â†µAfter watching UConn Coach Jim Calhoun win his 800th game Wednesday night at the Bradley Center, I kicked around the names of the seven men to reach that plateau. And it sure looks like none has a more amazing career than the Huskies’ head man. â†µ
â†µMore than any of his 800 Club peers, Calhoun built his programs. He’s combined his recruiting and teaching and motivating into a career as a basketball architect. Before his arrival in the mid-1980s, Connecticut had won four NCAA tournament basketball games and never captured anything more significant than a Yankee Conference title. â†µâ†µ
â†µCompare that with the other guys on the list. Four established their legacies at schools where great coaches preceded them. Bob Knight followed Branch McCracken at Indiana. Dean Smith took over for Frank McGuire in Chapel Hill. Mike Krzyzewski built off Vic Bubas’ success at Duke. Eddie Sutton profited from tradition built by Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and Henry Iba at Oklahoma State. â†µâ†µ
â†µThat leaves Rupp and Jim Phelan. Rupp had two major advantages -- recruiting in basketball-mad Kentucky, and dominating a South that didn’t include African-American players for much of his tenure. Phelan made tiny Mount Saint Mary’s a winner, but he never won a game in the Division I NCAA tourney. â†µâ†µ
â†µCalhoun? Two NCAA tourney titles, an NIT title and 16 Big East crowns (10 regular season, six tournament). Not to mention the players -- a batch of future NBA all-stars who saw Storrs as the best place to spend their college years. â†µâ†µ
â†µWhat in sports compares? Football coach Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech comes to mind, as does Bill Snyder with Kansas State football. Maybe John Schuerholz and his crew with the 1990s Atlanta Braves. Calhoun, it seems, has built more with less than any coach in the last generation of American sports. Not too shabby, coach. â†µâ†µ
â†µSo salute Calhoun for earning win No. 800. But salute him also for his journey there, and his spot as one of the great stories anywhere in athletics. â†µâ†µ
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