When Mike Krzyzewski became the all-time winningest coaching in Division I history last week, it was a testament to his staying power.
Krzyzewski is in his 37th season as a head coach, including his 32nd at Duke after a five-year stint at Army. Amazingly, he did not win big at the start of his career, going 73-59 at West Point then 38-47 in his first three seasons at Duke. In today's win-now world, there's a better than even chance that Krzyzewski would have been run out of Durham for a record nine games under .500 over three years.
However, then-Duke athletic director Tom Butters stuck with Krzyzewski through the hard times. Now, Krzyzewski has 906 victories going into tonight's meeting with Kansas in the championship game of the Maui Classic.
Duke's patience with Krzyzewski is in stark contrast to today's Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC has four first-year coaches and Virginia's Tony Bennett is already fifth in the conference in seniority despite just beginning his third season.
The new coaches are Mark Turgeon at Maryland, Jim Larranaga at Miami, Mark Gottfried at North Carolina State and Brian Gregory at Georgia Tech.
Of the four, Turgeon has the most daunting task. He is not only replacing a legend in Gary Williams, who won 461 games and a national championship at Maryland and ranks third on the ACC all-time wins list behind Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, but inherited just eight scholarship players from a team that went 19-14 and missed the postseason.
"I've said many times, I don't ever think about Gary," said Turgeon, the Big 12 coach of the year each of the last two seasons at Texas A&M. "I think about doing the best job I can. All due respect to Gary, I want to be a legend. I want to be the next Gary Williams at Maryland. That's why I chose Maryland. I think it's a great place and it makes me a better coach."
Maryland is off to a 2-2 start, having beaten North Carolina-Wilmington and Colorado and lost to Alabama and Iona. Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin is leading with the way as he is averaging 19.3 points/3.8 rebounds/2.0 assists a game. Senior guard Sean Mosley has a 12.3/5.3/0.3 line as the Terps adjust to a new coach.
"We will lose a couple games this year that we probably wouldn't lose if this was my fourth year," Turgeon said. "I hope I'm wrong. Next year the core group of guys who are back will help me teach the incoming class and then those two classes will teach the next one. We've got a young team and they've got to understand that every possession counts and every possession matters and teaching that is a hard thing to do. You don't want to go through losing to teach that."
Larranaga, who spent the previous 14 years at George Mason, has been able to win right away at Miami. The Hurricanes are 4-0 after going 21-15 last season under Frank Haith, who left to become the coach at Missouri.
Miami has taken advantage of a soft schedule by beating Tennessee Tech, Rutgers, North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. The strength of the Hurricanes has been a veteran backcourt as senior guard Malcolm Grant is averaging 16.8/3.3/1.5 and junior Durand Scott has a 12.5/4.8/3.8 line.
Basketball has long taken a backseat to football in Miami. However, Larranaga is hoping to bring a higher profile to his program and perhaps gain additional exposure in Miami due to the NBA lockout at least temporarily shutting down the Heat's season.
"We need to create the enthusiasm to accomplish what we really want to," Larranaga said. "But eventually, the way to do that is to make yourself relevant in the national scheme, put yourself in position to do well in the NCAA tournament and possibly win a national championship. People have rallied around the Miami Heat because of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They created a buzz second to none in the country. Can we do that? Well, we're going to try."
North Carolina State has started 4-1 under Gottfried, who replaced former Wolfpack star Sidney Lowe. Lowe stepped down following a 15-16 season and never reached the NCAA tournament during his five-year tenure. The Wolfpack's lone loss is to Vanderbilt as they have beaten North Carolina-Asheville, Morehead State, Princeton and Texas.
Gottfried has been getting surprisingly good production all over the floor, with six players are scoring in double figures. Sophomore forward C.J. Leslie has taken a step forward after a so-so freshman season as he has posted an 18.5/4.5/1.5 line while junior forward Richard Howell is averaging 14.6/9.0/1.8.
Gottfried spent the last two seasons working as a television analyst for ESPN after walking away as Alabama's coach midway through the 2008-09 season. He believes he is a better coach because of his time behind the microphone.
"What I enjoyed was watching coaches work, watching them practice, sitting in staff meetings, talking to assistant coaches, watching teams and coaches prepare for one another," Gottfried said. "It's like I had a two-year clinic just watching and talking in a very relaxed kind of way. I think what happens is (that) you begin to see things through a much clearer lens. When I was at Alabama you had to be Barnum and Bailey a little bit. I spent a lot of time and energy running to every dog and pony show and every rubber chicken dinner there was. Once you step away, you realize what's important here is coaching my team, that's it."
Gregory comes to Georgia Tech as a proven winner after an eight-year stint at Dayton that included at least 22 wins in each of the last four seasons. The Yellow Jackets won't have it easy this season, as they lack experience and also a place to call home. They will play home games at Phillips Arena in downtown Atlanta and the Arena at Gwinnett while a new on-campus arena is built to replace Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Georgia Tech is 3-2, beating Delaware State, Florida A&M and Virginia Commonwealth while losing to St. Joseph's and Louisiana State, and hosts Siena tonight. One good sign is that the two players being counted on the most by Gregory are off to good starts. Sophomore forward Glen Rice Jr. has 15.0/7.5/3.5 averages and junior guard Mfon Udofia's line is 13.8/4.4/4.2.
Though he could be in for a rough debut season in the league, Gregory couldn't be happier to land a coaching gig in the ACC.
"This is a prestige-laden league that has a national brand when it comes to the premier basketball conference in the country," he said. "With that comes the spotlight of the media. It's all part of what makes us special. Basketball is important at every single institution. It's not like that in every conference."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.