If LeBron had any eligibility left, I would say “yes.”
You may have read yesterday that Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim reached the 900-win marker last night against the Detroit Titans. The 900-Club is a pretty exclusive group, with only three members so far: Bobby Knight, Coach K, and now Boeheim. With more games per season now than ever (teams and TV stations have to make their money, after all), it’s worth asking: will Kentucky ever have a coach reach the 900 win marker?
Short answer: probably not.
The closest any UK coach has gotten, as you might have guessed, is Adolph Rupp, who amassed a very healthy 876 wins in 41 years. With 190 losses to go along with that, he averaged 26 games per season. Rupp might have gotten his 900th win if teams then simply played more games. In his first three seasons, Cal averaged 38.67 games, with an 88% win record. Averaging 34 wins in those seasons, Cal would need to maintain that ridiculously high pace for… oh, only twenty-six-and-a-half years to get 900 wins at Kentucky. Even if you consider the games he’s won elsewhere, like Memphis and UMass, that puts his total at 554; even then, should he average 34 wins/year (including this season), it would still take over ten more years to eclipse the 900 mark.
And that, as we know, probably isn’t going to happen. Not with Cal. As he told Andy Katz and ESPN magazine earlier this month: “This [Kentucky] is a 10-year run. I’m not doing it for numbers or to pass everyone’s win record.” And, okay, so it might not happen with Cal; but why can’t it happen with another coach on down the line?
Because Cal’s made Kentucky into one of the hardest jobs around. It’s been by far the most rewarding job around, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Cal, in order to keep the program at unprecedented levels of recruiting, spends a ton of time on the road (with his salad-filled tupperware, of course). “Camp Cal,” as it’s come to be known, sounds like as much work for the coach as it does for the players involved. And if Kentucky basketball never stops, then there’s no such thing as an offseason. That’s just something other schools have, like NIT banners and Christian Watford memorials.
The Kentucky head coach position, for all its prestige (and there is a lot), simply is not one that can be held for decades at a time, like in Rupp’s day. Boeheim has obviously been a great coach at Syracuse during his decades there. But really consider: could he have lasted as long in Lexington? Probably not. Not because the fans are vicious, or the work uninspiring; it’s just a hard job.
So enjoy the wins as they come, and appreciate each season individually. The coaches, and the players, would probably ask you to do the same.