EDITORIAL: Cheering Koach K's farewell ... finally

·4 min read

Apr. 7—So the Tar Heels fell four points short of winning the NCAA Div. 1 men's basketball tournament. As a No. 8 seed, and after taking a 40-25 lead over No. 1 seed Kansas at halftime, North Carolina fans have nothing to be ashamed of.

And they actually have something to be quite happy about: No more Koach K (I saw that small smile, Ricky — and join you).

The ancient, foul-mouthed head coach of Dook basketball, who looks a lot like the school's mascot (imagine a theological school with a devil as its mascot ... sheesh), finally hung it up last weekend, a bit earlier than he hoped for thanks to the Tar Heels.

Full disclosure: I'm not a UNC alum. My alma mater is 1,187 miles to the west, in Stillwater, Okla. But I am a fan of Carolina, both the state and the college.

North Carolina managed to spoil two major events on Koach K's farewell tour — the first when they whipped his Dookies in his final home game at Cameron. How sweet that was. And just to show it was no fluke, the Heels whipped 'em again on Saturday in the Final Four. Even sweeter (sorry, Dan Allen and Lynn Shaw).

Throughout March Madness, and even before, college basketball fans had to endure every network and every announcer — including a variety of former Dooksters, as well as the likes of Charles Barkley and even former Tar Heel Kenny Smith — applauding Koach K as the greatest and most successful basketball coach. Ever.

And there is a case to be made for that.

There's also plenty of room for debate.

There is no doubt that Koach K has won more games than any other college men's coach in history — with a final career mark of 1,202-363 for a 76.6% winning percentage. He's also won quite a few conference titles, some NCAA titles and coached a good number of NBA players over the years. There's also the Olympic teams he has guided.

But ... shouldn't a coach who is the benefactor of being able to recruit the best talent in the world — except in North Carolina — partly because of his coaching and partly because of Dook's reputation, be able to win at a 76% clip?

So if Dook fans and some others are going to say Koach K is the best ever, instead of comparing him with his peers in college basketball, why not put him into the mix with ALL basketball coaches? Like, say ... high school coaches?

Now there is where coaching is REALLY important. There's no recruiting (legally, lol). You have to put in a lot of effort even at the middle school level, and work with what you get at the high school level every year. Much tougher.

I will give you four others, all at the high school level, who are better basketball coaches than Koach K ...

— No. 4: Bob Hurley. No, not THAT Bob Hurley. His father. Hurley was 1,185-124 at St. Anthony High in New Jersey for a 90% winning percentage. He also won 26 state titles between 1973 and 2016, four national titles and coached 150 Div. I players. His son, Bobby, did play for Dook (his lone flaw) and his other son, Danny, played for Seton Hall. Both are Div. I coaches now, Bobby at Arizona State and Danny at UConn.

— No. 3: Gary McKnight. He was 1,188-121 at Mater Dei High in California for a 90.8% winning percentage. He won 11 state titles between 1987 and 2014 and one national title in 2014.

— No. 2: Morgan Wooten. He was 1,274-192 at DeMatha High in Maryland for an 86.9% winning percentage. He won 22 state titles between 1961 and 2002, including the 1961 title over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Power Memorial Academy in the first of his five national titles. He also never had a losing record. His worst season was 17-11.

— And No. 1: Robert Hughes, who was 1,333-265 at Ft. Worth Terrell High and Ft. Worth Dunbar in Texas for an 83.4% winning percentage. He captured five state titles between 1963 and 2003 after being drafted by the Boston Celtics and playing for the Harlem Magicians.

Koach K the best ever? Nah. he's just finally gone.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or cvincent@bladenjournal.com.