With all the kudos, much of it deserved for Coach K at Duke, as he faces retirement, a few facts need to be taken into account so we are comparing
With all the kudos, much of it deserved for Coach K at Duke, as he faces retirement, a few facts need to be taken into account so we are comparing apples to apples as we get ready for March Madness. First of all, John Wooden has a greater record than Coach K both in his own conference and in the Big Dance. Coach Wooden’s teams won 10 national championships in an era when there was no dunks and no 3 pointers! Coach K could add a sixth only if his team wins it all this year.
Secondly, Coach K has coached 42 years, or 40 if you count time off due to surgery etc. Dean Smith only coached 36 years. In his 36 years of coaching his teams won 879 games. During the same number of years, Coach K won 1000 games, but it should be noted that in the period 1997 to 2015, Duke played a lot more games per year that UNC did for the 60s, 70s, and into the 80s when Smith was coaching for more than 15 years before Coach K. So the comparison is not really fair to either coach.
Dean Smith coached well before Coach K, and in an era when he had to face Wooden again and again in the Big Dance. Coach K of course never did. Head to head, Dean Smith’s teams won 24 and lost 14 to Coach K during Smith’s tenure. Both coaches got two national national championships when they were both still coaching.
Let’s move forward to the Roy Williams era at Carolina, from 2003 to 2021, a period in which Coach K was also coaching. During that period Duke won 21 times and Carolina 18 times head to head. But during same that period UNC won championships in 2005, 2009, and 2017. During that same period of time, Coach K’s teams won two championships 2010 and 2015. Note that Carolina and Duke have never faced each other in the Big Dance, which is rather surprising considering how many times they’ve made the Sweet 16, the Great Eight, and the Final 4.
So… let’s slow the role of all that talk about Coach K being definitely the best basketball coach of all time by Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Absolutely, he is one of the five or so best D-I basketball coaches ever. That says enough.
And by the way, we just beat Duke on their home floor in Coach K’s last home game, 94-81!