One Loss Each Great College Basketball Coach Will Never Forget
Coaches never forget the losses.
Every coach can tell you about a loss that haunts them for the rest of their career. Sometimes a championship down the road can ease the pain, but not entirely.
In a tournament as fickle as the NCAA tournament, it's going to happen eventually. Even John Wooden had a few that probably irked him.
In the current game, these are seven of the greatest coaches, and one loss for each that they'll never forget.
Bill Self: Kansas vs. VCU, 2011 Elite Eight
Bill Self could have two national titles at this point, and the one that got away is not the title game in 2012 when KU lost to Kentucky; few expected Kansas to win that game.
The one that should really eat at Self is the 2011 Elite Eight loss to VCU. At that point in the tournament, the Jayhawks were the only No. 1 seed left. The path they had left was VCU, one of the last four teams into the tourney, Butler and Connecticut.
The Jayhawks simply tightened up in the Elite Eight, shooting 2-of-21 from deep. The Morris twins, who didn't play great but put up their numbers, and Tyshawn Taylor combined to score 47 points on 19-of-40 shooting. The rest of the team shot 3-of-22.
It was the second straight year that Self had a one seed with only two losses in the regular season get upset, as the Jayhawks fell to Northern Iowa in the round of 32 the year before. Both teams had the talent to win the title.
John Calipari: Memphis vs. Kansas, 2008 National Championship
Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts probably lose more sleep over this game than John Calipari. Now that Calipari has won his national title—against Kansas, no less—his legacy is not missing that coveted national championship.
KU's comeback from down nine with two minutes left is one of the greatest comebacks in tourney history. Mario Chalmers' three-pointer to send the game to overtime is one of the tourney's greatest shots. And it wouldn't have been possible without Douglas-Roberts missing three straight free throws, followed by Rose making one of two with 10.8 seconds left to give KU a chance to tie the game.
The one mistake Calipari made was not fouling. According to The Memphis Commercial Appeal, he told Rose to foul Sherron Collins. You can be the judge of whether that was really the case. Rose puts his hands back as Collins accelerates toward the three-point line in a "I'm not trying to foul" manner.
Some coaches don't believe in fouling when up by three. After that game, Calipari had to have his mind made up for all future up-three scenarios.
Mike Krzyzewski: Duke vs. Connecticut, 1999 National Championship
Mike Krzyzewski is 4-4 in national championship games, which any coach in the history of the game (save John Wooden) would take in a heartbeat. If there's one loss of the four that has to bug Coach K, it's the 1999 loss to UConn.
The Blue Devils were 37-1 going into that game, and had won their first five tournament games by an average of 25.2 points. They had five future NBA players, led by Elton Brand.
Duke had two opportunities in the final 10 seconds to either take the lead or tie the game. Coach K went to senior Trajan Langdon both times, and both times he didn't get up a shot.
Roy Williams: Kansas vs. Arizona, 1997 Sweet 16
This is one of the greatest teams not to win it all in the history of the game.
The Jayhawks lost only one game in the regular season that year—a double-overtime loss at Missouri—and that was without starting center Scott Pollard.
Kansas ran into an Arizona team that had underachieved that year, but got hot at the right time to win a national title.
"I told the team that life isn't always fair," Roy Williams said that night to the New York Times. "It's been a dream season. But we just didn't reach our final dream. That happens sometimes in life."
The loss hung over the program and Williams for several years after. The next year with Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce still around, the Jayhawks lost to Rhode Island in the second round. KU would not get back to the Sweet 16 again until 2001, and Williams never provided Kansas with a national title.
Rick Pitino: Kentucky vs. Duke, 1992 Regional Finals
Being on the wrong side of history is not a lot of fun.
Rick Pitino has had to spend most of his career answering questions about Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater, known as "The Shot."
After Sean Woods put the group known as the "Unforgettables" up one in overtime with 2.1 seconds on the clock, Pitino decided not to put a defender on Grant Hill inbounding the ball.
That allowed Hill to make a clean pass, Laettner to get a good look and Pitino's Wildcats to be on the other side of what has been voted the greatest moment in the history of the tournament.
Tom Izzo: Michigan State vs. Louisville, 2012 Sweet 16
Tom Izzo has had few disappointments in March. The coach is known as a guy who squeezes the most out of his teams when it matters most.
That's what made the 2012 NCAA tournament a surprise. The Spartans, a No. 1 seed, went ice cold in a 57-44 loss to No. 4 Louisville. Izzo cannot feel too bad about that loss after witnessing what Rick Pitino did with a similar roster this past year.
The 2012 Spartans are the only one of Izzo's teams to win 28 or more games and not reach the Final Four.
Jim Boeheim: Syracuse vs. Indiana, 1987 National Championship
It took a long time for Jim Boeheim to get over Keith Smart's game-winner to beat Syracuse in the 1987 title game.
"When you lose a game like that, you really almost never get over it. I got over it in 2003," said Boeheim to the New York Daily News. "Coach (Bobby) Knight was good after the game. He told me we would get back and win it, he just didn't tell me it would take 26 years. He's smart, just not that smart."
It's weird to go back and watch the clip of Smart's shot that came against Syracuse playing man-to-man, not zone. Boeheim eventually abandoned the man-to-man outright and he eventually got his championship.