Why #903 is Truly Historic

Let me start by offering congratulations to Mike Krzyzewski for win #903. Duke has been one of the top basketball programs in the country for three decades and Blue Devil fans everywhere have one man to thank for that. I may not agree with the people who think he’s a great man of integrity and class, but he can flat out coach college basketball. There is no denying that. While he’s had a plethora of talent in his 36 years at the helm, his teams win consistently because they are disciplined and play intelligent basketball. He’s figured out a formula for success in college basketball and executed and evolved it almost flawlessly for his entire career.

Are some records truly untouchable? These records certainly seem that way:

  • Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak
  • Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive game streak
  • Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 career points
  • Pete Maravich’s 44.2pts/game college scoring average
  • Wilt Chamberlin’s 50.4pts/game in the 1951/52 NBA season

What are some others that you think will never be broken?

As a Carolina fan, I was of course saddened when Bobby Knight passed Coach Smith for first place all time in division 1 wins. What dissapointed me the most, however, was knowing that Coach K was also inevitably going to jump ahead of Coach Smith, and would eventually surge to number one on the list. That’s just the nature of sports, I suppose. Yet, seeing Krzyzewski get win #903 got me wondering. Is it possible that no one will be able to top him? After putting together such a long career of sustained success, will anyone be able to match that in today’s game? Is this one of those records that will go down as “unbreakable”?

I decided to do a comparison of the big name coaches around the country to see how likely it is that anyone will be able to pass Coach K in the coming years. 

Active Big Name Coaches
Sorted by Estimated Seasons Required to Reach 903 Wins

Coach Age Wins Losses Win % Years Coached Avg. Wins Seasons to #903 Age at #903
Mike Krzyzewski 64 903 284 76.07% 36 25.08 0 64
Jim Boeheim 66 859 301 74.05% 35 24.54 1.83 68
Jim Calhoun 69 857 367 70.02% 39 21.97 2.14 71
Roy Williams 61 645 163 79.83% 23 28.04 9.24 70
Bob Huggins 58 621 228 73.14% 26 23.88 11.85 70
Rick Pitino 59 599 220 73.14% 25 23.96 12.73 72
Rick Barnes 57 526 257 67.18% 24 21.92 17.25 74
John Calipari 52 469 151 75.65% 19 24.68 17.62 70
Bill Self 48 445 152 74.54% 18 24.72 18.57 67
Tom Izzo 56 383 161 70.40% 16 23.94 21.77 78
Billy Donovan 46 396 168 70.21% 17 23.29 21.81 68
Thad Matta 44 294 88 76.96% 11 26.73 22.82 67
Jamie Dixon 46 218 60 78.42% 8 27.25 25.17 71

The closest two active Division 1 head coaches to Krzyzewski are Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim. They are both about 2 seasons away from reaching 903 wins, but they’re also 69 and 66 respectively. Since they are both older than Krzyzewski (64), it’s unlikely that they will pass him on the list.

Roy Williams’ win percentage is 3 points higher than coach K’s and he’s 3 years younger, but he got a later start as a head coach and has had 13 fewer seasons in that role. It would likely take him another 10 seasons to reach 903. While it is theoretically possible, I think it is highly unlikely he even reaches that point.

But the problem with those comparisons is that we can’t just look at how long it will take coaches to reach 903 wins. Coach K is still going strong and it is likely that he will coach for another 5-8 years. If he keeps at his career pace of 25 wins/season, then that would put his win total in a range of 1,028 – 1,103. When considering that, it makes it appear even more unlikely that anyone will pass Krzyzewski. At least anytime soon.

