Jon Teitel's "Coaching Greats" Series: Florida State and Georgia's Hugh Durham

October 27th, 2011
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Hugh Durham. During his time as a college coach Durham led two programs (Florida State and Georgia) to their first (and to this date only) Final Four appearances, with Florida State losing to UCLA in the 1972 NCAA title game.

Jon Teitel: You were a highly-recruited athlete coming out of Eastern (KY) HS (all-state QB and all-region in basketball), and as a basketball player at Florida State your 18.9 career PPG is still top 10 in school history. Which sport were you better at, and what is the secret to being a great scorer?

Hugh Durham: I enjoyed basketball the most: even though I signed with Kentucky to play football back in the 1950s, I wanted to play basketball. Bear Bryant had been there a few years before I got there. Kentucky did not need good basketball players. They wanted great basketball players.

JT: In 1957 you scored 43 points in a win over Stetson (which remains the second-best mark in school history). Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?

HD: I had some other high-scoring games during my career. I remember the Stetson game, but not everything that happened that night. I remember getting my last few points by driving to the basket and getting fouled.

JT: You served as Coach Bud Kennedy's assistant for seven seasons at Florida State before taking over for him in 1966 after he passed away. What made him such a great coach, and was it hard to replace him?

HD: He had developed cancer in March of 1966 and passed away a few months later. Vaughn Mancha was the AD who hired me. I was a young guy with no head coaching experience, but he made the decision to go with me. Coach Kennedy always gave you an opportunity to use your abilities. He gave me a lot of responsibility and would give me a lot of credit when our team performed well, which I think is one of the unique things that made him so special.

JT: In your first season you signed Lenny Hall (the first African-American basketball player at FSU), but he twisted his knee a few minutes into his very 1st game and ended up missing the rest of the season. How big a deal was it at the time to have an African-American player, and how bad did he feel after getting injured right at the start of the season?

HD: Lenny got hurt only a couple of minutes into his first game after putting up a lot of stats in a short amount of time. He was going up to block a shot and came down on top of the opposing player and tore his knee up. The medical profession was not as advanced in that era, so he was out for a long time. He was a great fit to be our first African-American player because of his personality. Everyone on the team respected him as both a player and a person. They honored Lenny at a reunion a couple of years ago and thanked him by offering to give his grandkids a scholarship to Florida State.

1972 NCAA Tournament

JT: Future baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield scored eight points and grabbed eight reboudns for Minnesota in defeat. How good an athlete was Winfield back then?

HD: We knew he was a great athlete, and he was a premier player on their team. Looking back on it I think he made the right decision to go into baseball!

JT: Ron King scored 22 points in a win over Kentucky. How does it feel to know that you were the last coach to ever beat Adolph Rupp?

HD: I was recently asked about the most significant games I ever coached and I said the Kentucky game was right at the top. I grew up in Kentucky and was a fan of all their teams. Coach Rupp was one of the best coaches in the country. I got to know him over the years, and I would have been pulling for him if he had been playing against anyone else in the country. It was a meaningful win for us but it was also bittersweet to have a legend go out like that.

JT: Reggie Royals had 18 points and 10 rebounds in a four-point win over North Carolina (Bob McAdoo: 24 points and 15 rebounds). Could you tell at the time that McAdoo was going to become a star?

HD: We were up by a lot after McAdoo fouled out but they almost came back to beat us. I knew that he was a great player even dating back to his JC career, so we were fortunate that he got into foul trouble.

JT: Tournament MOP Bill Walton had 24 points and 20 rebounds in a five-point UCLA win in the title game (UCLA's closest title game during their run of 10 NCAA titles under John Wooden). Was Walton just unstoppable that night, and how close did you come to breaking the Bruins' record streak?

HD: We played them really strong until our big guys got in foul trouble late in the first half. Swen Nater came in for Walton after he got in foul trouble to finish us off. Walton lived up to all his hype. He was a talented player and loved to play as part of a team. I may have been the only coach in the history of the sport to play Kentucky with Coach Rupp, North Carolina with Coach Smith, and UCLA with Coach Wooden back-to-back-to-back. Nobody in their right mind would schedule them all in a row, so you know it could only have happened in the NCAA Tournament!

JT: What are your memories of the 1978 NCAA Tournament (Mickey Dillard scored 21 points in a nine-point loss to eventual champion Kentucky)?

HD: We had lost to Louisville right before the tourney, which hurt our seeding as we ended up playing #1-seed Kentucky. We were up by seven points at halftime and Coach Joe Hall started the second half by benching some of his best players like Rick Robey and Jack Givens. He put in two freshman forwards who were able to keep it close, and then he put his starters back in who helped lead them to the win. I later told Joe that he probably would have been fired if that strategy had not worked!

JT: What are your memories of the 1982 NIT Final Four as head coach at Georgia (Georgia beat Temple, Maryland and Virginia Tech, then Dominique Wilkins scored 15 points in a one-point loss to eventual runner-up Purdue)?

HD: We had several high school All-Americans like Wilkins and Vern Fleming, so we had a very talented team. Wilkins got hurt at the end of the Virginia Tech game with a sprained ankle and Purdue hit a shot from the corner in the final seconds to win it. However, that gave us the confidence/experience to perform on a bigger stage.

1983 NCAA Tournament

JT: After your team held the ball for the final 80 seconds of the game, Lamar Heard made his only shot of the game with two seconds to clinch a two-point win over VCU. Was the play designed for Heard?

HD: No. Lamar made the tip-in after James Banks missed the shot.

JT: Banks scored 20 points in a five-point win over North Carolina (Michael Jordan: 26 points). How does it feel to know that you and Bob Knight were the only coaches to ever beat Jordan in the NCAA Tournament?

HD: They also had Sam Perkins and Matt Doherty, so they were a good team. We were not a big team but had good overall size, so we could use different players all over the floor.

JT: Thurl Bailey and Dereck Whittenburg each scored 20 points in a seven-point win by eventual champion NC State. Did you get the sense that the Wolfpack were just a team of destiny that season?

HD: The difference in this game was that we did not shoot the ball well against a zone defense. We had shot very well against North Carolina's zone in the previous round. NC State must have been a team of destiny as they won a lot of close games against a lot of good teams. Everyone thought the Louisville-Houston semifinal winner was going to win it all, but it turned out not to be true. Nobody will ever forget the final upset over Houston.

JT: In 1985 Joe Ward scored 18 points (8-12 FG) in a two-points win over Kentucky in Lexington (the school's first win in Lexington since 1923). How big a deal was it to win in Rupp Arena, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus?

HD: It was a Sunday afternoon game on TV so it was pretty big. We fell behind by double-digits and came all the way back to win it. Anytime you are a Kentucky fan growing up and can come out of Rupp Arena with a win it is meaningful. We were only able to get about 100 tickets for our fans, while entuckyY had about 24,000 cheering for them!

JT: What are your memories of the 1987 NCAA Tournament (Willie Anderson scored 35 points in a three-point overtime loss to Kansas State, as Mitch Richmond had 34 points and 11 rebounds [5-5 3PT])?

HD: Lon Kruger was coaching Kansas State. We later became good friends and I thought he was an outstanding coach. It was a heck of a game with two players living up to their expectations.

JT: What are your memories of the 1990 NCAA Tournament (Alec Kessler had 33 points and 17 rebounds in a loss to Texas as Travis Mays scored 44 points [23-27 FT])?

HD: We did not have anyone who could stop Mays. Alec had a big game but we did not do a good job on defense that night. I first met Texas coach Tom Penders when he was coaching in Connecticut, but he did not ease up on me that night.

JT: In 1997 at age 60 you came out of retirement to become head coach at Jacksonville, and in 2000 you were also named athletic director. Why did you decide to come back, and how did you like being AD?

HD: I was asked that question when I took the job, so I asked the reporter if he knew when the "Walker, Texas Ranger" TV show came on. He said he did not know, and I told him that it came on at 10PM on Saturday nights. When I knew that start time by heart, I realized that it was time to do something else! I never saw myself as an AD. I was a coach who had been asked to be AD. I enjoy all sports so I liked the interaction with the different coaches, but with all the legislation in intercollegiate athletics it is next to impossible to do both jobs well. Barry Alvarez and Vince Dooley were two of the few who were pretty good at both. I enjoyed coaching more than being in the administration.

