Four coaches have led their NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams to perfect records. One of those men, John Wooden, did it four times.
It has been 39 years since the last unbeaten team, 1975-76 Indiana. Kentucky can to add a fifth face to the Mount Rushmore of undefeated teams in college basketball.
Four wins separate UK and coach John Calipari from immortality.
|UNDEFEATED ENTERING NCAA TOURNAMENT|
|CAME OH SO CLOSE …|
|1960-61||* Ohio State||27-1|
|1967-68||# St. Bonaventure||23-2|
|1978-79||* Indiana State||33-1|
|* — Lost in the national championship game.
# — Lost in NCAA tournament and consolation game.
“The General” led Indiana to three national championships (1976, ’81 and ’87) during his tenure from 1971-2000. Knight was a four-time National Coach of the Year and was Big Ten Coach of the Year eight times. In 1987 he received the inaugural Naismith Coach of the Year. In 1992, Knight received the Naismith award for Men’s Outstanding Contribution to Basketball.
Knight, who also served as the head coach at Army and Texas Tech, finished 902-371 in his 42-year career. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991, and was a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2006.
With a career record of 664-162, the “Wizard of Westwood” won 10 national titles with UCLA between 1964-75. The Bruins missed out in 1966 and ’74, but the “Pyramid of Success” remains relevant 50 years later and has trascended the game. Wooden took over a sub-.500 team and went 22–7, the most wins in a season since UCLA began playing in 1919, and he never looked back.
Wooden coached two years at Indiana State (1947-48) before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Bruins from 1949-75, losing 10 or more games only five times in 27 years. In addition to four undeated seasons, Wooden’s teams lost one game three times. In the seven-year stretch between 1967-73, UCLA won seven titles and lost five games. He also was a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2006.
He spent nine seasons in Chapel Hill and reached the NCAA tournament two times. But boy, was that first dance memorable. North Carolina went 32-0 in 1956-57 and defeated Yale, Canisius and Syracuse in the East Regional. In the Final Four, the Tar Heels beat Michigan State and Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas — and both games went triple overtime.
In his fifth season at the helm, McGuire had led St. John’s to the NCAA title game in 1952 but lost to Phog Allen’s last Kansas championship team. McGuire accepted the UNC position following that runner-up season. After his nine-year stint with the Tar Heels, which led to the Dean Smith era in Chapel Hill, McGuire coached South Carolina for 16 years. McGuire was 549-237 in 30 seasons. He also was a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2006.
Henry Iba was the first, Adolph Rupp the second — but third time’s the charm. San Francisco’s Phil Woolpert was the third coach to win back-to-back NCAA DI men’s basketball national titles. His first was a 28-1 run in 1954-55, capped with a victory against LaSalle. For an encore, the Dons became the first team to run the table, completing a 29-0 season by defeating UCLA, Utah and SMU in the tournament before downing Iowa in the national championship game.
Woolpert coached San Francisco for nine seasons and made four NCAA tournament appearances (1955-58). The Dons’ success included a 60-game win streak, the NCAA mark until UCLA’s 88 consecutive wins under John Wooden. Woolpert also coached seven seasons at San Diego. He finished with a career mark of 243-168. He also was a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2006.
Seven teams have finished undefeated, coached by these four men. Eleven other teams previously have entered the postseason guantlet and lost in the tournament. Two of those suffered their loss in the national championship game: 1960-61 Ohio State and 1978-79 Indiana State.
What fate awaits Kentucky and Calipari? Will we have a fifth face on the game’s Mount Rushmore?