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Is Jim Boeheim the second-best college coach of all time?

January 03, 2013
  • Syracuse's Jim Boeheim smiles late in the second half against Rutgers.
Syracuse's Jim Boeheim smiles late in the second half against Rutgers. (Kevin Rivoli / Associated…)

Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim won his 903rd game Wednesday night, passing Bob Knight for second place on the all-time list for most victories among men's Division I basketball coaches. Only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski has more.

Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss where Boeheim should rank among the all-time great college basketball coaches. Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment of your own.

Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

Assuming that Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is and will remain the best with his 940 wins and counting, the debate over No. 2 is a battle between Jim Boeheim and Bob Knight, and possibly Adolph Rupp.

Maybe I would pick Knight because of his intense commitment to playing defense and offense and winning national titles without the biggest-name recruits. Maybe I would pick Boeheim because he found a style (that matchup zone defense) and stuck with it and with Syracuse.

And maybe I would pick Boeheim because he's still here, at 68, near the top of his profession without making concessions, good or bad. Knight wouldn't make concessions. He would not tame his inherent meanness or let enough of us see his immense basketball and worldly smart mind.

So, I guess I'm saying I'd take Boeheim after Coach K turned down the job. And about John Wooden? Well, then we're really talking about Nos. 2, 3 and 4 aren't we? And, wait, where does Rupp go?

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune

Jim Boeheim did not achieve the second-most wins in college basketball history just by sticking around a long time. But going one-up on Bob Knight to achieve win No. 903 does not necessarily make him the second-best coach. (Although I wouldn't put up a huge fight with someone who wanted to argue that.)

Winning championships is how we measure greatness in sports. And in that category, of course, John Wooden is at the top of the class. For the perfect formula, combine wins and championships in regard to how long one has coached, and I'd put Boeheim behind Wooden's 10 championships, Adolph Rupp (4), Mike Krzyzewski (4), Bob Knight (3) and Jim Calhoun (3).

Dom Amore, Hartford Courant

This much we know -- Jim Boeheim is second in wins, and in any conversation of great college basketball coaches of his, or anyone else's time, he should be included.

What more does one need? Is he the second-greatest coach of all time? Probably not. The number of wins a coach accumulates cannot, in and of itself, define him that way. In soaring past the 900-win mark, Boeheim has defined himself as a model of excellence and consistency, not a coach who excelled with one group of players, but one who built a program and sustained a high level of performance over a long period of time.

Sure, other coaches -- who might not have quite as many wins, but have more championships or better postseason records, perhaps did not coach as long or overcame greater obstacles in building a program -- would have stronger claim to the highest positions on any mythical list. When Jim Calhoun retired, it was Boeheim who called his career at UConn "the greatest job of building" he ever saw.

Boeheim should be respected and admired as one of the greatest coaches, a significant figure in the history of his sport. No. 2? Top 10? ... Top 10 sounds about right, but ranking him is as complicated as it is unnecessary.

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