JT: You were a 4-time SEC and one-time Metro Conference Ccoach of the Year. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?

HD: Anytime you win an award like that it is because a group of people contributed to your success and you won more games than people thought you would. The only reason that Coach Wooden never won awards like that is because people always expected him to win. Of course coaches like to win awards, but it just helps you point out that everyone came together to get the job done.

JT: You are the only coach in Division I history who is the all-time winningest coach at three different schools (FSU, Georgia and Jacksonville). How were you able to be so successful at so many different programs?

HD: I had the highest W/L% at Florida State, and at Georgia I won more games than anyone else. I do not try to promote that stat. It is just a result of having good players who worked hard and a good staff who scouted and recruited. It sounds trite, but it is the truth.

JT: You coached over 1000 games (top 20 in NCAA history) and retired in 2005 with well over 600 wins. What was the key to your longevity, and do you consider yourself to be one of the best coaches in NCAA history?

HD: I consider myself to be a good coach, but I aspire to be a great coach. When I hear the term "great coach" I think about guys like Hank Iba, Rupp, Dean Smith, Coach K, Bobby Knight, Lute Olson, Jim Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim. I got to coach against most of them but did not have the same level of success that they did. I am proud of the record I have, but I am realistic and respect the job that others have done.

Durham is also on Jon's list of best coaches in both ACC and SEC history.

Boston College: Al Skinner (1997-2010) 232-149, 7 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1-time national COY, 2-time conference COY
Clemson: Cliff Ellis (1984-1994) 177-128, 3 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 2-time conference COY
Duke: Mike Krzyzewski (1980-present) 900-284, 27 NCAA tourneys, 13 conference titles, 4 NCAA titles, 5-time conference COY, 6-time national COY
Florida State: Hugh Durham (1966-1978) 230-95, 3 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title
Georgia Tech: Bobby Cremins (1981-2000) 354-237, 10 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles, 3-time conference COY, 1-time national COY
Maryland: Gary Williams (1989-2011) 461-252, 14 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1 NCAA title, 2-time conference COY
Miami (FL): Bruce Hale (1954-1967) 220-112, 1 NCAA tourney
North Carolina: Dean Smith (1961-1997) 879-254, 27 NCAA tourneys, 17 conference titles, 2 NCAA titles, 1 NIT title, 8-time conference COY, 3-time national COY
NC State: Everett Case (1946-1965) 377-134, 6 NCAA tourneys, 9 conference titles, 6-time conference COY
Virginia: Terry Holland (1974-1990) 326-173, 9 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1 NIT title, 2-time conference COY
Virginia Tech: Charles Moir (1976-1987) 213-119, 4 NCAA tourneys
Wake Forest: Dave Odom (1989-2001) 240-132, 8 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 1 NIT title, 3-time conference COY, 1-time national COY

Alabama: Wimp Sanderson (1980-1992) 265-118, 10 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 3-time conference COY
Arkansas: Nolan Richardson (1985-2002) 389-169, 13 NCAA tourneys, 7 conference titles, 1 NCAA title, 1-time national COY, 4-time conference COY
Auburn: Cliff Ellis (1994-2004) 186-125, 3 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 1-time national COY, 2-time conference COY
Florida: Billy Donovan (1996-present) 360-147, 11 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles, 2 NCAA titles, 1-time conference COY
Georgia: Hugh Durham (1978-1995) 297-215, 5 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 4-time conference COY
Kentucky: Adolph Rupp (1930-1972) 876-190, 20 NCAA tourneys, 28 conference titles, 4 NCAA titles, 1 NIT title, 4-time national COY, 7-time conference COY
LSU: Dale Brown (1972-1997) 448-301, 13 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles, 2-time national COY, 4-time conference COY
Mississippi: Rod Barnes (1998-2006) 141-109, 3 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 1-time national COY, 1-time conference COY
Mississippi State: Rick Stansbury (1998-present) 272-154, 6 NCAA tourneys, 5 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
South Carolina: Frank McGuire (1964-1980) 283-142, 4 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 1-time conference COY
Tennessee: Ray Mears (1962-1977) 278-112, 3 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 2-time conference COY
Vanderbilt: Roy Skinner (1958-1976) 278-135, 2 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles, 3-time conference COY