s the only player to start in four Final Fours), but he’s also in the conversation for most hated. Your relative opinion of him can run from Kentucky fans, who still grit their teeth when his name is mentioned, to Duke fans, who accept his abrasive personality with two spoonfuls of National Championships. But could his spiny personality have helped Duke stay motivated to win its second consecutive title in 1991-92? That’s one of the questions a new documentary produced by Bobby Hurley and Laettner, scheduled to be released as part of CBS and Turner’s March Madness coverage this coming spring, will attempt to investigate.

Christian Laettner Is One of College Basketball's Most Polarizing Figures. (Credit: TruthAboutIt.net)

An example of an anecdote from the documentary comes from USA Today: driving to the hole in a pick-up game, Hurley rocketed the ball off of Laettner’s face instead of passing it to an open man on the weak side. However, that sort of antagonism may have been what kept the Blue Devils on edge during the repeat season.  If the previews from the USA Today preview are anything like the rest of this movie, it will be must-see television for college basketball fans. There’s no doubt that opinions have probably mellowed over the years, but this should be a unique opportunity to look behind the game footage of one of the most dominant teams in the history of college basketball and into the strong personalities that made it happen.

The documentary will air on TruTV next March.

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The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

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Welcome to the ACC Microsite!

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2011

The ACC.

To most American sports fans, the mere mention of those two words conjures up immediate images of Michael Jordan from the baseline, Christian Laettner from the top of the key, Jim Valvano searching for a hug, Dean Smith calling for the four corners, and Mike Krzyzewski collecting rings like a Kardashian at Tiffany’s.  The ACC, perhaps more than any other conference in our lifetime, defines college basketball.  The cultural affinity for the sport down on Tobacco Road and beyond is only rivaled by the SEC’s obsession with the pigskin, and with the recent additions of hoops powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the mix, the league stands to become even stronger.  It only makes sense that we would begin our power conference microsite roll-out focused on the league with the most history, tradition and passion for the game.

The ACC microsite is intended to focus exclusively on the stories coming out of the league on a daily basis.  Our two staffers, Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) and Kellen Carpenter (@kellenlc), are talented and knowledgeable ACC insiders who plan on bringing you thoughtful commentary, analysis and criticism on a regular basis.  Get to know them at Twitter or you can contact them directly by clicking on their names.

Welcome to the next phase in the living history of RTC, the ACC microsite.

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Morning Five: 09.26.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2011

  1. We guess this technically is still news even though we don’t buy the whole “BREAKING” aspect that the mainstream media has tried to make it out to be, but we guess we have to mention that the SEC has formally accepted Texas A&M into the conference with its first games starting next season. If there is anything noteworthy with this announcement it is that the SEC has basically called out the Big 12 schools that threatened legal action and told them to go ahead and file their ridiculous lawsuit because no reasonable court would accept it. Of course, our next reaction was that now that the SEC has 13 teams in the conference for next season they will need to get a 14th team pretty soon. Of course, we all know what that means. More conference expansion rumors. . .
  2. Former Connecticut star Tate George was arrested late last week on accusations that he defrauded investors of nearly $2 million in a Ponzi scheme based on the premise that he was operating a $500 million real estate portfolio. The details of the reported scheme are kind of complex and are detailed in great length in the well-investigated piece that we linked, but things do not look good for the former UConn legend who hit what would have been “The Shot of the 1990 NCAA Tournament” before Christian Laettner hit the first of his two “The Shot”s. Given the involvement of former Stanford point guard Brevin Knight we wonder if there will be more names of prominent college basketball coaches and players coming out in the near future.
  3. Taylor Branch made waves recently with his prodigious article in The Atlantic (discussed here) that generated quite a bit of discussion online, but was met with little public resistance until Seth Davis decided to chime in with a dissection of Branch’s column. For his part, Branch has responded to Davis (sort of) where he concedes several of the points that Davis makes, but points out several other major issues in his article that Davis did not address. However, the most interesting thing to us is that Branch essentially uses his literary glove to challenge Davis to a podcast duel. As much as we are looking forward to this confrontation (Seth, stick to sports and avoid civil rights) we are also looking forward to speaking with Mr. Branch later this week about the issue, which we will update you on when we have more details.
  4. We have started our series highlighting the schedules of some of the top teams in the country. Andy Glockner at SI.com has taken a slightly different approach as he has chosen to highlight/call out the teams that play some highly suspect schedules. The list runs the gamut from 3 of the top 5 teams in the country (not counting some middling program called Duke) to a team that has never made the NCAA Tournament. We have not had a chance to go through every single team’s schedule yet (don’t worry, it is coming), but we think there are probably a few other BCS conference teams that are not featured that have pretty embarrassing non-conference schedules. However, based on the schools that Glockner selected we are guessing that he had some pretty interesting e-mails this week.
  5. After deciding to go public with his diagnosis of prostate cancer in April Steve Lavin has decided to undergo treatment. At the current time Lavin is deciding between surgery and/or radiation therapy and will make the decision within the next two weeks to treat what the team’s physician described as a “relatively low-grade cancer”. According to St. John’s, Lavin is not expected to miss any time and should be able to rejoin the team for their first practice in mid-October. We wish Lavin the best of luck with whichever treatment option he pursues.
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