Charlie Coles deserves to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame

Joe Robbins

Don't fret over his record, but do look at his body of work.

He's right, you know.

(Here's an incomplete list of people Dan Dakich has coached against as a head coach: Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Tubby Smith, and Bob Knight. Throw in his time as an Indiana assistant and you can include the likes of Keady, Calhoun, Pitino, Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.)

When news is dumped on a Friday, usually the weekend swallows it. Of course, death is for the most part in our society an unplanned event, so perhaps it is the exception to the news cycle. But memorials on the Internet have remained constant through this week on Charlie Coles The Coach and Charlie Coles The Person, and rightfully so.

It could be that he didn't place 1-A importance on winning. Yes, his teams won, and other times they didn't. His final three years were all losing seasons, perhaps a symbol of it being his time to retire, because even the legends sometimes stay around too long when winning matters. But winning isn't the most important thing at Miami, good coaches and people are. And Coles always taught not only his players, but his fans and the opposition as well. He also taught students, something coaches just don't do anymore, and he even called one of our writers hours before a season opener against Purdue to correct his incomplete grade. Who even does that anymore?

Without reinventing the post I wrote about his retirement, I'll just re-post the paragraph that still applies:

Much like the Mid-American Conference bands together during national tournaments and bowl games for a common goal, Charlie Coles was not just Miami's, but the entire MAC's basketball coach. He was ours, dammit, not yours.

Coles will be in the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame soon enough, possibly next year. (They just put Bob Nichols in last year, so have some patience.) Halls of Fame are reserved for winners, and while they embrace character, it's usually the W's in comparison to L's that determine legendary coaches in these regards. But coaching isn't solely about winning, or at least it shouldn't be. It's understood that a Hall of Fame coach doesn't just make the NCAA tournament three times, including one Sweet 16 and one trip thanks to a deposit from the First National Bank Of Doug Penno.

I wonder if he could have cashed in after that wonderful tournament run in 1999, or if teams would have been dissuaded by his health issues. But perhaps it was his first couple victories against death which gave him the demeanor and the perspective to enhance those around him until death's inevitable victory against him, and as a result, the conference and the sport are measurably better because of him. And it's that's not a good enough reason to have him in the Basketball Hall of Fame, then there probably isn't a very good reason to have a Basketball Hall of Fame.

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