In post-Calhoun era, which national champion coach will retire next?

by | College Basketball Blogger

Fisher, at 67 and with 22 seasons on the bench, may be the next title-winning coach to retire. (US Presswire)  
Fisher, at 67 and with 22 seasons on the bench, may be the next title-winning coach to retire. (US Presswire)  

Jim Calhoun has left the game. Really.

I sort of won't believe that for a while, even after the season begins and Kevin Ollie is sitting on the UConn bench. Even more odd than seeing the Huskies out of the postseason will watching this team be coached by someone not berating the refs every other possession.

Calhoun's retirement got me thinking about coaching mortality. Even the best in college basketball can never outrun, out-coach or out-play life. Calhoun's retirement was a major one in sports. Will it trigger more big-time retirements?

With Calhoun gone, 11 active coaches remain who've won at least one national title. With Larry Brown added to the mix, college hoops is peppered with legends in the winter of their careers. How long does each of these coaches have left?

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Jim Boeheim, 67 (Seasons as coach: 36; Syracuse, 2003)

Boeheim will turn 68 in mid-November, just after the season starts. He did a radio tour last week after Calhoun retired, and I didn't hear one host ask Boeheim how much time he has left. Syracuse already looks to have a successor in assistant Mike Hopkins. But is there a set succession schedule? And if a major job opens next spring, would Hopkins take it if Boeheim was still three years away from retiring? We saw something similar happen in college football -- Will Muschamp was the heir apparent at Texas, but took the Florida job in 2011; even now, Mack Brown's still not ready to retire.

Boeheim, a true lifer at Syracuse, is very emotionally connected to the university. But even with the chaos of the 2011-12 season behind him, Boeheim likely won't stick around for years and years. It's been argued he has nothing else to turn to. Quite the contrary -- I present Juli Boeheim.

Best guess at retirement: 2016

Larry Brown, 72 (Seasons: 7; Kansas, 1988)

What are you doing on this list, Larry Brown? The current Southern Methodist coach did win a title in 1988. Now he's back on the college sidelines. I spent some time with Brown this summer. He's a man happy to be where he is, but I don't know whether he'll see success there. But when Brown is done at SMU, he'll definitively be done in college basketball.

Best guess at retirement: 2014

John Calipari, 53 (Seasons: 20; Kentucky, 2011)

Calipari has said he doesn't expect to coach at Kentucky beyond a decade. That means not beyond the age of 60. You buying that? There seems so much to come with Calipari and his program. Could be great. Could be bad. We just don't know. He could win another three titles in Lexington and leave as big a legend as Adolph Rupp, if not bigger.

I can't imagine Calipari walking away at 60. He loves coaching kids too much. Maybe by 65, and maybe he'll have one more tour in another town before he hangs it up, but I'm not seeing this end before the decade is out.

Best guess at retirement: 2024

Billy Donovan, 47 (Seasons: 18; Florida, 2006, 2007)

Donovan has two titles at Florida, but he's still hungry. I can see Donovan retiring early, however. I can't picture him coaching at 60 the way I can the second-youngest coach on this list, Kansas' Bill Self.

Best guess at retirement: 2020

Steve Fisher, 67 (Seasons: 22; Michigan, 1989)

Fisher was Michigan's interim coach in 1989, but I'm giving it to him here. Of all the coaches on this list, even Brown, Fisher looks most ready to retire. He's got a great team at San Diego State, where he's been for more than a decade. Still, I don't think he's long for the coaching profession. But when he leaves it, Fisher will leave the Aztecs in much better shape than he found them.

Best guess at retirement: 2015

Mike Krzyzewski, 65 (Seasons: 37; Duke, 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010)

Coach K is hard to read. I can't see him staying on too long -- but what's too long? Duke will never be bad so long as he's there. Still, he seems to have entered the final phase of a career that's overseen the construction of one of the best programs in the country and a return to greatness of USA Basketball. Whereas Boeheim would love, and may be driven by, getting that second title, Krzyzewski has not one title, but four -- trailing only Wooden for the all-time mark.

I think Krzyzewski stays for few more years, then walks away with an even 40 years of coaching to his legacy.

Best guess at retirement: 2015

Tom Izzo, 57 (Seasons: 17; Michigan State, 2000)

Like Coach K, Izzo also turned won an offer to coach in the NBA. And just as Boeheim is connected only to Syracuse, Izzo will likely step away from coaching only having ties to Michigan State. Eventually Izzo will leave as the best coach the Spartans have ever had. Six Final Fours don't lie. Still, he's a very young 57. I hope we've got a good long while left of Tom Izzo coaching in college hoops.

Best guess at retirement: 2024

Rick Pitino, 60 (Seasons: 27; Kentucky, 1996)

Technically, Pitino turns 60 on Tuesday, but the Louisville decade has aged him considerably. Last spring Pitino said he'll coach until 2017. But Pitino is a basketball junkie. Can he win that elusive second national title? The upcoming season will probably give him his last best chance. And if he wins it? Would he take a cue from what Calhoun didn't do -- walk away on top? I think he wonders if he can step away and do it for good.

Best guess at retirement: 2016

Bill Self, 49 (Seasons: 19; Kansas, 2008)

I see at least two more decades of Kansas' Bill Self in the game. He's the second-youngest coach on this list, and I'd bet on him winning at least another championship before he retires.

Best guess at retirement: 2031

Tubby Smith, 61 (Seasons: 21; Kentucky, 1998)

At Minnesota since resigning in Lexington in 2007, there's speculation Smith is fast approaching retirement. I could see him leaving coaching, but not leaving the game. And I hope that's the case. He's one of the most respected head coaches out there, but you never hear as much about his stature as you should.

Best guess at retirement: 2014

Roy Williams, 62 (Seasons: 24; North Carolina, 2005, 2009)

I think ol' Roy is now old Roy. And that's OK, because he's still got plenty of charm. But how much coaching stamina is left in him? He suffers from vertigo, and recruiting for the Tar Heels has gotten tougher for him in recent years because Williams prides himself on the talent he can bring to Chapel Hill. Will he ever stop and realize he's been at his alma mater for a decade and won as many championships as Dean Smith did in one-third the time?

I think he probably wants a few years more in the ACC to see what he can do after Krzyzewski leaves. Not that he needs the legitimacy, but coaches can be funny in the way they're motivated. If Williams' health and energy can stay at the level they're at for another five years, I think he sticks around.

Best guess at retirement: 2018


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