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Bob Lutz: College basketball’s all-time top 10 coaches

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was 73-59 as coach at Army. Things have been much better at Duke, where he’s 926-249.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was 73-59 as coach at Army. Things have been much better at Duke, where he’s 926-249. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Krzyzewski is within one win of No. 1,000 for his career, an incredible accomplishment for an iconic coach who doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Duke is 15-2, ranked No. 5 and plays against St. John’s on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. It’s fitting, obviously, that Coach K could wrap up his 1,000th win in one of the most-hallowed college basketball venues in history.

There are a lot of anti-Duke fans around college basketball. I’m probably one of them. But it’s impossible for me to muster much disdain for Krzyzewski, one of the classiest people in sports.

Those who don’t care for the Blue Devils are likely turned off by all of their winning, the same winning that has Krzyzewski within one victory of becoming the first men’s Division I coach in history to reach quadruple figures in the W column.

Duke has won four national championships under Krzyzewski, with ties Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for second most behind John Wooden’s 10 titles with UCLA.

The Blue Devils have a legitimate chance to get to five this season.

I contend that the debate for the greatest coach in college basketball history centers on just two: Krzyzewski and Wooden.

Some will disagree and want to include others in the argument. So here’s my top 10 college basketball coaches of all-time, starting at the back end. Do you see anyone here, or anywhere, that you believe belongs in the discussion with Coach K and Wooden?

10. Henry Iba – Mr. Iba, as he was and still is known, started his coaching career in 1929 at Northeast Missouri State and concluded it in 1970 at Oklahoma State, where he coached for 36 seasons. He won 752 games and two national championships. He also coached three United States Olympic teams, leading two of them to gold medals in 1964 and 1968.

9. Eddie Sutton – Two of the top 10 coaches have their names on the floor at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma State’s home. It’s Eddie Sutton Court with good reason. His 806 wins are seventh most in history and he led three schools – Arkansas, Kentucky and OSU – to Final Fours.

8. Lute Olson – The former Long Beach State, Iowa and Arizona coach took five teams to the Final Four and won in 1997 with Arizona, where he accumulated 587 of his 776 wins before retiring after the 2006-07 season.

7. Jim Boeheim – Boeheim is in his 39th season at Syracuse and is on the heels of Krzyzewski with 962 wins. He guided the Orange to the national championship in 2003 and has taken Syracuse to four Final Fours.

6. Jim Calhoun – UConn won three national championships during Calhoun’s 26 seasons there after he spent 14 years at Northeastern. His 877 wins rank No. 5 all-time.

5. Dean Smith – The former North Carolina coach won 879 games in 27 seasons, including two national championships and 11 Final Fours.

4. Bob Knight – Knight’s 899 wins are third all-time and he led Indiana to three national championships before spending the final seven seasons of his career at Texas Tech.

3. Adolph Rupp – Rupp built a dynasty at Kentucky from 1930-72, going 872-190 and leading the Wildcats to four national championships.

2. Mike Krzyzewski – I’m not sure anyone will ever pass Wooden, but Coach K makes a strong case, which is accentuated by his success coaching in the Olympics.

1. John Wooden – The Wizard of Westwood ranks only 25th all-time in wins with 664. But his run with UCLA from 1964-75 will never be duplicated. The Bruins won 10 national championships in those 12 seasons, which included four undefeated seasons.

It’s notable that three of the 10 coaches on this list are from Kansas. Sutton (Bucklin), Smith (born in Emporia, went to high school in Topeka) and Rupp (Halstead) are part of an incredible college basketball heritage in this state.

Thanks for reading.

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