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Friday, March 07, 2008

Arizona Republic - Legends of March

Legends of March
Mar. 2, 2008 04:58 PM

So we were running down Lone Mountain Road at about 2:30 Saturday morning while representing team Sol Purpose in the Ragnar Relay Del Sol when we started thinking about something - because, really, what else is there to do while running down Lone Mountain Road at 2:30 in the morning?

Anyway, besides trying to figure out what made us think it was a good idea to take part in a relay run from Wickenburg to Mesa, we wondered: How long it has been since there was an NCAA Tournament without either Lute Olson or Bob Knight coaching in it?

Well, it's been a really, really long time. Even longer, as it turns out, than our relay team took to get to Mesa.

The last NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament without either Olson or Knight coaching in it was 1977.

And if March Madness were set up then as it is today, the streak would be even longer.

The tournament was only 32 teams back then, and Olson's Iowa team was 20-7 and finished 12-6 in the Big Ten. That would get him in now.

Knight's Indiana club had gone undefeated and won the NCAA title in 1976, but missed the 1977 tournament with a 16-11 record. Knight and Olson butted heads for nine years in the Big Ten before Olson left for Arizona.

Now, there are only a handful of coaches remaining whom one automatically associates with a program, as you did with Olson for the past 24 years at Arizona and Knight for 29 years at Indiana before he was bounced and ended up at Texas Tech.

Perhaps Olson will return, as planned, next season. Maybe Knight, who resigned from Tech during the season, will coach at another school.

But the days of the college basketball-coaching icon may be coming to an end.

So with March Madness upon us, The Heat Index ranks our Top 12 Active* College Coaching Icons in men's hoops:

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke. Just got his 800th victory, has 10 Final Four appearances and three national titles. But can you believe the guy is 61? And he played for Knight, who is 67, at Army. Weird. Anyway, "Coach K" is Duke basketball. Always will be, just like John Wooden will always be UCLA basketball.

*2.Lute Olson, Arizona. Hey, until he says, "I'm officially done" at Arizona, he has to remain an icon.

3. Jim Calhoun, Connecticut. He's in his 22nd season at UConn, where he has won two NCAA titles. Soon to be 66, he probably isn't going anywhere.

4. Tom Izzo, Michigan State. He's only been the coach at one school, and he has 301 career victories, four trips to the Final Four and an NCAA title in 13 years there.

5. Roy Williams, North Carolina. In his 20th season, 15 of which were at Kansas, Williams has five Final Four appearances, one national title and the fourth-highest winning percentage of all time.

6. Rick Pitino, Louisville. Pitino clearly is among the elite coaches in college basketball having taken Providence, Kentucky and Louisville to the Final Four. However, unless he stays put at Louisville for a while, we probably never will associate him with just one program.

7. Billy Donovan, Florida. Can you believe he's been there 12 years? After a dalliance with the Orlando Magic, he decided to remain at Florida, where he's won two championships and been in the title game three times.

8. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse. He's never coached anywhere but Syracuse. He is in his 32nd season and has more than 700 victories and a national title.

9. Gary Williams, Maryland. He has a national title and more than 600 career victories. Now in his 19th season teaching the virtues of the bounce pass to the Terps.

10. Tubby Smith, Minnesota. He is most closely associated with Kentucky - for better or worse - but he has more than 400 career victories, won a national title and took Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky at least as far as the Sweet 16. Now in his first season at Minnesota.

11. Ben Howland, UCLA. Howland, who was a success at Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh, is on the verge of his third consecutive 30-win season and may be headed to a third consecutive Final Four.

12. John Calipari, Memphis. Calipari got to the Final Four at Massachusetts, but hasn't taken Memphis there yet. Like Howland, Calipari appears headed toward a third consecutive 30-win season.

Reach The Heat Index at or 602-444-8271.

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