Active Big Name Coaches
Sorted By Estimated Age At Win #1,103

Coach Age Wins Losses Win % Years Coached Avg. Wins Yrs to #1028 Age at #1028 Yrs to #1103 Age at #1103
Brad Stevens 35 118 26 81.94% 4 29.50 30.85 66 33.39 68
Mike Krzyzewski 64 903 284 76.07% 36 25.08 4.98 69 7.97 72
Thad Matta 44 294 88 76.96% 11 26.73 27.46 71 30.27 74
Bill Self 48 445 152 74.54% 18 24.72 23.58 72 26.62 75
Jim Boeheim 66 859 301 74.05% 35 24.54 6.89 73 9.94 76
Billy Donovan 46 396 168 70.21% 17 23.29 27.13 73 30.35 76
Roy Williams 61 645 163 79.83% 23 28.04 13.66 75 16.33 77
John Calipari 52 469 151 75.65% 19 24.68 22.65 75 25.68 78
Bob Huggins 58 621 228 73.14% 26 23.88 17.04 75 20.18 78
Jamie Dixon 46 218 60 78.42% 8 27.25 29.72 76 32.48 78
Rick Pitino 59 599 220 73.14% 25 23.96 17.90 77 21.04 80
Jim Calhoun 69 857 367 70.02% 39 21.97 7.78 77 11.19 80
Sean Miller 42 169 70 70.71% 7 24.14 35.58 78 38.69 81
Rick Barnes 57 526 257 67.18% 24 21.92 22.90 80 26.33 83
Jay Wright 49 348 196 63.97% 17 20.47 33.22 82 36.88 86
Tom Izzo 56 383 161 70.40% 16 23.94 26.95 83 30.08 86

Flavor of the month, Brad Stevens, appears to be the most likely to have a chance at topping coach K, but his sample size as a head coach is so small that it’s anything but a given. Even with his impressive win rate of over 29 wins/season, he would still need another 33 seasons to accomplish it.

One variant to consider in the chart above is John Calipari. His win totals shown exclude his vacated wins at both UMass and Memphis, and deflate his overall wins/season rate. He’s also gotten better of late, winning at a rate of 33 wins/season over the last 6 years (excluding his Memphis vacated season). If he can maintain that type of pace (while avoiding NCAA penalties…something he hasn’t shown he can do), he would reach 1,103 wins at approximately age 71, one less than K’s estimated 72. Even so, that wouldn’t wouldn’t occur for another 20 years.

A quarter of a century passed from the day Adolph Rupp hung up his whistle until Dean Smith topped him in wins in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. It then took another ten years before Bob Knight took over the top spot. It was only four years before his star pupil supplanted him atop the list, but Knight’s short tenure in the lead is the exception, not the rule. Many people were outraged/disgusted/annoyed/{insert verb} about all of the coverage that ESPN was doing for Krzyzewski’s big day. But when you consider that the earliest we are likely to see anyone top him would be 25-30 years from now, the fanfare is well deserved.

Congrats, Coach. You’ve earned it.

Finally, just for some fun, let’s look at the list of ACC coaches using the same data:

Active ACC Coaches
Sorted By Estimated Age At Win #1,103

Coach Age Wins Losses Win % Yrs Coached Avg. Wins Yrs to 903 Age at #903 Yrs to 1028 Age at #1028 Yrs to 1103 Age at #1103
Mike Krzyzewski 64 903 284 76.07% 36 25.08 0 64 4.98 69 7.97 72
Roy Williams 61 645 163 79.83% 23 28.04 9.24 70 13.66 75 16.33 77
Brad Brownell 43 190 97 66.20% 9 21.11 33.82 77 39.69 83 43.25 86
Brian Gregory 44 174 94 64.93% 8 21.75 33.56 78 39.26 83 42.71 87
Mark Gottfried 47 281 154 64.60% 14 20.07 31.04 78 37.22 84 40.95 88
Mark Turgeon 46 251 159 61.22% 13 19.31 33.82 80 40.24 86 44.13 90
Tony Bennett 42 102 64 61.45% 5 20.40 39.31 81 45.39 87 49.07 91
Seth Greenberg 55 370 276 57.28% 21 17.62 30.31 85 37.35 92 41.60 97
Jim Larranaga 62 445 308 59.10% 25 17.80 25.79 88 32.75 95 36.97 99
Steve Donahue 49 168 151 52.66% 11 15.27 48.19 97 56.31 105 61.22 110
Leonard Hamilton 63 356 327 52.12% 24 14.83 36.94 100 45.30 108 50.36 113
Jeff Bzdelik 58 120 129 48.19% 8 15.00 52.27 110 60.53 119 65.53 124

Poor old Jeff Bzdelik won’t reach K’s total until he’s 124 years old! If there is one thing this table tells us, it’s that the ACC doesn’t have many good coaches.

If you’re interested, you can view the full table I was working with here. All stats are current as of 11/15/2011.

About William

William is a life-long Tar Heel, UNC alumnus and the developer of this website. You can follow him on twitter @wearnhardt.
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3 Responses to Why #903 is Truly Historic

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  1. Adrian says: