Mike Strange: SEC coaches each had game, some more than others

They've got the X's and O's down pat. They know a good shot from a bad one. In short, they can all talk a good basketball game.

But back in the day, what were they like when they laced up their sneakers? Who had game?

The 12 SEC men's coaches all played the game at the college level. Their careers ran the gamut.

There was a Parade All-American, Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy. Billy Donovan and Kevin Stallings reached the Final Four. Several started at the junior-college level. A couple transferred.

Nine of them appeared in the Big Dance at least once. Mike Anderson helped Tulsa win an NIT. John Calipari played in the NCAA Division II tournament, Rick Stansbury in the NAIA tournament.

There's a reason they all turned to coaching. Only three of them ever suited up in an NBA game. Donovan's 105 career points as a one-year New York Knick take honors. Cuonzo Martin and Kennedy had a cup of coffee before going overseas.

If you were going to choose sides for a pickup game when they were in their prime, Ole Miss' Kennedy would be a good place to start.

He was the state of Mississippi's prep player of the year before signing with North Carolina State. He lettered as a freshman under Jim Valvano, then transferred to UAB.

In his three years playing for Gene Bartow, Kennedy scored 1,787 points (still second on the career chart) and holds the Blazers' record of 41 points in a game.

Kennedy was a career 43-percent shooter from 3-point range, but Tennessee's Martin and Donovan could give him a run for his money.

Martin, who scored 1,666 points at Purdue, hit 45.9 percent from 3-point range during his final two seasons. He was a first-team All-Big Ten pick as a senior when he averaged 18.3 points.

Donovan scored 1,328 points at Providence and also ranks second in career assists. His 3-point expertise helped the Friars crash the Final Four in 1987 under Rick Pitino.

Pitino-Donovan isn't the only mentor-pupil pairing in the league. Auburn coach Tony Barbee scored 1,643 points at UMass while being coached by Calipari.

There are two other 1,000-point scorers in the fraternity. Trent Johnson did it at Boise State in the '70s and Darrin Horn at Western Kentucky in the '90s.

Anthony Grant of Alabama didn't miss by much, scoring 902 points at Dayton for the legendary Don Donaher.

Donovan once hired Grant for his staff at Florida. He might have been impressed that Grant and Dayton beat Providence and Donovan in two head-to-head matchups. In a 1980 game, Anderson's Tulsa team beat Stallings and Purdue, 90-76.

Anderson and Stallings had another link. Both began their careers at a juco. Stallings moved on to be a role player at Purdue, where he got to the Final Four in 1980 under Lee Rose. He was no John Jenkins, averaging 3.4 points a game. Anderson wasn't a prolific scorer at Tulsa but played on two good teams coached by Nolan Richardson.

Calipari was hardly the one-and-done phenom he has become so adept at recruiting. He began his career at UNC-Wilmington, then transferred closer to home at D-II Clarion University in Pennsylvania. A point guard, he led the team in assists and free-throw percentage.

Stansbury is in his comfort zone at Mississippi State because he's small town all the way. He was a four-year starter at Campbellsville in his native Kentucky. He averaged 12.0 as a senior and is in the school's Hall of Fame.

The most obscure career was compiled by Georgia's Mark Fox. He played two years at a Kansas juco, then moved on to Eastern New Mexico. His bio says he was first-team academic All-Lone Star Conference.

They'll all be under one roof this week in New Orleans. A pickup game probably wouldn't be a good idea at this point.

But I wouldn't mind watching a game of H-O-R-S-E.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 10

VolunteerLifer writes:

Pitino is a coach in the SEC? I don't think so, Mike.

vollaw writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Pitino is a coach in the SEC? I don't think so, Mike.

Great catch. Maybe Mike knows something about future SEC expansion the rest of us don't.

Zalweed22 writes:

in response to vollaw:

Great catch. Maybe Mike knows something about future SEC expansion the rest of us don't.

Pitino comes back when caliper bolts for the nba

87UTVOL writes:

Cuonzo should be SEC Coach of the Year. He did more with less (losing 70% or so of team scoring). And, at a much more challenging time, taking over a program coming off NCAA and other off the court problems.

Strange said Cal should get it. Horse hockey. Cal did exactly what everyone picked him to do. Cuonzo did exactly what everyone picked him NOT to do. Finish as high as 2nd in the SEC.

Let's hope Cal's Cats take care of the Gators today. If so, that will be what everyone expects with the talent Kentucky has. But, the guy in the orange blazer deserves to be SEC Coach of the Year.

trubleoj#657755 writes:

Were Calipari's A10 CoY in 1996, ConfUSA CoY and Naismith CoY in 2008 vacated?

AllforTenn writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

But then, this is the best "bunch of freshmen" that money could buy.

mountainbrook writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not with his history of getting programs in trouble.

87UTVOL writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Let's all take a guess that the 'eightletters' are k-e-n-t-u-c-k-y.

Calipari's freshman were picked by sportwriters and about everyone else to finish at or near the top in the conference and nation, with his bevy of one and done freshmen and a few experienced players. Vandy (vs. Vols 1-1) and Florida (vs. Vols 0-2) were both top 25 teams. Counzo's Vols? Not within sniffing distance of any ranking. Yet, Counzo coached these guys to a 10-6 (a little better than a 'few' games above .500) and a legitimate shot at the NCAA.

If you switch teams and give Cal the team Coach Zo inherited in the same circumstances, I don't think they end up second in the conference. Counzo did a masterful job getting his team through tough times and to learn to play like he wanted them to. Coach Zo will be a force to be reckoned with in recruiting and on the court in the years to come. He should be SEC Coach of the Year.

mikeinknoxville writes:

Both are deserving of the coach of the year honors but all that really matters to me is who cuts down the net.

GONAVY writes:

in response to mikeinknoxville:

Both are deserving of the coach of the year honors but all that really matters to me is who cuts down the net.

good one

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