INDIANAPOLIS — They're Hall of Famers all four of them, if not now, then soon. For some, very soon.
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is already in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Wisconsin's Bo Ryan and Kentucky's John Calipari are finalists leading into Monday morning's announcement revealing the names of this year's class. With Michigan State's Tom Izzo, it's not a question of if but when.
Welcome to the Final Four.
A quick look at the numbers: This is Krzyzewski's 12th Final Four. He's won four NCAA Tournaments. This is Izzo's seventh Final Four. He won the title in 2000. This is Calipari's sixth Final Four, fourth in the last five years. He cut down the nets in 2012. This is Ryan's second consecutive Final Four. He won four Division III titles.
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If you were to put together one of those "Mount Rushmore of College Basketball Coaches" you could do a lot worse than the four in this year's Final Four.
They have more in common than wins.
Ryan and Calipari are from Pennsylvania, hard-scrabble guys who had to work their way up through the coaching ranks.
A longtime assistant at Wisconsin, Ryan had to drop down to Division III Platteville to become a head coach, where he won and won and won some more. Calipari's first head coaching job was at UMass, which he quickly put on the map.
Yes, Krzyzewski is now at the top of the ladder. Yes, he played for Bob Knight and was an assistant under the General at Indiana. But Coach K's first college head coaching job was at Army, which is a long way from a Power Five job. Remember, Krzyzewski nearly got fired after his second season at Duke. Now, he's tied with John Wooden for the most Final Fours.
"The modern-day Wooden," is what Izzo called Coach K on Thursday.
Izzo was Jud Heathcote's longtime assistant at Michigan State before being promoted to the top spot and taking the program to another level. With Izzo reaching yet another Final Four, the joke is the calendar should read "January, February, Izzo, April."
"Tom's a guy's guy," said Krzyzewski on Friday and that pretty much nails it right there. "He's genuine, a genuine guy."
Here's an example: On a Big Ten teleconference this year, Izzo was in the middle of a glowing tribute to his friend John Calipari when he mentioned, "I'm not sure I'm crazy about how everything's worked out, what it means for college basketball."
That drew attention, so Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal asked Calipari about it and, well, it got to be a thing. Izzo later said Tucker "must be an idiot." But then you know what Izzo did? He called Tucker not to yell at him, but to hash it out. He told Tucker he was going to rip him, but asked around and people told him Tucker wasn't a bad guy. That's Izzo.
Who's Bo Ryan? He's an old-school basketball coach who says he doesn't care what you or I think, but of course he does. That's why he lets us know when he thinks we're wrong.
"He speaks his mind, he doesn't hold back," said an admiring Calipari. The two are friends. "He's a Basketball Benny, he's into the game."
And why does Ryan like Calipari?
"Because he's like me," said the Wisconsin coach. "He just does his things the way he feels are right. He really doesn't care what other people say, if he feels he's doing the right thing."
Not everybody thinks Calipari is always doing the right thing. There are strong opinions either way. During Friday's press conferences, Calipari was asked why he thought he was still such a polarizing figure?
"I don't know if I am as much as you want to portray it," Calipari said. "I'm doing my job for these kids. If you like that, I'm happy. If you don't like that or don't like that kid, that's your problem, not mine."
He must be doing something right. Same for Ryan. Same for Izzo. Same for Coach K. Where the coaches are concerned, this is a Hall of Fame Final Four.