Once Coach K passes Knight, nobody’s passing him

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UPDATE: Tuesday was the night. Congrats to Coach K.

There’s no guarantee Mike Krzyzewski’s record-breaking 903rd career victory happens Tuesday night. No. 6 Duke is only a six-point favorite against Michigan State, which might be why he’s downplayed the game a bit the last few days. (Then again, that’s also his style.)

But that win will happen soon. If not Tuesday, it’ll be Friday against Davidson. Then Coach K will pass his former coach, Bob Knight, as the all-time wins leader among D-I coaches – and just keep right on going.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Krzyzewski will eventually set a record that far surpasses any number Knight, Adolph Rupp or Dean Smith approached. (Pat Summit is another story.)

He’s headed for 1,000 wins, easy.

Coach K’s been headed there for years. When he won his 700th game in 2004, Bill Brill projected the Devils’ icon to reach 925 wins by February of 2012. (Yeah, Bill knew his stuff.) He’ll hit that mark and just keeping winning.

He’s 64, but Krzyzewski doesn’t seem anywhere near retirement. He’s a year removed from his fourth national title, had the nation’s No. 1 team for part of last season and again has the Devils ranked in the top 10. Part of that’s because of his maniacal focus on Duke’s game-by-game improvement. Few programs play more consistently over an entire season.

That’s how he approaches every game. Seems to have worked.

“I’d rather go out and try to win this game for the right reasons, and the residual is you get 903,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, that’s another perk you get from it. That’s not the perk. The perk is beating Michigan State, going 3-0 and becoming a better team. And then things add up.

“I’m good about not making it that big of a thing, even though I know it’s a big thing. I’m not minimizing it.”

But his longevity also comes from his ability to adapt to changes in college hoops. Some coaches don’t recruit well into their 60s. Not Coach K.

So consider him a lock to continue winning 29 games a season (his average total every season from the last 10 years) until he retires. Say he coaches until he’s 69. (Another four seasons after this one.) That’s about 145 victories, placing him at 1,050 career victories.

That might just be impossible to beat.

As Luke DeCock from the Raleigh News & Observer notes, plenty of coaches are already chasing him, but few will have everything fall into place to come close. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and UConn’s Jim Calhoun aren’t far behind Krzyzewski’s total, but both are older. Boeheim thinks West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has the best shot, but even 25 wins a season for 12 more years would place Huggins shy of 1,000.

Guys like North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Gonzaga’s Mark Few have better career win percentages, but got started too late in their careers to make a charge for Coach K.

That leaves the young guns.

Kansas’ Bill Self (445 wins at age 48) and Florida’s Billy Donovan (396 wins at age 46) are on pace, but need to continue racking up 30-win seasons for another 20 years. DeCock estimates Butler’s Brad Stevens would be 66 by the time he hit 900 wins.

(shakes head)

That’s the thing with Krzyzewski. Not only has he crushed it with the NCAA tournament – that run of seven Final Fours in a nine-year stretch is astounding – and in the ACC, but he’s done it at a remarkable rate for his entire career.

He’s a one-of-a-kind coach. That’s why he’s making this record unattainable until another Coach K comes along. Might be a long, long time though.

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.