It’s hard to believe that John Wooden turns 99 today. The former UCLA coach is legendary for leading the Bruins to an amazing 10 NCAA championships in 12 years during the ’60s and ’70s. The Wizard of Westwood, who still attends UCLA games, plans to make it to 100.
“I recently asked how (Wooden) was doing and he said, ‘I’m 98 and I’ve made a decision. I’m going to live to be a 100.’ So I asked, ‘How did you make that coach?’ He said, ‘I looked at my driver’s license and I have two years left, I’m not going to let that money go to waste,’” said former LSU coach Dale Brown in a SI.com article last year.
In honor of this milestone, I decided to rank the top 5 college basketball coaches of all-time. Clearly, Wooden is the best, but there’s room for debate for the remaining four spots.
1. John Wooden: In 27 seasons in Westwood, Wooden won 664 games and 10 NCAA championships. No other coach has even come close to those accomplishments. At one point between 1967 and 1973, he won seven straight titles. He also coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. It should be against the law to say anything negative about the Wizard.
2. Dean Smith: In Chapel Hill, Dean Smith probably gets more love than Michael Jordan. The former North Carolina coach has 879 wins – the second most in the history of college basketball. He’s won two national championships and appeared in 11 Final Fours. Smith turned Carolina into a breeding ground for future NBA players and coaches like MJ, Larry Brown, Rasheed Wallace, James Worthy and Vince Carter.
3. Mike Krzyzewski: The only active coach out of this group, Coach K is one of the most consistent coaches in the game today. He’s won 833 games in 28 years as head coach at Duke University. Krzyzewski has three NCAA titles and 11 ACC championships. On top of his accomplishments on the college level, Coach K also coached the U.S. team to a gold medal at last summer’s Olympics.
4. Adolph Rupp: Before Rick Pitino became the face of Kentucky basketball, Adolph Rupp was the big man in Lexington. In 42 seasons (1930-72) as head coach of the Wildcats, Rupp accumulated 876 victories and four NCAA championships. He would have gone even longer, but the university had a policy that all employees must retire at the age of 70. His career winning percentage of 82.2 percent ranks second best of all-time.
5. Bobby Knight: Most people know Bobby Knight for his animated personality and how he choked that kid at Indiana, but people forget he is the all-time winningest coach in college basketball with 902 victories. Knight has also won three NCAA championships, 11 Big 10 titles and has been the national coach of the year four times. He is one of three basketball coaches to ever win an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA title and an NIT championship. He retired in February 2008 after coaching Texas Tech for the previous seven seasons.
Are there any other modern day coaches that deserve to be in the Top 5 or Top 10?
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Follow Gerald Narciso on Twitter at @Gerald_Narciso.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE