College basketball has coaches who have won multiple championships, gone on long winning streaks, consistently had their teams in the AP Top 25.
One rises above them all: UCLA’s John Wooden.
“He had a sense of greatness that he he tried to share with us, tried to show us the path to greatness,” said Hall of Famer Bill Walton, UCLA’s center under Wooden from 1971-74. “’I’m not sure that he knew how great a coach he truly was because he wasn’t interested in all the extraneous stuff and he wasn’t interested in people telling him he was great.”
Wooden, an Indiana farm boy who was a star guard at Purdue, took over at UCLA in 1948 and slowly built them into a power before taking the Bruins to unprecedented heights that may never be reached again.
Starting in 1962, UCLA won 10 national titles in 12 years, including a record seven straight from 1966-73. Wooden’s 10 national titles are twice as many as the next coach on the all-time list, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
UCLA won 88 sraight games from 1971-74 — 28 more than the next closest — and 38 straight NCAA Tournament games, both records. Wooden, who died in 2010 at the age of 99, was the first person to be elected into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a player and a coach, and was named AP national coach of the year five times.
UCLA went wire-to-wire at No. 1 in consecutive seasons as part of a record streak of 46 straight weeks on top of the AP Top 25 poll. The Bruins also were ranked 221 straight weeks, a record streak that encompassed the entire 1970s.
“We set records that still stand to this day,” Walton said. “He did not talk about winning and losing. He talked about effort and purpose, and we tried with everything we had to get to acknowledge that we were doing something right.”
Wooden’s lasting legacy goes beyond numbers.
His leadership style, focused on success in basketball and life, spread across sports, the business world and personal lives — and certainly stuck with anyone who came in contact with him.
“He created a culture where we were taught how to become champions,” Walton said. “How to live like champions, how to play like champions, how to be champions, how to expect to be champions.”
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, Duke
A former Army guard and coach, Krzyzewski turned the Blue Devils into a national powerhouse.
The Hall of Fame coach won five national championships at Duke, led the Blue Devils to 13 Final Four appearances — including his last season in 2022 — and a record 15 ACC Tournament championships.
Entering this season, Krzyzewski held the all-time wins record with 1,202 and his teams spent a record 127 weeks ranked at No. 1 in the AP poll. He also won six gold medals as coach of the U.S. national team.
Kentucky is second all-time with eight national championships and it started with Rupp.
The Baron of the Bluegrass won four national titles at Kentucky, including three in four years between 1947-51. Rupp’s teams won more than 82% of their games and his record of 876 wins stood until North Carolina’s Dean Smith surpassed it in 1997.
Anchored by Rupp’s 42 seasons in Lexington, Kentucky accumulated more points than any other team in the 75 years of the AP Top 25.
Williams made his mark at Kansas, leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four four times. He cemented his place in history — and the Hall of Fame — by winning three national championships at North Carolina.
Williams’ 903 wins are fifth all-time and he’s the only coach in Division I history to win 400 games at two schools.
Calhoun started his career at Northeastern, but made his mark at Connecticut. The Huskies won three national titles under Calhoun and his 920 wins are fourth all-time. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2005.
The former coach of Krzyzewski at Army, Knight led Indiana to three national championships and the last undefeated season in Division I, in 1976. The Hall of Fame coach who died last year is sixth on the all-time wins list with 902.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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