Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

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Who was the Titans' Greatest Basketball Coach

Lloyd Brazil
0
No votes
Ricky Byrdsong
0
No votes
Bob Calihan
3
14%
Royal Campbell
1
5%
Smokey Gaines
2
9%
Jim Harding
0
No votes
Ray McCallum
4
18%
Dick Vitale
7
32%
Perry Watson
5
23%
Other (specify in comments)
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 22

Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:00 pm

Who is the Titans' greatest hoops coach? (Though I've included some other info on some nominees, please rank only as Titan basketball coach). I figure there's really only a few serious contenders here, but we may as well use all our slots:

The Nominees, in alphabetical order:
Lloyd Brazil (1931-1946): One of the greatest football players in Titan history, Brazil also captained the basketball team, and led the 1929 team in scoring. After graduating in 1930, Brazil turned down offers to play professional baseball to take a position as Gus Dorais's assistant football coach and as head basketball coach at UD. In 16 seasons as head basketball coach, Brazil's team compiled an overall .609 winning percentage. From 1936-1939, his teams were among the best in the midwest, with a 4 year record of 54-19. His 1938 team finished 16-4 (a school record in wins at the time), with wins over Kentucky, DePaul (twice), and Nebraska. In 1943, Brazil's Titans led the nation in scoring defense, losing only to national powers Loyola, Great Lake Naval Station, Illinois, Marquette, and Notre Dame on the way to a 15-5 record. He coached the Titans' first All-American, Bob Calihan, on the 1938-40 teams. He also coached Art Stolkey and Lee Knorek, both of whom joined the NBA in that league's first season, 1947. Brazil has been inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (1961) and the Titans' Hall of Fame (1977).
Career Titan Record: 184-118 (.609)
Best Teams: 1938 (16-4; defeated Kentucky, DePaul (twice));
1943 (15-5, led nation in scoring defense)

Ricky Byrdsong (1988-1993): Took over at a low point in Titan hoops, after back-to-back 7-win seasons. 15-12 record in final season was only team's second winning season in 13 years, set stage for Perry Watson.
Career Titan Record: 53-87 (.379)
Best Teams: 1993 (15-12; defeated Notre Dame, MCC Champ Xaiver);
1992 (12-17; defeated Notre Dame, Xavier).

Bob Calihan (1948-1969): As a player, Calihan led the Titans in scoring each season from 1938-1940, and became the Titans first consensus All-American in 1939. After graduation, Calihan played professionally in the National Basketball League, a forerunner of the NBA. His former coach and then Athletic Director Lloyd Brazil hired Calihan to coach the Titans at the start of the 1947-48 season. In 21 seasons, Calihan won 306 games, still the Titan career record. He was 60th in career wins among all coaches when he gave up the reins after the 1969 season. Calihan coached All-Americans Norm Swanson, Guy Sparrow, Bill Ebben, Dave DeBusschere, Dorie Murrey, and Spencer Haywood while at Detroit. He led the Titans to their first NIT (1960) and NCAA berths (1962), and was the first Titan coach to attain a top 20 AP ranking. His 1961 team reached a Titan high #3 national ranking after early season wins over #6 Utah State and #3 Indiana. Calihan's 1951 team finished just 17-14, but defeated #1 ranked Bradley and #2 ranked Oklahoma State (#1 in the UPI poll at game time) during the regular season. Later served as Athletic Director. The Titans' arena is named for Calihan.
Career Record: 306-241 (.559)
Best Teams: 1960 (20-7; peaked at #11 in polls; defeated Purdue, Boston College, Marquette (twice), Notre Dame, New Mexico, Seton Hall, Xavier, and Creighton; lost to #17 Villanova 88-86 in NIT);
1950 (20-6; first Titan team to win 20 games; defeated #4 Bradley, #15 St. Louis, Michigan State, and Marquette (twice) during season)

Royal Campbell (1910-13; 1917-1919). The Titans' first official coach, Campbell led Detroit to undefeated seasons in 1911 and 1913. The latter team was retroactively deemed the #9 team in the country at season's end in the Historical Encyclopedia of Basketball.
Career Record: 49-22 (.690)
Best Teams: 1913 (13-0; #9 team in country per Historical Encyclopedia);
1911 (6-0; at a time when teams rarely scored more than 30 points, this team had an average victory margin of 28 points per game, winning every game by at least 17 points).

