Much has been made lately of Bobby Knight's passing Dean Smith for the greatest number of wins in a men's NCAA basketball coaching career; so much that I'm afraid it's true. As a Tar Heel fan, I am tempted to diminish Coach Knight's accomplishment, but I going to resist, because like the "over-rated" chant, it would mostly make my coach and team look bad to do so. The all-time career wins record is a significant achievement, and it's a good record regardless of how ugly the red sweaters are that the person who holds it wears.
Honestly, there are many good things that can be said about Bobby Knight, but don't expect me to be the one to say them. Like Mark Antony, I have come to bury Coach Knight, not to praise him. [Educational side note: That's Mark Antony, the Roman politician, general and lover of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, not Marc Anthony, the Puerto Rican-American salsa and salsamonga-ballad singer-songwriter, who married Dayanara Torres, Miss Universe, before marrying Jennifer Lopez, Queen of the World.] Sorry, I am easily distracted.
Anyway, Bobby Knight did break one of Dean Smith's records, but there are many other coaching records held by Smith that Knight will never break. I am not talking about the NCAA-record 33 straight seasons that Smith's teams have finished in the top three for their conference, or the record 27 straight 20-win seasons, not that Knight will break either. I am not even talking about the record for the most wins at a single school, even though there's a reason that Smith, the Dean of college coaches, won all of his games at one school and Knight didn't. (The technical term: run out of town on a rail.).
I wasn't even thinking of one record neither Knight, nor anyone else, will ever touch: cumulative time-outs left over at the end of a career. Smith's timeout hoarding may have started earlier, but definitely was solidified by the comeback win over Duke in 1974, in which UNC scored 8 points in 17 seconds (without a 3-point shot!). Smith accumulated time-outs like his life depended on it. Since his team led for the better part of the great majority of his games, most of those time-outs were never used. At my estimate of two per game, that's 2266. This makes the championship win in 1993 which was finalized by a Chris Webber's calling a timeout which Michigan did not have, especially apropos.
No, the record I was thinking of vis-a-vis Knight is the number of consecutive games without uttering a public obscenity. Knight won't even break Roy Williams's current streak of 111 games without an obscenity but with at least one euphemism. Smith's record is 1133 games without a single curse word, not counting, even more impressively, his matches as a golf coach at the Air Force Academy.
As Smith once said, "cursing is not one of my sins." Don't get me wrong, Smith wasn't sinless. He did have at least one, notable and extremely public, moral lapse. (I'm thinking here of the Four Corners "Offense.")
Knight is another story. He has had many moral lapses. Knight's longest stretch without an obscenity-laden tirade would be exactly the length of any bout he may have ever had, if any, with laryngitis.
Another record Knight won't break: consecutive weeks without humiliating a player in public; for Dean Smith it is 2288, Bobby Knight's best is two (assuming he went fishing alone in the wilderness for two weeks one time).
Other records of Smith's that Knight won't ever break: consecutive years of representing his university with class and dignity (49 years and counting), consecutive years of being a close friend, trusted confidante and respected mentor to his former players (53 years and counting) or consecutive years of modeling the highest human values (75 years and counting). These are some coaching records that count.
Just in case someone out there still mistakenly believes that the number of wins means more than it does, consider this: John Wooden is 29th on the list, sandwiched between Dennis Bridges and Ralph Miller, with a measly 664 total wins.
And, oh yeah, when Bobby Knight got his 879th win, he had 353 losses, 99 more than Dean Smith did when he retired. Correct me if I got this wrong, coaching longer really doesn't mean coaching better, does it?
Gary D. Gaddy spent two contiguous weeks in the summer of 1967 at the famous Glenn Wilkes Basketball School, the South’s first and most popular basketball school, located at Stetson University in beautiful Deland, Florida. He does not remember ever seeing Coach Wilkes, who is 73rd on the all-time career victories list with 551 wins in 36 seasons.
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, January 4, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy