Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Replacing a basketball coaching icon

Restoring - or at least maintaining - glory at some of college basketball's most successful programs isn't easy. After firing Billy Gillespie last week, Kentucky is reportedly hiring Memphis' John Calipari as its sixth coach since legendary Adolph Rupp retired in 1972. Here's how five programs have fared after their iconic coaches retired:

5. NORTH CAROLINA: Dean Smith coached the Tar Heels for 36 seasons, winning two NCAA championships and retiring as college basketball's all-time winningest coach (a record since broken) in 1997. North Carolina returned to the Final Four twice under coach Bill Guthridge, but then had two rough seasons (including 8-20 in 2002) with Matt Doherty in charge. Roy Williams has the program back at Smith-like levels.

4. UCLA: Coach John Wooden took the Bruins to 10 national championships before retiring in 1975. UCLA won another title in 1995 under Jim Harrick, but continued to churn through coaches for the next decade until Ben Howland arrived in 2003 as the Bruins' eighth coach since Wooden. Under Howland, UCLA went to the Final Four for three straight seasons (2006-08).

3. KENTUCKY: Whomever gets this job, it's going to be difficult to satisfy the Wildcats' often-irrational fan base. Rupp's teams won four NCAA championships, but Kentucky has also since won national titles under Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith. That still has never seemed to be good enough in Kentucky.

2. INDIANA: The Hoosiers were beginning to slip before Bob Knight left in 2000 after 29 seasons and three NCAA titles (failing to advance past the second round of the national tournament for six consecutive seasons). Although Knight's successor, Mike Davis, took Indiana to the 2002 national championship game, the program fell into disrepute under Kelvin Sampson. Indiana won just six games this season under Tom Crean, but has an excellent recruiting class coming in.

1. ST. JOHN'S: Under coach Lou Carnesecca, the Red Storm made the postseason 24 straight seasons, including the 1985 Final Four. Since Carnesecca retired in 1992, St. John's has slid into obscurity under five different coaches. The Red Storm finished 13th in the Big East this season.

-- David Scott

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