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Dean Smith vs. Bob Knight[UPDATED]

Bob Knight passed Dean Smith with his 880th win as Texas Tech defeated New Mexico 70-68. Knight now tops the wins list in NCAA Division I basketball. Here is raw comparison of the two coaches by the numbers:

Dean Smith Bob Knight
Seasons 36 40+
Records 879-254 880-354
Games 1133 1234
Winning % .775 .713
NCAA Tournament Appearances 27 27
Consecutive Tourney Appearances 23 16
NCAA Tournament Record 65-28 44-25
Sweet Sixteens 21 10
Final Fours 11 5
NCAA Championships 2 3
First/Second Round Losses 5 7
Conference Titles ACC:
12 RS outright
5 RS tied
13 Tournment
Big Ten:
9 RS outright
2 RS tied
No Tourney

First of all this is not to detract from the things that Bob Knight has accomplished. I discussed the more controversial aspects of Knight's personality but one of the annoying parts of this whole lead up to Knight passing Dean is how much Knight has been extolled for breaking the record with some disregard for the facts themselves. The numbers are not even close as to which coach won more consistently both in the regular season and the tournament. Knight did end up with one more NCAA title than Dean but his other NCAA Tournament teams had a penchant for losing early and ugly, in some cases to double digit seeds. Dean had two long streaks in the NCAA Tournament. The first is consecutive tourney apperances at 23 and the other is consecutive Sweet Sixteens which is 13. Knight does not come close to either of these. The performance of each coach in their respective conferences is also telling. UNC won 17 regular season ACC titles and 13 ACC Tournament titles. Indiana under Knight won nine Big Ten titles outright and tied for two others(the Big Ten only recently added a postseason tournament.) Since arriving at Texas Tech, Knight has not come close to winning a Big 12 title. I am also of the biased opinion that winning the ACC is a more difficult task than winning the Big Ten or the Big 12 which makes Dean's performances all the more impressive.

Of course the most obvious difference between the two is the winning percentage with Dean being six percent better and the fact it took Knight over four more seasons and 100 extra games to get to the same win level as Dean Smith. In every respect Dean Smith and his teams have been consistently better than Knight coached teams. Couple this with Knight's predelection to make a complete jerk of himself on a regular basis it would seem that Dean is superior to Knight in almost every way. Then again the pundits have made an incredible effort to spin Knight was someone who did more with less but I would counter that by saying that he did not spend most of his career at Texas Tech but at the self proclaimed basketball capital of the world in Indiana so it is not like he was coaching in a place where it was difficult to recruit. The fact of the matter is Knight coached teams were largely inconsistent whereas Dean put teams on the court that could win year in and year out at or near the top level of college basketball. While Knight might have the record in many important aspects he does not have the same resume as Dean Smith.

So, ESPN and Dick Vitale can pimp this as though Knight has suddenly ascended to the top of the college basketball world. My take on it is how great a record can it really be when you have to coach four plus seasons longer than the other guy to actually pass him?


One of the posters at IC, Rikster, pointed out I did not indicate which regular season titles were ties for Dean Smith, I have corrected that now in the chart. Also that reminded me that under Dean UNC finished below third in the ACC in his 1st and 3rd seasons and never again after that. Rikster also made a good point about one of the cases Len Elmore had been making on ESPN concerning Bob Knight's Army days and how they would have contributed to the loss discrepancy between the two coaches:

One thing you don't adress is the annoying comment Len Elmore made on the air the other day (and I think I have heard other talk radio folks make - that somehow Knight coaching at Army for his first 6 years accounts for the discrepency in losses between the two. In other words, asserting that Knight had a harder road and therefore the 100-loss difference should be ignored.

I looked at this on another thread and Knight's record at Army was 102-50, while Dean's first six years at UNC (coming off sanctions) he was 104-46. That is pretty much even. Just food for thought. [Inside Carolina]

So basically the losses that occurred during Knight's six years at Army did not effect him any worse than Dean's first few years at UNC coming off sanctions from the Frank McGuire era. I also would think that UNC's schedule was probably more difficult than Army's though I will confess I have not researched that in great detail.