UK Men's Basketball

Heartbreakers aside, Calipari’s 10 years at UK compare favorably to Hall of Fame peers

Coach Cal: If I felt ‘relieved’ to win, it’s time to retire

Kentucky Coach John Calipari explains why he didn't feel relieved to beat Wofford in the NCAA Tournament.
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Kentucky Coach John Calipari explains why he didn't feel relieved to beat Wofford in the NCAA Tournament.

With Sunday’s loss to Auburn in the Midwest Regional finals, John Calipari’s 10th season as the head coach at the University of Kentucky came to an end.

This campaign came up an overtime defeat short of the final week of the college basketball season, but the UK coach’s first 10 years in charge of the Wildcats program — as a whole — were still mighty impressive.

Calipari wraps up his first decade with four trips to the Final Four, seven Elite Eight appearances, and one national championship. During his tenure as UK’s coach, he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, and Calipari confirmed Monday that he had signed what amounts to a lifetime contract at Kentucky.

Not a bad run, so far, for a coach who took over a program that missed the NCAA Tournament the previous season, won zero tournament games the season before that, and hadn’t advanced to a Final Four in the 11 seasons prior to his arrival.

Here’s how Calipari’s first 10 years match up with other current coaching greats at the schools that made them Hall of Famers:

Mike Krzyzewski

First 10 seasons: 1980-90

Record: 231-101

Final Fours: 4

National titles: 0

After five seasons as Army’s head coach, Krzyzewski landed the top job at Duke, which was coming off an appearance in the Elite Eight and had lost in the national title game to Kentucky two years before that.

Krzyzewski missed the NCAA Tournament in his first three seasons with the Blue Devils — appearing once in the NIT — and accumulated just a 38-47 record with two losing seasons in that span. He turned it around from there, got Duke to the Final Four in his sixth season in charge and advanced to the Final Four in years eight, nine and 10 on the job.

Coach K won his first national title in his 11th season with the Blue Devils and has now been to 12 Final Fours and won five national titles at Duke.

Roy Williams


First 10 seasons: 1988-98

Record: 282-62

Final Fours: 2

National titles: 0

Williams took over the Kansas program in 1988, replacing Larry Brown, who left for the NBA after winning that year’s national title. Williams missed the NCAA Tournament in his first season at Lawrence, but returned the Jayhawks to the Big Dance the following year and got to two Final Fours over his first 10 seasons with the program. He coached Kansas for a total of 15 years — going to four Final Fours — before taking over at North Carolina.

North Carolina

First 10 seasons: 2003-13

Record: 282-79

Final Fours: 3

National titles: 2

Williams returned to his alma mater — where he spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach before leaving for Kansas — and took over a program that had missed two straight NCAA Tournaments under Matt Doherty. Williams immediately got UNC back to March Madness and won the national title in his second season with the Tar Heels. He advanced to nine NCAA Tournaments over his first 10 seasons, winning two national titles and advancing to three Final Fours. In 16 total seasons at Chapel Hill, he’s been to five Final Fours and won three national titles.

Jim Boeheim

First 10 seasons: 1976-86

Record: 230-77

Final Fours: 0

National titles: 0

Three years before the formation of the Big East, Boeheim took over at his alma mater, which had been to four straight NCAA Tournaments. Boeheim took the Orange to the tournament in his first four seasons and eight of his first 10, advancing to his first Final Four in his 11th season in charge. In 43 years as the leader of Syracuse’s program, Boeheim has been to five Final Fours and won one national title.

Bill Self

First 10 seasons: 2003-13

Record: 300-59

Final Fours: 2

National titles: 1

After 10 seasons as the head coach at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, Self took over the Jayhawks following Roy Williams’ departure for North Carolina. KU had been to the Final Four the previous two seasons, and Self got the Jayhawks back there in his fifth season as head coach, winning the national championship in overtime against John Calipari and Memphis. The Jayhawks also went to the Final Four in Self’s ninth season as Kansas’ coach. In 16 total seasons there, Self has been to three Final Fours.

Tom Izzo

First 10 seasons: 1995-2005

Record: 233-97

Final Fours: 4

National titles: 1

Izzo was an assistant coach for 12 seasons at Michigan State before being elevated into the top job at age 40. The Spartans had been to the NCAA Tournament in five of the previous six seasons, but they hadn’t appeared in a Final Four since Magic Johnson led them to the national title in 1979. Izzo missed the NCAA Tournament in each of his first two seasons as head coach, but he started a string of three consecutive Final Fours with his fourth season, winning the national championship in Year 5. He went to a total of four Final Fours in his first 10 seasons.

Now in his 23rd season as head coach, this will be Izzo’s eighth appearance in the Final Four, and he goes into this weekend still searching for that second national title.

The last 10 years

Calipari’s track record in his first 10 years at Kentucky obviously stacks up pretty well against his Hall of Fame peers’ results in similar situations. That span also compares favorably to every other active Hall of Famer in nearly every winning category over the past 10 seasons.

Since he came to UK for the 2009-10 season, Calipari has more overall victories than all of the other Hall of Famers — Self has a slightly better winning percentage — and he’s been to more Elite Eights and Final Fours than any of them.

Krzyzewski has two national titles in that span, trumping one each from Calipari and Williams. Villanova’s Jay Wright, who was eligible for the Hall of Fame this year but was not named a finalist, is the only other coach with two national titles in the past 10 seasons, winning two of the last three NCAA Tournaments going into this year.

Despite a couple of recent earlier-than-expected exits and Elite Eight heartbreakers, Calipari’s 10 years in Lexington have been a resounding success on the court. If the Cats had won one more national title in that span, his resume over the last decade would be unmatched.

First 10 seasons at a school

CoachSchoolWLW%Final FoursTitles
John CalipariUK3057181.141
Mike KrzyzewskiDuke23110169.640
Roy WilliamsKansas2826282.020
Roy WilliamsUNC2827978.132
Bill SelfKansas3005983.621
Tom IzzoMich. St.2339770.641
Jim BoeheimSyracuse2307774.900

The last 10 seasons

CoachSchoolWLW%Elite 8sFinal 4sTitles
John CalipariUK3057181.1741
Mike KrzyzewskiDuke2997081.0422
Roy WilliamsUNC2779674.3421
Bill SelfKansas3046682.2520
Tom IzzoMich. St.2709474.2430*
Jim Boeheim^Syracuse2489771.9320

*-Still playing this season; ^-Suspended for nine games in 2015-16

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.