ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lists. We all make ’em; we all love ’em.
This week, The Sporting News published its list of the 50 greatest coaches of all time. It’s a solid effort, guys. But Casey Stengel at No. 8, ahead of Knute Rockne, Pat Summitt, Paul Brown, Joe Paterno and George Halas? I don’t think so. Then, that’s just my opinion — and so is this.
Here, submitted for your (dis)approval in reverse order, is my list of the top 18 UNM coaches of all time.
Why 18? Hey, it’s my list.
18. KATHY KOLANKIEWICZ: Women’s tennis, 1984-2008. In her final 12 years, she took the Lobos to the NCAAs seven times. Even better in the classroom than on the court, her teams maintained a 3.0-plus grade-point average for 31 straight semesters.
17. MARV LEVY: Football, 1958-59. Had this future NFL Hall of Famer stayed at UNM as head coach longer than two years, he undoubtedly would be higher on this list. His teams went a combined 14-6.
16. NORM ELLENBERGER: Men’s basketball, 1972-79. Stormin’ Norman would rank much higher if not for that little thing called Lobogate. His 1977-78 team was the program’s best ever, and Lobo hoops was never more exciting than during his tenure.
15. GARY COLSON: Men’s basketball, 1981-88. Colson, ahead of Ellenberger? Yes, because he’s the guy who cleaned up Norm’s mess.
14. GEORGE “BLANCO” WHITE: Men’s tennis, 1952-57. A Lobo football star during World War I, White served UNM athletics as a coach and administrator for two decades. The tennis team went 74-11 under his tutelage, ended by his death in 1957.
13. ROCKY LONG: Football, 1998-2008. After losing seasons in his first three years, the former Lobo star quarterback went 49-38 with five bowl appearances in his next seven.
12. LAUREL BRASSEY IVERSEN: Women’s volleyball, 1983-2000. Under Brassey Iversen, the Lobos went to five consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 1990-94.
11. JACKIE BOOTH: Women’s golf, 1998-2006. Booth likely was the only UNM coach to take her team to the NCAA Tournament every year of her tenure. Her UNM squads also won four conference titles. Honorable mention: Sarah Hindi.
10. BILL WEEKS: Football, 1960-67. Weeks, victimized by what amounted to a de-emphasis of football in 1965, went 6-24 in his final three seasons. But in his first five, he was 34-17-1 with three Western Athletic Conference titles.
9. DAVE BLISS: Men’s basketball, 1988-1999. Forgetting his later transgressions at Baylor, he was underrated and under-appreciated at UNM while taking the Lobos to seven NCAA Tournaments in his last nine seasons here.
8. JEREMY FISHBEIN: Men’s soccer, 2002-present. His Lobos were NCAA runners-up in 2005 and have made the NCAA Tournament five times in seven seasons. There’s plenty of time for him to move up.
7. DICK McGUIRE: Men’s golf, 1954-1976. His teams made 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, won 10 conference titles and produced 16 All-Americans. Among his stars were Dwaine Knight and John Fields, who succeeded him as coach and continued his legacy.
6. DON FLANAGAN: Women’s basketball, 1995-present. Flanagan’s Lobos have won six conference tournament titles, made eight NCAA Tournament appearances and have ranked in the top 10 in attendance 11 straight years.
5. HUGH HACKETT: Men’s track/cross country, 1958-1976. Hackett’s UNM athletes produced four conference track titles, a world-record holder (Adolph Plummer in the 440-yard dash), an Olympic bronze medalist (Dick Howard in the 400-meter hurdles) and several other NCAA individual champions (Buster Quist, Clarence Robinson, Larry Kennedy, Art Baxter among them).
4. RUSTY MITCHELL: Men’s gymnastics, 1967-1999. Before his program was axed in 1999, Mitchell’s teams won 11 conference championships, 16 individual NCAA titles and produced 53 All-Americans.
3. GEORGE BROOKS: Skiing, 1971-2007. In 2004, Brooks led the Lobo skiers to UNM’s only NCAA team championship. His athletes won 10 individual NCAA titles.
2. BOB KING: Men’s basketball, 1962-1972. Forget King’s record, which was impressive enough, or the caliber of athletes (Ira Harge, Ben Monroe, Mel Daniels, Ron Nelson, Ron Becker, Willie Long, Petie Gibson, et al) he brought to Albuquerque. He created a program that became a state-wide obsession.
1. ROY JOHNSON: Football, men’s basketball, track & field, 1920-1940. Generations have passed through UNM’s Johnson Center, either not knowing for whom it was named or not knowing what the man did.
Simply put, he did it all.
And started it all.