Coach K is well-versed in the basketball history he is in the process of making.
By: Nathan Rush | 12/6/10, 1:35 PM EST
by Ken Davis
History is kind to those who achieve greatness. And in the world of sports, history is best served when the record-breakers have respect for those who came before them.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is climbing toward college basketball’s coaching stratosphere. Saturday’s 82–70 victory over Butler gave Coach K 876 victories and tied him with Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp for third all-time among NCAA Division I coaches.
There was a time when Rupp’s record seemed unattainable, sort of like Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played in Major League Baseball. But Cal Ripken came along to become the new Ironman. North Carolina’s Dean Smith eventually rose up to pass Rupp. Not long after that, Bob Knight moved ahead of Smith.
Krzyzewski still has a little distance to go before rising to the top. But it certainly makes sense to pause and reflect on what it will mean to pass Rupp and Krzyzewski is good at that type of thing. That’s because Coach K always has had an appreciation for basketball history.
"I’m going to win more I think than Coach Rupp, God bless him, who won’t win any more," Krzyzewski told reporters in East Rutherford, N.J., after Saturday’s rematch of last season’s national championship game. "He won a lot of them and he won them in his way and they didn’t play as many games then. Each era has outstanding achievements by individuals, whether they be players or coaches and in this era I’ve been fortunate to have some.
"It’s tough to compare. I much rather would have tied him in April than today because I’m going to keep coaching and we should win more games. You get too caught up with what your own team is doing to focus on that kind of stuff."
Let us take the opportunity to do that comparison for Krzyzewski. When Smith passed Rupp it was March 1997 and North Carolina defeated Colorado 73–56 in the NCAA Tournament. Past players and assistant coaches congregated in Winston-Salem, N.C., to help Smith celebrate — even though he tried to downplay the moment.
"This has never been a goal of mine," Smith said.
Consider the remarkable lineage college basketball has created. Smith and Rupp both played basketball at Kansas, under Phog Allen. Allen came to be known as "The Father of Basketball Coaching" and he learned the game from basketball’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith — who was his coach at Kansas.
Now the names ahead of Krzyzewski are Smith (879 victories) and Knight (902). Knight was Krzyzewski’s coach at Army. Smith and Coach K were opponents in the Atlantic Coast Conference, separated by just a few miles along Tobacco Road. Their remarkable ability to recruit and coach created college basketball’s most heated rivalry — Duke and North Carolina.
If not for Smith, Krzyzewski might have ended up coaching at Iowa State. Knight, who has been friends with Smith since they were young coaches, called the North Carolina coach and asked his opinion when Coach K was at West Point and had the opportunity to move on to Duke or Iowa State. Knight thought Ames was the place to go.
Smith said no. He told Knight that Duke would be easy to recruit to. "I really think he can get better players at Duke than he can at Iowa State."
Think how that one conversation changed the face of college basketball. Reflect on that as Krzyzewski moves past Rupp and heads on to pass his rival and then his mentor.
Krzyzewski has accomplished so much. Do not let that diminish the history-making moment that is ahead. It should truly be special. There are many more victories ahead for the Duke coach. Recruiting players such as Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving guarantee that.
"Irving brings a whole other dimension to their guard play," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I loved their guys last year but I think he is the consummate true point guard that Mike needs in that program. When Singler goes to [power forward] they’re a tough matchup."
Duke has demonstrated early in this season that it has the best team in college basketball. The Blue Devils, in large part because of freshman Irving, are better than they were last season — when they proved the best team doesn’t always win the national title.
Krzyzewski has a very good chance to repeat again. That is an amazing accomplishment in this era of parity, but just about everything Coach K does these days belongs to history. So we better pay attention.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
UConn’s Kemba Walker is still playing well enough to grab this award for a third consecutive week. But, in the interest of fairness, we are going spread the wealth a bit and turn to another Big East player. Georgetown senior guard Chris Wright knows when to score, when to quarterback and when to lead the Hoyas. He did a little of everything last week, scoring 21 points against Missouri and matching that total in a win over Utah State as the Hoyas improved to 8–0. Georgetown coach John Thompson III asked Wright to play 45 minutes in the 111–102 overtime victory over Missouri in Kansas City, Mo. In addition to his 21 points, Wright had 10 assists and only three turnovers. He was 9-for-9 from the free throw line, had one rebound and one steal. Against a very talented Utah State team Wright was 6-for-9 from the field, 8-for-10 from the line, had three rebounds, one assist and four steals. Among the shots he made was a highlight reel, over-the-shoulder layup.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
If we didn’t have a freshman award, Duke’s Kyrie Irving would likely grab Player of the Week honors. The 6'2" guard from Elizabeth, N.J., was simply brilliant in wins over Michigan State and Butler — two solid opponents. Mike Krzyzewski keeps winning because he keeps digging out top recruits such as Irving. He is averaging 17.4 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and shooting 45.2 percent from three-point range through his first eight games. After watching his 36 minutes against Michigan State it’s hard to even consider him a rookie any more. The Spartans couldn’t stop him (31 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals, 8-12 FG, 13-16 FT, 2-3 on 3PT). Then he went home to the Meadowlands and scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half against Butler. He finished with two rebounds, two assists, one steal, 6-10 FG, 6-6 FT and 3-6 on 3PT). You don’t want to bet against him when Irving turns it on.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Monday, Dec. 6
Alcorn State at Kansas State
Alcorn State has averaged 57.5 points on the way to a 0–6 record. K-State is 7–1, averaging 75.6 points. Looks like a rough trip to Bramlage for the Braves.
Tuesday, Dec. 7
Memphis vs. Kansas
These two have grown accustomed to facing one another in recent years. This time it’s at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic. Both are 7–0. Memphis should be hungry for some revenge.
