Where does Mike Krzyzewski rank among the group of other great coaches in the history of men's college basketball?
It's a good time to take stock of that question and legacy of the Duke coach with the announcement Wednesday that he will spend one more year on the Blue Devils' bench before heading to retirement.
It's not an easy exercise as all the candidates have had long and successful runs on the sidelines that led them to national titles and multiple Final Fours. They're also from different eras when tournaments were smaller and getting an invitation was more difficult.
A look at the 10 best coaches of all-time:
1. Mike Krzyzewski
Accomplishments: 1170-361 record, 12 Final Fours, five national titles
The records are staggering. Tied for the most Final Fours. The most wins all-time. Most tournament appearances (35) and tournament wins (97). Fifteen ACC tournament championships. The sustained excellence of more than 40 years at Duke is what separates Coach K from everyone else, especially in an era when parity has been greater and advancing in the postseason is more difficult. One of his greatest strengths has been his adaptability as he built rosters that changed with the times during six decades (he spent five seasons at Army from 1975-80). For his first two decades at Duke, he built tough-minded teams that succeeded with defense and roster continuity. None of his players left early for the NBA before the 1999 season. He transitioned during the middle of his career to taking players that likely would depart before their eligibility was up to a full embrace of a one-and-done model as the Blue Devils became a magnet for the best recruits in the country that wanted a short stay before professional basketball.
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski celebrates with his players after defeating Wisconsin in the 2015 NCAA men's basketball championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)
2. John Wooden
Accomplishments: 664-162 record, 12 Final Fours, 10 national titles
It's easy to forget as memories fade and generations change that UCLA was an unstoppable force in the last 12 seasons of Wooden's career before he retired in 1975. Wooden's teams won 10 championships in that span and during seven seasons between 1966-73 lost just seven games and had a record 88-game winning streak. The program featured some of the game's greats — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Bill Walton and Gail Goodrich. His numbers would have been higher had he not walked away at 65, though it is worth noting the NCAA field was much smaller in his time — between 23 and 32 teams — and making the Final Four required as few as two wins.
3. Adolph Rupp
Accomplishments: 876-190 record, six Final Fours, four national titles
Rupp spent his entire 41-year career at Kentucky, creating one of the preeminent programs that has maintained its status among the elite for almost 50 years since he stepped down. When he retired in 1972, he was the Division I leader in career victories. The record stood for almost three decades until Dean Smith passed him in 1997. He ranks among the top five in career winning percentage (.822) and national championships.
4. Roy Williams
Accomplishments: 903-264 record, nine Final Fours, three national titles
What's unique about Williams is that he won more than 400 games at two schools — Kansas and North Carolina — something no other Division I coach has done. And while his mentor Dean Smith got more notoriety with the Tar Heels, it was Williams who achieved more — first with the Jayhawks before eventually heading back to Chapel Hill, where he won his three titles and moved to third in career wins and second in tournament victories (79) before retiring in April.
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