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Sitting on Top

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Courtesy: Lauren Reynolds, ESPN.com

Bob Knight may have received the most attention when he surpassed Dean Smith on the all-time men's basketball career wins list earlier this year, but Knight is not the only active coach to reach that milestone in his respective sport. In fact, he's not even the only one who did so this year. Brown coach Digit Murphy scored her 293rd career win in December to put her at the top of the women's hockey coaching list.

Bob Knight got his record-breaking 880th win on New Year's Day. In fact, of the 12 Division I team sports that the NCAA tracks coaching records in, active coaches have set the all-time wins record in eight of them: Bobby Bowden, football; Anson Dorrance, women's soccer; Augie Garrido, baseball; Pat Summitt, women's basketball; Cindy Timchal, women's lacrosse; and Margie Wright, softball.

How did these coaches get to be so successful? In talking with a number of active wins leaders, it's clear that across sports, there are a few common denominators: passion for the job; endurance; patience; and a focus on the players' well-being, both on and off the playing field. Nearly all of the coaches have been in the profession for at least two decades, some more than five. To have that type of longevity in any career -- but especially one as grueling as coaching -- you have to be successful, not only in the wins column, but also with your players.

When asked what advice they'd give to new coaches, the record-breakers had a similar response: focus on the players. Whether it was Dorrance cultivating a family atmosphere in Chapel Hill, N.C., or Timchal encouraging her players to strive to beat their personal best, each of these coaches found a unique and profound way to communicate with their team.

"Looking back, I don't remember the score of every game," Murphy said. "But I remember the notes that former players have written to me, telling me how much Brown hockey meant to them. That's why I coach. My advice to new coaches is simple: be a sponge. Learn from everyone you can. Work your butt off. In this field, if you don't love it, you can't do it."

To read the rest of Lauren Reynolds' feature on Digit Murphy as seen on ESPN.com, click here.