Jim Calhoun and College Basketball's Most Iconic Coaches
The Jim Calhoun era has come to an end at the University of Connecticut.
It was an era that saw Calhoun take a run-of-the-mill basketball program in the sports-crazed New England area and turn it into a three-time national champion powerhouse.
But it was also an era that ended with somewhat of a cloud hovering over it. Whether you like it or not, Yahoo! Sports investigations, lackluster APR scores and an NCAA tournament ban are all part of Calhoun’s legacy as well.
Whatever your feelings about Calhoun and the timing of his exit, you have to admit that he is one of the greatest coaches of all time.
Calhoun and seven of his peers presented here make up a sizable chunk of the cohort of legendary coaches.
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While Jim Calhoun’s legacy will ultimately be tied to his tremendous success at Connecticut, he actually served as head coach for 14 seasons at Northeastern before becoming the Huskies’ top man.
In fact, Calhoun compiled a 248-137 record at Northeastern and took the school to an unprecedented five NCAA tournaments.
However, Calhoun earned his Hall of Fame nod for taking the Connecticut program and building it into a national contender. He put four teams into the Final Four and won three national titles.
Impressive as his basketball accolades are, Calhoun can also serve as somewhat of an inspirational figure due to the fact that he is a three-time cancer survivor and has battled other health issues for much of his career.
Upon leaving UConn, Calhoun is the sixth-winningest men’s college basketball coach of all time with 873 victories.
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And you thought Calhoun was controversial.
It is hard to find a college basketball fan that is neutral in his or her opinion regarding Bobby Knight. After all, Knight is the only coach on this list to throw a chair clear across the floor.
Knight was at times abrasive with referees, fans, media and his own players. But he certainly knew how to win.
In fact, only Mike Krzyzewski (who, just like Knight, got his start at Army) has won more games than the “General” in his coaching career.
While Knight led Texas Tech and Army, he is legendary for his time at Indiana. Like Calhoun, he won three national titles during his marquee coaching stop and led his squad to multiple Final Four appearances.
Moreover, Knight was the head coach of 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, which was the last college basketball team to finish the regular season and NCAA tournament with an undefeated record.
Critics or not, Knight should always be remembered as one of the best coaches of all time.
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Perhaps the most impressive thing about Dean Smith’s coaching career, especially nowadays, is the fact that more than 96 percent of his players received their degrees under his watch.
Considering he was the lead man at basketball powerhouse North Carolina, that is downright incredible.
However, Smith’s on-court prowess would be more than enough to land him on this list. He is the fourth-winningest coach of all time, won two national titles, went to 11 Final Fours (which is more than all but six programs in the nation), won an Olympic gold medal and took home four National Coach of the Year Awards.
Sporting News recently named Smith the eighth-greatest head coach of all time in any sport.
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Whether you love the Blue Devils or hate them, you have to admit that Mike Krzyzewski is one of the greatest leaders of college basketball players in the history of the game.
He started at Army but quickly took the reins at Duke, making it one of the most polarizing and successful programs in all of sports. He has won more games than any college coach of all time, gone to 11 Final Fours and taken home four national titles.
Thanks to his success, Coach K even has his moniker written on the floor in Cameron Indoor Stadium and has even earned the respect of many of his rivals' fans.
Krzyzewski has expanded his coaching repertoire by winning two gold medals as head coach of Team USA, showing that he has the ability to lead highly paid professional athletes as well as collegiate players.
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In terms of pure basketball coaching success, Adolph Rupp is one of the greatest.
He is the fifth-winningest coach of all time with 876 victories. He led Kentucky to six Final Fours and won four national titles in 20 NCAA tournament appearances.
Perhaps his most lasting basketball legacy is the fact that he is one of the primary reasons Wildcat fans are so rabid when it comes to their hoops. In fact, if it wasn’t for Rupp’s success, Big Blue Nation may have a smaller population today.
However, Rupp’s legacy will always be tied to his 1966 Kentucky team that lost to Texas Western in the national championship game. It is perhaps the most significant game in college basketball history largely because of Texas Western’s all-African-American starting lineup.
It was a monumental moment in basketball history that will forever tarnish Rupp’s legacy (there is certainly a debate as to whether Rupp was racist), but his coaching tallies are nonetheless impressive.
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Barring an incredibly disappointing season from Syracuse this season, Jim Boeheim will likely pass Bobby Knight to take over second place on the all-time wins list.
He has been to the NCAA tournament 29 times and has won an incredible 74 percent of his games as a head coach.
Boeheim is certainly respected in the coaching profession, but he would probably be considered one of the all-time greats and a living legend if he had more than one national championship. Not that winning one title isn’t an incredible accomplishment in and of itself, but most of the coaches on this list have more.
Nevertheless, Boeheim is still active and has the opportunity to continue to add to his impressive legacy.
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I may be wrong about this, but I am willing to bet that Eddie Sutton was not one of the first coaches to come to mind when you read the title of this article.
Despite lacking the big name of a Dean Smith or Mike Krzyzewski, Sutton is one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the game. He won better than 70 percent of his games at the helm of Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and San Francisco.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Sutton is the fact that he took three separate teams to the Final Four in three separate decades (Arkansas in 1978 and Oklahoma State in 1995 and 2004).
He has also won the eighth-most games in college basketball history.
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John Wooden is the king of college basketball coaches. In fact, according to Sporting News, he is the king of all coaches. The magazine named him the greatest coach of all time in any sport.
There is a good reason Wooden earned this distinction.
He led UCLA to an incredible 10 national championships in 12 years and won seven in a row at one point. Wooden also took his team to 12 Final Fours, won six Coach of the Year Awards, coached four undefeated seasons and won a record 88 consecutive games.
Moreover, Wooden is the first man to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
He truly was the Wizard of Westwood.