Smokey Gaines (1978-79). Coach for just two years, Gaines's teams went 47-10 for an .855 winning percentage, highest in Titan history. Taking over just before the 1978 season when Dick Vitale resigned for health reasons, Gaines's coached All-Americans John Long, Terry Tyler, and Terry Duerod, all of whom Gaines had been instrumental in recruiting as Vitale's top assistant, plus the great Earl Cureton. His 1979 club is the last Titan team to achieve a national ranking, finishing the season ranked #20 in the UPI poll.
Career Record: 47-10 (.855)
Best Teams: 1978 (25-4; finished season #18 in final AP poll; jobbed out of an NCAA bid, defeated VCU before losing to NC State in NIT);
1979 (22-6; upset in NCAA by Lamar; beat Georgetown, Marquette, Oregon; ranked as high as 16th in AP poll, but fell out of final poll; finished 20th in final UPI poll.)

Jim Harding (1970-73). Harding took over at another time of chaos in Titan basketball. Expecting to inherit All-American Spencer Haywood from the 1969 team that had been ranked as high as #7 nationally, Haywood turned pro as the original "hardship" case. Thousand-point scorer Jerry Swartzfager also graduated, and the returning players simply weren't much good. The players then literally revolted against Harding, who was infamous for his "tough discipline." But Harding got pretty good results on the floor. After an initial 7-18 season, Harding's teams went 48-27 his last three years.
Career Record: 55-45 (.550).
Best Teams: 1972 (18-6; blew out #2 Marquette 70-49, ending the Warriors 56 game regular season winning streak; beat #20 Duquesne and #17 Ohio; reached a peak at #18 in UPI poll. Were passed over for post-season when it was discovered that Titans had unintentionally used an ineligible player during the season.)
1973 (16-9; beat Illinois and Wisconsin).

Ray McCallum (2009-2016). Taking over after a 7-23 season and 4 straight non-winning years, McCallum turned the team around his second year, posting the Titans' first 20-win season in 9 years. Led Titans to first NCAA berth in 13 years in 2012 season. McCallum, Calihan, Gaines, and Watson are the only Titan to coach both NCAA and NIT teams.
Career Record: 130-132 (.496)
Best Teams: 2013 (20-13; reached NIT).
2012 (22-14; won Titans first Horizon League Tournament and first NCAA bid since 1999; defeated St. John's in regular season, only win over Big East team since 2001 NIT).


Dick Vitale (1974-77): Sometimes it's hard to believe that Vitale was coach at Detroit for just four years (plus one more as AD only), given his impact on the school. Vitale took over for the much-despised Harding, with a team projected by most for a losing season. Instead, he started off 11-1, with wins over Minnesota, Michigan State, and a crushing defeat of Michigan. Though that team tailed off to finish at 17-9, by the time he stepped down from coaching for health reasons in 1977, Vitale had established the Titans as a national power. The Titans' floor is named for Vitale.
Career Record: 78-30 (.722).
Best Teams: 1977 (25-4; reached Sweet 16 of NCAA, losing to #1 ranked Michigan; 21 game winning streak; finished season ranked #12 in AP poll, Titans' best ever final ranking);
1976: (19-8; defeated Michigan State, DePaul)

Perry Watson (1994-2008). The Titans' second winningest all-time coach, Watson led the Titans to NCAA Tournament wins in back-to-back years in 1998 and 1999, the only time the Titans have done that. His 2001 team reached NIT Final Four. Though he never had a team crack the national rankings, between 1998 and 2002 the Titans were consistent vote getters, with a peak of 28th most in February, 1998. The Titans have not received votes in the poll since Watson's 2002-03 team gained a handful of votes in December. Only Titan coach to win a regular season conference title. Coached All-Americans Willie Green and Rashad Phillips. Inducted into the Titan Hall of Fame in 2014.
Career Record: 258-185 (.582)
Best Teams: 1998 (25-6; beat St. John's in first round of NCAA; won Titans first regular season Horizon League championship);
1999 (25-6; beat UCLA in first round of NCAAs; won Horizon regular season and tournament; I rank the 1998 team, which had had a better RPI (43 vs. 49), strength of schedule (142 v. 150), and average margin of victory (11.5 v. 8.1), and had regular season wins over Michigan State and Iowa State, as slightly the better of the two).
Last edited by Commissioner on Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby HSScout1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:58 pm

No BA?
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby MooseGuy1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:00 pm

I chose Smokey Gaines. Sure it was short-lived and he had good players, but his winning percentage is too good to be ignored. Plus he came in after Dick Vitale which couldn't have been easy. For the job he was tasked with, he excelled. Smokey Gaines is the man.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby MooseGuy1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:05 pm

C'mon, give me some votes for Gaines.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby HSScout1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:14 pm

MooseGuy1 wrote:C'mon, give me some votes for Gaines.


