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Cal vs. K: Can K Be Caught?

It won’t be easy

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NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Duke at Kentucky
Nov 6, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari head to their locker room after shaking hands after the game during the Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Over at, Jerry Tipton has an article up about the complexity of Kentucky coach John Calipari where he quotes ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla as saying Calipari wants 1,000 career wins.

That might be an assumption on Fraschilla’s part, but let’s go with that. He also talks about how competitive Cal feels with Duke’s Coach K, which leads nicely to this question: is he aiming to supplant Mike Krzyzewski as the NCAA’s all-time win leader?

Well let’s look at that.

Krzyzewski has 1,132 career wins. Calipari has 709. The difference there is 423 wins. Assume for argument’s sake that Kentucky is averaging 30 wins a year under Cal. That would come out to 14.1 years, at which point Calipari would be 74.

Of course if you add in the games that were stripped from him at Memphis in 2007-08, he’d have 38 more. And while this is a stretch, imagine if he had coached in college for the four years he was coaching the New Jersey Nets. Give him 30 per year to keep things even.

That would be an additional 158 wins. which would cut the margin from 423 to 265 or, using 30 wins per year again, put him 8.8 years behind.

The problem for Calipari catching Krzyzewski though is that it’s a moving target: Coach K is still thriving and shows no signs of slowing down. And with his grandson walking on in the fall, that’ll make him more likely to stick around than he might have been otherwise.

So keep the 30 number and add in 120 for those four (theoretical) years. That would push Coach K out to 1,252 career wins which would mean that Cal would have to have 543 career wins from this point on to catch him which works out to 18.1 years, which would mean that not only would Calipari be 78 when he caught K, he’d have to maintain peak efficiency between now and then. Most coaches slip as they age. Krzyzewski is the exception to that rule but it’s very rare.

So it’s not impossible but it would be extremely hard.

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