UK Men's Basketball

Mark Story: Anointing Coach K as the best NCAA coach of all

FILE -In this March 31, 1975, file photo, UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wears a basketball net around his neck after his team won the NCAA basketball championship over Kentucky, 92-85, in San Diego, Calif. The win gave him his 10th NCAA championship. Wooden, college basketball's gentlemanly Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever, has died. He was 99. (AP Photo, File)
FILE -In this March 31, 1975, file photo, UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wears a basketball net around his neck after his team won the NCAA basketball championship over Kentucky, 92-85, in San Diego, Calif. The win gave him his 10th NCAA championship. Wooden, college basketball's gentlemanly Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever, has died. He was 99. (AP Photo, File) ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the aftermath of Mike Krzyzewski becoming the all-time NCAA Division I men's basketball coaching wins leader Tuesday night, ESPN.com ran one of its reader polls.

The question: How many more NCAA championships will Coach K win in his career?

When the votes were broken down by state, there was only one state in all the United States in which "none" got the most votes.

Kentucky.

So this probably isn't going to go down real smoothly locally, but I think it's time for Krzyzewski to be considered the greatest men's college basketball coach of all time.

I would argue there are only five coaches really in that debate — Coach K, Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp and John Wooden.

In my book, it ultimately comes down to Krzyzewski and Wooden.

Here's how the contenders match up.

Mike Krzyzewski

Career record: 903-284 (76.1 winning percentage)

Seasons as head coach: In 37th year (five at Army; in 32nd season at Duke)

NCAA Tournament Final Four trips: 11

NCAA titles: Four (1991, '92, 2001, '10)

Olympics: Coached USA roster of NBA stars to gold medal in 2008

Why he ranks No. 1: In addition to having won more games than any other men's NCAA Division I hoops coach, Krzyzewski is tied with Dean Smith for second in Final Four trips (11) and with Adolph Rupp for second in NCAA titles (four). Most impressively, K has done it in an era of unprecedented parity in college basketball.

Bob Knight

Career record: 902-371 (70.9 winning percentage)

Seasons as head coach: 42 (six years at Army, 29 at Indiana, seven at Texas Tech)

NCAA Tournament Final Four trips: Five

NCAA titles: Three (1976, '81, '87)

Olympics: Coached the USA to the 1984 gold medal.

Why he ranks behind Krzyzewski: Fewer overall wins, far fewer Final Four trips, one fewer national title, lower overall winning percentage.

Adolph Rupp

Career record: 876-190 (82.2 winning percentage)

Seasons as head coach: 42 (all at Kentucky)

NCAA Tournament Final Four trips: Six

NCAA titles: Four (1948, '49, '51 and '58)

Olympics: Was an assistant coach (some reports describe him as "co-coach") for the 1948 U.S. gold-medal winning team.

Why he ranks behind Krzyzewski: Coach K has five more Final Four trips and more overall wins while coaching in an era of full racial integration and more widespread basketball emphasis. Adolph has a better overall winning percentage, but K has coached (most of his career) in a better basketball conference.

Dean Smith

Career record: 879-254 (77.6 winning percentage)

Seasons as head coach: 36 (all at North Carolina)

NCAA Tournament Final Four trips: 11

NCAA titles: Two (1982 and '93)

Olympics: Coached USA to 1976 gold medal

Why he ranks behind Krzyzewski: Same number of Final Four trips, two fewer national titles.

Smith's coaching tree (Roy Williams, Larry Brown, George Karl etc.) is far more impressive than Krzyzewski's. But with the playing talent Smith coached — Billy Cunningham, Charlie Scott, Bob McAdoo, Bobby Jones, Mitch Kupchak, Walter Davis, Phil Ford, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith, J.R. Reid, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace — shouldn't he have won more championships?

John Wooden

Career record: 664-162 (80.4 winning percentage)

Seasons as head coach: 29 (two years at Indiana State and 27 at UCLA)

NCAA Tournament Final Four trips: 12

NCAA titles: 10 (1964, '65, '67, '68, '69, '70, '71, '72, '73 and '75)

Olympics: Never coached U.S. team

Why he ranks behind Krzyzewski: For most of the period when Wooden was winning national titles, he only had to win two NCAA Tournament games to get to the Final Four. Back then, tourney teams were paired geographically unlike now when teams are seeded on a national basis to ensure balanced brackets.

The Wizard of Westwood also coached, primarily, before players left early for the pros, meaning he got to coach Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton for their full careers.

Bottom line: As hard as it is to pick against 10 titles in 12 years, Krzyzewski's achievements as the all-time wins leader with four NCAA titles and 11 Final Fours in an era of college basketball parity eclipses Wooden's dynasty.

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