Smokey is a cool name, but I'll stick with St. Perry.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Motor City Sam » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:05 pm

MooseGuy1 wrote:I chose Smokey Gaines. Sure it was short-lived and he had good players, but his winning percentage is too good to be ignored. Plus he came in after Dick Vitale which couldn't have been easy. For the job he was tasked with, he excelled. Smokey Gaines is the man.


I went with Smokey. He played a big role in the Vitale era and of course his two years as head coach were great.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby MooseGuy1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:20 pm

Way to go, Sam! For his time, Gaines was outstanding. I would expect most teams to have a significant fall off after a coaching change, with player defections, a new style and system, etc. Especially after a guy like Vitale. When you look at the big picture and in hindsight, Smokey Gaines' era was nothing short of greatness. The short tenure may hurt him, but like Denny McLain and Bob Gibson in 1968, he was so successful at that point in time that I think he deserves the nod here.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:35 pm

HSScout1 wrote:No BA?

There is an option for "other" in which you can specify your selection in the comments. Just so you know.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:39 pm

No love for Royal Campbell? Two undefeated teams! #9 team in the country in 1913!!
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby MooseGuy1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:48 pm

Well Commissioner, you might remember 1913 like it was yesterday but for the rest of us that's a long time ago. By the way, who did you vote for?
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby udballer » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:30 pm

Had to vote for Royal Campbell on the strength of his two undefeated seasons.

I remember sitting in on alot of old Royal's practices at UofD when I was in school. One day the whole team got tired of practicing their underhanded free throws and I watched him invent the "pick and roll"... out of sheer boredom. :)
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:57 pm

Can't believe Watson fans will let Vitale steal this one!
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby HSScout1 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:09 pm

Commissioner wrote:Can't believe Watson fans will let Vitale steal this one!


We can "fix" that if you let me have a second vote :lol:
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby JimmyChitwood » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:11 pm

MooseGuy1 wrote:For his time, Gaines was outstanding. I would expect most teams to have a significant fall off after a coaching change, with player defections, a new style and system, etc. Especially after a guy like Vitale.

Smokey was lucky to inherit a very good team. Coaching under Vitale the Smokey years were sort of a continuation of the Vital "era." It would have been interesting to see how the team would have been had he not sought the sun of SoCal.

As a young teen at the time, I liked Gaines because he, like BA, was a Globetrotter, although I think Gaines played while BA was a promo man. I see Smokey is not the AD for Memphis City Schools.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:17 pm

Allright, who's stuffing the box for Ray?
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:37 pm

MooseGuy1 wrote: By the way, who did you vote for?

Jim Harding, of course.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Tacitus651 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:50 pm

I was one of the 3 votes for Ray. Great athletic teams, NCAA and NIT appearances. Pure class all around. I recognize that other coaches did "more" as far as winning percentage and maybe had "signature wins" but Ray was handicapped by coaching a struggling program with internal athletic department scandals that would have sent most men packing. Also, recruited good kids (exception of an initial incident with Holman and the Paris Bass saga) and saw most of them earn college degrees in an era when fewer MBB athletes do. I see Vitale is winning the poll, and I respect his success. I wasn't alive when he coached but my analysis after reading about him suggests he was a complete opportunist. He coached 4 years and left for the Pistons when they offered $100,000 and a new car. All of us are opportunists to a degree and all of us sometimes need to take what seems like a golden opportunity, but something about him being the best coach just bothers me.

I guess I respect Watson, but he robbed me of enjoyable basketball when I was a student from 2005-2008. Not very much fun to watch.

