Could someone please explain to me how this is "Hall of Fame weekend" when Eddie Sutton is not in the Hall of Fame?
Matter of fact, Gary Williams and Roy Williams, the opposing coaches in the day's headline game, also are deserving but not (yet) in the Hall. While we're at it, let me throw in Gene Keady, Tex Winter, Jim Boeheim and Jerry Tarkanian. That's right, I said it: Tark the Shark is long overdue to get his due in Springfield, Mass.
The NBA doesn't have a problem getting active coaches elected. Take, for example, Lenny Wilkens. He has been inducted as both a player and a coach. While I have no problem with the player end of his induction, isn't it a little odd that he is in as a coach as well? Sure, he is the all-time winningest coach in NBA history, but he's also the all-time LOSINGEST!
Meanwhile, collegiate coaches like Gary Williams, Sutton and Boeheim have resurrected their alma maters, achieving success previous regimes only imagined. Keady has taken Purdue to 22 postseason tournaments in 24 years. Winter was a great college coach before helping the Bulls and the Lakers win a collective nine NBA championship rings. Tarkanian won an NCAA title to go along with his yearly domination of the PCAA, which became the Big West, at both Long Beach State and UNLV despite his lifelong beef with the NCAA, which tried endlessly to catch the ultimate "Rebel."
Accordingly, the Basketball Hall of Fame has become the NBA's hall, with the past two years coming and going without a men's college basketball coach being enshrined. Currently, the Hall of Fame committee has 24 voters, and a candidate must appear on at least 18 ballots to get in. While no one outside of the chairman knows who is on that committee, there seems to be a lack of an organized push for college coaches from the only other known member. Jim Haney, the executive director of the NABC, needs to have his own members nominate only one or two college coaches per year, so that votes are not split.
I can hear the cynics now. Eddie Sutton was caught by the NCAA while at Kentucky and therefore does not belong in the Hall. Does that mean we should take out Denny Crum, Don Haskins, Ray Meyer and Larry Brown, all of whom had run-ins with the NCAA, yet they are still in? What about John Wooden, who was a .500 coach at UCLA before legendary booster Sam Gilbert got involved?
No, instead we look at the great things that Crum did at Louisville, how Haskins coached the first-ever national championship team with five African-American starters, how Meyer built DePaul into one of the winningest programs in NCAA history, Brown for his runs at Kansas (and now the Pistons and just about everywhere else he coached) and Wooden as the greatest coach of all time.
Why are these other coaches being shunned?
Sutton took a program that had been to one NCAA tournament in the previous 25 years and coached it to 12 Dances in his first 14 seasons. He has more than 700 wins, was the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament and is one of only a handful of coaches to take two programs to the Final Four. He started the College of Southern Idaho's program (a fixture in JuCo basketball), did the same at Creighton, took Arkansas to the Final Four and, yes, failed at Kentucky, only to turn both his life and career around at Oklahoma State. Despite a couple of nominations, he has yet to be elected into the Hall.
Winter, most remember, was that crazy old guy who wanted Michael Jordan to run some offense known as the "Triangle." After a long, drawn-out, bitter fight, he won out and so did the Bulls, to the tune of six NBA crowns. Add the three others he helped the Lakers win (despite Kobe's similar complaints about the offense), and he is left with only a thumb for his Final Four ring from his time at Kansas State. He won eight Big 8 crowns in 15 years at K-State (with that same offense, then know as the Triple Post) and yet he too seems to be on the outside looking in.
Is this fair when Pete Carrill got in because of his contributions to the game? Carrill has an offense that, like Tex Winter's, has its disciples, and yet Winter won more conference titles in college alone than the Princeton offense disciples (less Carrill) have won collectively. Did I mention the nine NBA titles? Oh yes, and for those who think Winter had a dominant recruiting base at K-State when he was there, remember that he was competing against legendary coaches Phog Allen (Kansas), Ralph Miller (Wichita State) and Henry Iba (Oklahoma State). All the these men are in the Hall.
Gary Williams has taken a Maryland program from the shambles in which it was to 11 consecutive NCAA appearances and a national title. He has also done it in arguably the premier conference in the country at a time when North Carolina and Duke were at their best. Add seven Sweet 16s and you have yourself a Hall of Famer. The fact that he is still coaching should not affect his status since Coach K, Bob Knight, Lute Olsen and John Chaney are also still coaching (after the 26th season, a coach is eligible). The same goes for Boeheim, except he has been to 23 NCAA tournaments in 28 years and three championship games, with a 2003 ring to show for it. He has won more than 650 games and has 26 20-win seasons.
While it doesn't seem postseason success guarantees admission to the Hall, no two coaches catch more heat for their lack of NCAA success than Roy Williams and Gene Keady. Harry Litwack, Everett Case, John Cheney and Lou Carnesecca (all in the Hall) also never won the whole thing, and while Keady has never gotten to the Final Four, remember that it takes four wins to get there now as opposed to the two or three it used to take. Williams' career mark of 449-113 (80 percent) gives him the highest winning percentage in college basketball among active coaches. Keady has won the Big 10 six times and has 14 20-win seasons for a school that had five before he got there. In a 12-year stretch, Purdue finished first six times and second three times.
Lastly, there is Tarkanian, who is fourth on the all-time wins list and second with 29 20-win seasons, along with four Final Fours, a national championship, 12 first-round NBA draft picks ... and he never had a losing season in college! Yet he is not in the prestigious Hall that instead is home to Adolph Rupp, who fought integration until he thought it could help him win more. In as well is Aleksandr Gomelsky, Russia's legendary coach whose work puts him in, though his 1972 gold medal should carry more shame than that of an NCAA violation, and Harold Anderson, who coached at Bowling Green and Toledo and finished third in the NIT once.
These coaches mentioned seem destined to take each others' votes unless a change is made, which is unfortunate. While you watch hoops all day and hear Dickie V and the boys talk about the Hall of Famers on the sidelines, remember this: The only coach with a losing record at Kansas is Dr. James Naismith, and they named the Hall after him.
Doug Gottlieb is a college basketball analyst for ESPN and the co-host of GameNight for ESPN Radio. He played point guard at Notre Dame (1995-96) and Oklahoma State (1997-2000).