Coaching shift underway in college basketball
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
College basketball is in full practice mode, and if the off-season told us anything it is to appreciate the masters at work. Because they won’t be out there forever.
No Jim Calhoun this season. Retired. No Rick Majerus. Heart issues. Roy Williams had a cancer scare on both kidneys. But still. In no sport does the coach command the stage more than college basketball, and the fairest of them all are not getting any younger.
Value them. Respect them, even if you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing their colors. One day, the game will seem emptier without them.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is 65, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim 67, Williams 62, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith 61. All are past national champions; all were included in the Baby Boom’s gift package to college basketball. Can Louisville’s Rick Pitino really be 60?
The pitfalls of the modern world have not left most of them unscathed. Hardly anyone gets out of this absolutely tidy. Calhoun departed beneath an unseemly cloud, his last days sullied by serious academic shortcomings in his program that knocked Connecticut out of the 2012 NCAA tournament, on top of previous recruiting violations. Krzyzewski suddenly has Lance Thomas’ jewelry purchases complicating his existence. Boeheim had Bernie Fine.
The North Carolina athletics department – including Williams — has had to answer questions about alleged gimme-putt classes, and NCAA president Mark Emmert recently said the investigation goes on. This scandal could have some legs.
But the body of work by these coaches is staggering, and they have been the icons of a golden coaching generation in the NCAA tournament. It is impossible to imagine your office pool bracket without them. The reminder that their era is not eternal is when you go searching through all the Midnight Madnesses in recent days and find no Calhoun.
Curious thing about basketball. It has become different than its college counterpart in shoulder pads. Lots of bad things have happened — and suddenly — to football coaches who win national championships. Look at some men who did the past 15 years.
Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Pete Carroll at Southern California, Larry Coker at Miami and … [For more on Lopresti: Coaching shift underway in college basketball, click here.]