Few times can a coaching change rock the sports world. However, that’s exactly what Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s move to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers would do. It would signal the shifting of power by college’s most successful coach to professional sports’ most successful franchise. It only seems appropriate to take a look at the ten greatest legacies in recent memory.
10. The Colorado Avalanche - Since coming into existence (after moving from Quebec) in 1996, the Avs have won their division eight straight years (until finishing second in 2004) and have been one of the top two seeds in the Western Conference playoffs every year except one. In that time, they have won two Stanley Cups and allowed one of hockey’s all-time good guys, Ray Bourque, to capture his only Cup in 2002.
9. Atlanta Braves - True, they’ve only won one world championship in the last decade, but they’ve won thirteen division championships in a row. Throughout the decade and a half of perfection, the Braves have changed the dynamic of their team many times, including this year’s squad, but the result has continued to remain the same.
8. Houston Comets - The trio of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson led the Comets to the first four WNBA Championships before falling from the ranks three years ago. Olympic coach Van Chancellor has his team knocking on the door every year and even though Cooper has retired, he still has Swoopes, Thompson and the rest of the Comets contenders this year.
7. New England Patriots - Save Krzyzewksi, Bill Belichick may be the best coach in all of sports. His ability to do so much with so little is amazing. He led sixth-round pick Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots to a Super Bowl Championship after losing starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe two games into the season. After failing to make the playoffs the next year, Belichick got his players back to the promised land last year and goes for three Super Bowls in four years this season.
6. Detroit Red Wings - Three Stanley Cups in five years is impressive for any team, but when looking at the sheer domination with which the Wings played makes it more impressive. Playing for Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, and Brendan Shanahan led a loaded team which played in front of an overachieving goalie, Chris Osgood. The rivalry between the Wings and Colorado Avalanche is the most underrated in sports.
5. Los Angeles Lakers - Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant took the Lakers places people didn’t think could be done again after Michael Jordan. Their three-peat in 2000-2002 proved their dominance and the coaching abilities of zen-master Phil Jackson. The only reason they don’t top this list is because of the subpar caliber of the teams they beat in the NBA Finals: the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and New Jersey Nets.
4. Dallas Cowboys - When asked to list the greatest teammates of the past decade, any sports fan will tell you The Triplets - Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin of the Cowboys of the ‘90s - were the most successful. With Super Bowls in 1993, 1994, and 1996, the Cowboys exerted dominance with a new, open offense style of play created by mastermind Jimmy Johnson. Their talent and production paved the way for future Super Bowl winners like the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers.
3. UConn Women’s Basketball - With three straight National Championships, Geno Auriemma has asserted a level of dominance over the rest of the field, including his archrival, Pat Summitt of Tennessee. In addition to winning the titles, he coached one of the best women’s players in NCAA history in Diana Taurasi. Since Rebecca Lobo and company won the school’s first title in the mid-1990s, the Huskies have been the class of women’s college basketball.
2. New York Yankees - The team everyone loves to hate has been a model of consistency over the past eight years. World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 have made the Bronx Bombers the team to beat in baseball. Consummate professional Joe Torre has managed a cast of players, including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens. In addition to the four world titles, the Yanks appeared in the Fall Classic in 2001 and 2003, making it six appearances in eight years, a previously unfathomable mark.
1. Chicago Bulls - The defining moment in sports over the past decade is Michael Jordan’s last shot to win his sixth NBA title over Utah’s Bryon Russell in 1998. The crossover dribble and jumper is the defining moment for the most dominant team in recent memory. Jordan, Pippen and the rest of the Bulls won an astounding six championships in eight years, including two three-peats. Had Jordan not taken a two-year hiatus in 1994 and 1995, the Bulls quite possibly may have won eight consecutive NBA titles. The level that the Bulls played at was unmatched by any team in recent history and their record-breaking 72-win season in 1995-1996 required a level of concentration and skill that no team has come close to equaling.
Whether or not Mike Krzyzewski can create miracles with the Lakers remains to be seen. However, this may be one of those rare occasions that sports fans see the best coach guiding the best team. And, if all goes according to the plan laid out by Lakers owner Jerry Buss, the Lakers of the mid-00s may leave their own legacy on the sporting world.