People look back fondly on what they can actually remember. That's why virtually no one will tell you Rogers Hornsby was the greatest baseball player of all time. I loved watching Ray's teams play. I remember the home game winning streak and watching the players tape the pieces of paper on the wall after each win. I remember going to games at Loyola and UIC and meeting a ton of other alumni. It was a really special time. Perhaps there were better times but I'm too young to have experienced.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby NC Titan » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:34 pm

Tacitus651 wrote:I was one of the 3 votes for Ray. Great athletic teams, NCAA and NIT appearances. Pure class all around. I recognize that other coaches did "more" as far as winning percentage and maybe had "signature wins" but Ray was handicapped by coaching a struggling program with internal athletic department scandals that would have sent most men packing. Also, recruited good kids (exception of an initial incident with Holman and the Paris Bass saga) and saw most of them earn college degrees in an era when fewer MBB athletes do. I see Vitale is winning the poll, and I respect his success. I wasn't alive when he coached but my analysis after reading about him suggests he was a complete opportunist. He coached 4 years and left for the Pistons when they offered $100,000 and a new car. All of us are opportunists to a degree and all of us sometimes need to take what seems like a golden opportunity, but something about him being the best coach just bothers me.

I guess I respect Watson, but he robbed me of enjoyable basketball when I was a student from 2005-2008. Not very much fun to watch.

People look back fondly on what they can actually remember. That's why virtually no one will tell you Rogers Hornsby was the greatest baseball player of all time. I loved watching Ray's teams play. I remember the home game winning streak and watching the players tape the pieces of paper on the wall after each win. I remember going to games at Loyola and UIC and meeting a ton of other alumni. It was a really special time. Perhaps there were better times but I'm too young to have experienced.


First of all, Honus Wagner was the greatest baseball player of all time. Babe Ruth was most talented, but Wagner was the best.

Second, my problem with Ray was that he could have done so much more. He had awesome talent on his teams but he subordinated team success to Ray Jr. success. A team with equal roles for Ray and Minnerath and Holman and Bruinsma should have totally dominated the league and gone places in post-season, but with the focus always on Ray Jr. they were not allowed to flourish. Consider what Minnerath has done in the pro leagues: If he dominate a pro league he should have been much, much better at UDM. All that said, I like Ray personally but I think his missing objectivity hurt our team's success.

And as far as Vitale, remember that he was paid $16,000 to coach at UofD and the school's finances were failing so not much prospect of a payday down the road for staying.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Tacitus651 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:06 pm

I agree with most of that. But it's still my vote and I'm not changing. I don't blame Vitale for leaving. Hell, if someone called me right now and offered 5 times my salary and a new car I'd be on the first plane to my new employer. From what I gather, Vitale was a marketing genius and the absolute best at interacting with the public. Like others have said here, he'd give free tickets away and pack the hall. We don't operate in a time when a HC can do that. If 1970s Vitale took a time machine to present day he probably wouldn't be successful, at least not in the long run.
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Re: Poll: Greatest Titan Coach

Postby Commissioner » Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:22 pm

Tacitus651 wrote:I agree with most of that. But it's still my vote and I'm not changing. I don't blame Vitale for leaving. Hell, if someone called me right now and offered 5 times my salary and a new car I'd be on the first plane to my new employer. From what I gather, Vitale was a marketing genius and the absolute best at interacting with the public. Like others have said here, he'd give free tickets away and pack the hall. We don't operate in a time when a HC can do that. If 1970s Vitale took a time machine to present day he probably wouldn't be successful, at least not in the long run.


Not rekindling a debate on Vitale or Ray, but I do think people sometimes underestimate how difficult the UDM job is. It was considered a tough job when Vitale accepted the offer in the spring of 1973. Yet back then, our Titans had been nationally ranked as recently as the winters of both 1972 and 1969. We'd had a consensus 1st Team All-American in 1969. In those days, scheduling was just beginning to pinch "mid-majors" (a term not yet invented). In 1972-73, the year before Vitale took over, we played Wisconsin, Illinois, Villanova, Michigan, and St. Bonaventure (then a first rank national power) at Memorial Hall. The city of Detroit was in rapid decline after the 1967 riots, but still with a much greater population and much more fertile recruiting than today. And of course Memorial Hall wasn't yet "historic," but by the standards of the day was not nearly so outclassed by the gold-plated facilities that greet players at high-majors today. The achievement of Vitale, ably assisted by Smokey Gaines, was really remarkable, and took incredible energy, enthusiasm, and skill. It takes nothing away from Vitale to say that such a rapid rise to national prominence is almost inconceivable today. It's going to be a long haul back, with no guarantees or quick fixes, I think.
Last edited by Commissioner on Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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