Catching Krzyzewski: Bill Self Has the Best Chance to Become Winningest Coach

Andrew DoughtyCorrespondent IIOctober 17, 2012

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10:  Head coach Bill Self  of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts in the final seconds of the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 10, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  The Jayhawks defeated the Buckeyes with a final score of 78-67.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kansas head coach Bill Self has cemented his name amongst the legends displayed throughout Allen Fieldhouse, and two Final Four trips in the last five seasons have finally bumped him into the elite group of coaches in all of college basketball.

However, he still sits behind names like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and even Tom Izzo at times.  Coach K is in a class by himself as men's college basketball's all-time winningest coach in Division I as he sits at 927 entering the 2012 -13 season, but Self's accolades match up equally with the others in nearly every category and top them all in another: Potential.

At 49 years young, Bill Self has accumulated 476 wins as head coach at Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas.  He may not sniff the top 10 winningest coaches currently, but easily has the highest potential to surpass Krzyzewski someday.  The top 10 currently sits at:

1. Mike Krzyzewski - 927

2. Bobby Knight - 902

3. Jim Boeheim - 890 

Over the last five seasons, Coach K has averaged 2.4 more wins than Boeheim.  Even if Boeheim wins one more game on average over a minimum of the next five seasons that Krzyzewski could be potentially be coaching, Boeheim would have to produce an undefeated season in Year 6 when Coach K is retired, just to tie him.

4. Dean Smith - 879

5. Adolph Rupp - 876

6. Jim Calhoun - 873

See Jim Boeheim.  Even if a program somehow lures Calhoun out of a much-needed retirement, it is nearly impossible for him to take the top spot.

7. Jim Phelan - 830

8. Eddie Sutton - 804

9. Lefty Driesell - 786

10. Lute Olson - 780

It is impossible to predict what number Self must reach in order to have a chance to own the top honor, but the projections below give us a better idea.

Assuming the 65-year-old Coach K can produce five to 10 more successful seasons at the helm in Durham at his current career pace of 26.69 wins per season (854 wins over 32 years), he would retire with the following numbers:

Five more seasons: 1,062 wins

10: 1,197 wins

In order to further protect potential career figures, adding 31 wins to each of his future seasons (as he has averaged 30.4 over the last five years at Duke) would leave him with the following:

Five more seasons: 1,082 wins

10: 1,237 wins

With eight straight conference titles, two Final Four appearances and one national championship on his Kansas resume, Bill Self has quickly helped critics dismiss two early tourney losses as they now focus on his potential to become one of the all-time greats.

He has averaged 25.05 wins over 19 seasons with four different programs, including nearly 30 (29.89) victories per season in his nine years in Lawrence.  Exactly like Mike Krzyzewski, it is impossible to predict the length of his coaching career. We can predict the Oklahoma State grad will see success for a minimum of 15 more seasons, but it is highly unlikely he will remain as the head coach for more than 25 additional years.

Again, the 49-year-old Self has 476 career wins and the following numbers show how close he can come to surpassing Coach K in the next couple decades:

15 more seasons: 926 wins

20: 1,076 wins

25: 1,126 wins

It is reasonable to believe that Bill Self could surpass the Duke legend if he is able to sustain success over the next 15-20 seasons. 

Only two other active coaches have a remotely realistic chance of not only topping Self, but just catching a glimpse of Krzyzewski: John Calipari and Billy Donovan.


John Calipari

Age: 53

Wins: 505*

*Four wins vacated from 1996 NCAA tournament appearance with UMass due to Marcus Camby's contact with a sports agent and 38 wins vacated from his Memphis Tigers' 2007-08 national runner-up season following the Derrick Rose debacle.

Averaging 25.25 wins over 20 seasons

Averaging 34 wins over three seasons at Kentucky 


Billy Donovan

Age: 47

Wins: 421

Averaging 23.39 wins over 18 seasons

Averaging 24.13 wins over 16 seasons at Florida

What about the so-called next generation of elite college basketball coaches such as VCU's Shaka Smart or Butler's Brad Stevens? A trio of 35-year-olds that includes those two and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner have recorded 84, 139 and 75 wins respectively. 

Stevens has a reasonably significant leg up on the other two hot commodities, as he began his tenure at Butler two seasons earlier than both Smart and Pastner, but still must average 27.45 wins for the next 35 years to reach 1,100 for his career.  The other two must win over 29 games per season for those 35 years to hit the same figure.

Impossible? No, but with the intense media scrutiny, athletic department turnover and ever-growing impatience of college basketball fans, nothing can be assumed.

Mike Krzyzewski will most likely reach 1,100 wins by the 2018-19 season, if not sooner, and wherever his final win mark ends will remain the top spot for at least a few more presidential administrations. 

Kansas' Bill Self has a significantly better chance to challenge his all-time win record than any other active head coach in the country.