Michigan State vs. Syracuse
The second half of the Jimmy V Classic should be an interesting test of wills. The Spartans, who have lost to UConn and Duke, could use a win against a top 10 team like Syracuse. The Orange will be looking to improve its field goal percentage.
Wednesday, Dec. 8
Vanderbilt at Missouri
The Commodores, led by guard John Jenkins, already have a big win against North Carolina this season. Missouri lost to Georgetown last week (in the best game of the year so far) and then hung on to beat Oregon.
Notre Dame vs. Kentucky
John Calipari’s young Wildcats have already lost twice. Going up against Notre Dame (8–0) will be another challenge for Kentucky — even in Louisville.
Thursday, Dec. 9
Butler at Xavier
Butler is 4–3. Xavier is 5–2. Forget the records. These two teams will get after each other and play hard.
Saturday, Dec. 11
UNLV at Louisville
Lon Kruger’s team has started turning some heads. Louisville is 6–0 with a game against San Francisco before taking on the Runnin’ Rebels.
Wisconsin at Marquette
It’s Big Ten vs. Big East, but this one is all about Wisconsin bragging rights, one of those games you can’t afford to miss if you love rivalry battles.
Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh
This is a highlight of the SEC/Big East Invitational. Two undefeated teams. Tennessee has been off since Nov. 30. Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker lead Pitt.
Indiana at Kentucky
Remember when this was a big deal? Not so much these days.
Sunday, Dec. 12
Villanova at LaSalle
Philly in December and that means Villanova has two Big Five games in a week. The Wildcats are at Penn on Dec. 8.
THEY SAID IT:
"They make you guard them for 20, 25 seconds. You bounce off a lot of screens by some big, physical bodies. Their shot selection is very good, and you have to try to grind every possession. That wears on teams. They never make it easy." – Rider coach Tommy Dempsey, commenting on the Pitt Panthers, after an 87–68 loss to Jamie Dixon’s team.
"It's not one of those games where we can be content that, 'OK, we beat Kentucky.’ That doesn't make your season. That helps make your season." – North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller after scoring a career-high 27 points to lead the way as the Tar Heels defeated Kentucky 75–73.
"I was pleased in some regards. Like last year, I see a little light at the end of the tunnel, and you can embrace the little things." – Butler coach Brad Stevens after an 82–70 loss to Duke in a rematch of last season’s national championship game.
"Those guys fought hard to chip away, and just being in this situation, it was stressing me out the way this game was coming out. I was just glad to get out of here with a win." – Missouri’s Marcus Denmon after the Tigers let a 20-point lead slip away but held on for an 83–80 win at Oregon.
– Virginia Tech has lost three consecutive games — including Sunday’s ACC opener against Virginia — and stands 4–4. Coach Seth Greenberg put together a tough schedule in an effort to avoid another snub from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. But the Hokies have losses to Kansas State, UNLV, Purdue and Virginia. Senior guard Malcolm Delaney, the guy who makes Tech click, was held to nine points on 2-for-18 shooting against Purdue (58–55 loss). But Delaney says UNLV is the best team Tech has faced so far. "They’re relentless on defense," Delaney said. "They threw a new defender at me like every three minutes. They have a deep bench where they can just throw people at you. It’s hard to matchup with a team that basically plays four guards. They shoot the ball well, defend well, and their coaches do a good job with scouting reports and having their guys ready." – It will be interesting to see how Central Florida builds on that 57–54 victory over Florida. The Knights are averaging 80 points a game and rank fourth in the nation in field goal percentage. Leading the way is Marcus Jordan, a sophomore guard from Chicago averaging 16.4 points. Yes, he is Michael’s son (just in case you hadn’t heard). Thanks to a talented football team, Central Florida could be attractive to the Big East as the conference continues to eye expansion.
– Kemba Walker’s scoring average has dropped from 30 points per game to 29.1. But that doesn’t mean he is in a slump. UConn’s point guard put together his first career triple double last Friday with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 94–61 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County. He also became the 45th UConn player to score 1,000 career points. Walker needed 77 games to reach that milestone.
– Team on the rise: Tony Bennett’s Virginia team won road games at No. 15 Minnesota and Virginia Tech last week. The Cavaliers improved to 5–3 and are sitting on top of the ACC standings with the win over Tech. Mike Scott came up big with 21 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and one block at Blacksburg.
– Team in trouble: Oklahoma dropped to 3–5 overall with an 83–60 loss at Arizona on Sunday. The Sooners have lost five straight, including a 68–64 setback to Chaminade at the Maui Invitational. The average margin of defeat in this stretch has been 13.4 points. Next up: Gardner-Webb on Thursday. – Milestone watch: Jamie Dixon is approaching his 200th career victory as Pittsburgh coach. Saturday’s 87–68 win over Rider was No. 197. Consider this: The Panthers are 9–0 for the eighth time in nine seasons and 81–1 against non-Big East opponents at the Petersen Events Center.
– The recent decision by Texas San Antonio to join the Western Athletic Conference may ultimately hurt the city of San Antonio’s effort to land Final Fours in 2017 and 2018, according to a report. Athletic director Lynn Hickey, a strong voice in men’s basketball, will resign her Southland Conference assigned position on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. Hickey had recently been appointed chair of the Game Operations/Site Selection subcommittee. But her resignation is required by the Southland Conference withdrawal policy. "It’s certainly unfortunate," Jenny Carnes, executive director of the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee, told the San Antonio News-Express. "It helps just having her in the loop and giving us the timelines for things."
Ken Davis is the author of Basketball Vault books covering the history of the University of Kansas and the University of Connecticut. Both are available through the publisher (http://www.whitmanvaultbooks.com/) and autographed copies are available at Ken's web page (http://kendavis55.wordpress.com/).
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