Vanderbilt's Newton is not the only coach closing in on victory No. 500. At week's end Indiana's Bob Knight was only three wins away from becoming the 26th Division I coach to reach that career plateau, one that was achieved last week by Alabama-Birmingham's Gene Bartow and earlier this season by Missouri's Norm Stewart.
At 47, Knight, who has been a head coach for 24 years, would be the youngest coach to reach 500 wins. If he were to coach another 19 seasons and average 20 wins in each, he would surpass the record of 875, won by Rupp in his 41 years at Kentucky.
Another coach with at least a mathematical chance to catch Rupp is North Carolina's Dean Smith, who earlier this season passed retired Washington coach Marv Harshman's 642 wins to move into seventh place on the alltime list. The 57-year-old Smith, who has coached 28 years, could surpass Rupp by averaging 25 wins over the next nine seasons.
Oregon State's Ralph Miller, at 69 the oldest active Division I coach, is in his 38th, and last, season, and at week's end he had 642 wins. He, too, is certain to pass Harshman on the alltime list. Only 11 Division I coaches have won as many as 600 games, the most recent being Florida's Norm Sloan, who reached that level last year, in his 36th season.
At his current rate, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse will join the 600 club in about 2002. Last week Boeheim won No. 300, in the 13th game of his 13th season, when the Orangemen beat St. Francis 105-63. Of all major-college coaches, only North Carolina State's Everett Case and Louisville's Denny Crum got to 300 earlier in their careers.
Because Columbia is a New York City school situated just uptown from the major networks' TV headquarters, its basketball players, many grooming themselves for careers on Wall Street or Madison Avenue, surely had no trouble grasping the profit motive behind their curious trip to Las Vegas last week to play in the Bud Light Holiday Classic, hosted by UNLV.
Under the original format, the Lions were to play twice in a four-team tournament. However, before the season began, NBC offered UNLV a national TV shot against Oklahoma on Jan. 28, and Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian had a dilemma. The Oklahoma game would put the Runnin' Rebels over the NCAA limit of 27 regular-season games, so Tark—who certainly doesn't need any more conflicts with the NCAA—had to find a way to stay within the limit while still playing both nights in the Bud Light Classic to assure good crowds.
The creative solution was to eliminate the tournament format—and Columbia's second game—and bring in San Jose State, which Vegas had been scheduled to play at home later in the season in a Big West Conference game. Columbia played one game, against Hartford, and went home $46,000 richer. So the Lions flew some 4,600 miles round-trip to play a school that's located only 110 miles from the Columbia campus.