Ranking the 10 Best-Ever Quotes from College Basketball Coaches
More than just being masters of X's and O's, college basketball coaches are teachers, motivators and communicators.
What they say is recorded and reported to the masses.
Some of what coaches say lingers well beyond the postgame press conference or the standard news cycle.
Their quotes continue to speak to us, sometimes for years to come.
Here is a list of the 10 most exceptional statements of all time made by college basketball coaches, with is a mixture of everything from insightful statements to hilarious punch lines.
Coaches' information provided by Wikipedia.
10. Jim Valvano on Referees
While Jim Valvano coached at Johns Hopkins, Bucknell and Iona, he is most remembered for his 10 successful seasons at North Carolina State.
His overall record was 346-210 and his greatest achievement was leading NC State to winning it all in the 1983 NCAA tournament.
Valvano’s coaching style was a distinctive blend of comedy and competitiveness. He always expressed his spirited will-to-win with something funny on the tip of his tongue.
Part of his in-game coaching style involved ongoing banter with the referees. Even though he was constantly trying to give his team an edge, you have to know that some of the officials had to fight back from laughing
Valvano told the story of a time when he was less than satisfied by the calls that his team was getting. He said:
I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said, well, I think you stink. And he gave me a technical. You can't trust em.
9. Abe Lemons on Keeping Players Humble
His 1978 Texas Longhorns won the NIT and he was the national coach of the year that same year.
One time, when one of his players was acting a little cocky about his performance after only hitting a single free throw, Lemons said:
You did great, Son. You scored one more point than a dead man.
Thanks to Glenn Liebman, the self-proclaimed Sports Quotation Man, for the reminder about the unique and humorous Abe Lemons.
8. Dean Smith on Having the Right Attitude Towards Wins and Losses
Dean Smith is one of the legends of college basketball. His 36-year head coaching career was spent entirely at North Carolina, where he won 879 games, made 11 Final Four appearances and won two NCAA national titles.
When he retired in 1997, Smith was the all-time winningest coach in Division I.
One aspect of his coaching philosophy that helped Smith thrive over the long haul was his perspective on winning and losing. While Smith was an intense competitor, he balanced that with a composed outlook.
When commenting once about his viewpoint about wins and losses, Smith said:
If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot.
7. Jerry Tarkanian on the Impact of Too Much Thinking
Jerry Tarkanian was one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history.
In his 31-year-career, Tarkanian had a 729-201 record, collected 29 20-win seasons and won an NCAA championship while coaching at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State.
The trademarks of Tark’s teams were quickness, athleticism and relentlessness. His players applied non-stop pressure on their opponents from the beginning to the end of games. UNLV was called the “Runnin’ Rebels” for a good reason.
Part of Tarkanian’s coaching philosophy was that he wanted his players to respond instantly and instinctively, instead of methodically. He once said:
The more your players have to think on the basketball court, the slower their feet get.
From that standpoint, he was one of the most effective coaches at getting his players to react instead of thinking too much about what they should do.
6. Bob Knight on Getting Players' Attention
Robert Montgomery Knight won 902 college basketball games. When he retired in 2008, he was the all-time wins leader on the court.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, Knight is now No. 3 behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.
Knight’s Indiana teams won three NCAA championships (1976, 1981, 1987), with his ’76 team being the last team to go undefeated (32-0) on the college basketball men's court.
His teams were highly disciplined and consistently made good decisions. The General would not indulge his stars or fuss over his best players. If they were dogging it or were underperforming, he used the most powerful weapon a coach has at his disposal: playing time.
Knight once noted:
I've always had an a**-to-the-brain theory. When a player's a** gets put on the bench, a message goes straight to the brain saying, ‘Get me off of here.'
No other coach in my lifetime used that concept any better than Knight.
5. John Thompson on His Preference for Players with Passion
John Thompson put Georgetown basketball on the map.
By the time he had finished coaching his 26-plus years in Washington D.C., Thompson had won 596 games, made 20 NCAA tournament appearances and won it all in 1984.
His teams were known for their suffocating defensive pressure. Not too many opponents dared to go inside on them during the Patick Ewing/Dikembe Mutombo/Alonzo Mourning eras. Thompson seemed to be drawn to talented players with passion.
Since retiring from coaching, Thompson has been a hoops commentator. When discussing the wisdom of drafting a college player with a reputation for being a loose canon, Thompson once said:
You can calm down a fool before you can resurrect a corpse.
4. Rick Pitino on the Positive Value of Failure
Louisville’s Rick Pitino has moved into the upper echelon of college basketball coaches.
Not only has Pitino racked up a striking 664-239 collegiate record, but his University of Louisville biography states that he is “the only coach in NCAA history to take three different teams to the NCAA Final Four.”
He is also the only coach to win NCAA championships at two different schools.
Pitino is a master motivator. He is exceptional at leveraging just about anything or any situation to provoke his teams to peak performances.
Even his perspective on losses, missteps and disappointments is distinctive, as Pitino once said:
Failure is good. It's fertilizer. Everything I've learned about coaching, I've learned from making mistakes.
3. Rick Majerus on Playing Against Talented Teams
The late Rick Majerus is a missed member of the college coaching fraternity.
He was both an exceptional coach and an irreplaceable personality.
From a coaching standpoint, Majerus was outrageously successful in his 25-year career, going 517-215 overall at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis.
As determined as he was about developing talent on the hardwood, Majerus was genuinely one of the most funny people of all time.
When he was coaching at Utah and was getting ready to play Kentucky, Majerus commented:
They have all those McDonald's All-Americas. We have four guys on our team who don't even have a McDonald's in their town.
2. Mike Krzyzewski on Creating a Team
Mike Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in NCAA history, with a 957-297 record over 38 years at Army and Duke.
His teams have won a record 82 tournament games, made 11 Final Four appearances and won four NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010).
One of the distinguishing features of Coach K’s teams over the years is how well they play together as a unit. Even though his teams generally have elite-level players, he has done an exceptional job at blending their talents in order to maximize their performance.
Along that line, Krzyzewski once stated:
When you first assemble a group, it’s not a team right off the bat. It’s only a collection of individuals.
Even a coach who is as successful as Coach K can’t just roll the balls out on the floor and flourish.
1. John Wooden on Character
John Wooden established himself as the gold standard among college basketball coaches.
Over his 29 years of coaching at Indiana State and UCLA, the Wizard of Westwood amassed a 664-162 record (80.4 winning percentage), an 88-game consecutive win streak and four perfect seasons.
His teams won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period, including seven in a row (1967-73). Unbelievable.
Wooden thought of himself not only as a teacher of the game, but as a mentor whose job was to mold young men’s lives. He once expressed:
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
While his basketball accomplishments may never be equaled, Wooden’s contributions to the lives of others have extended well beyond wins, losses and championships.