19 Inspiring Quotes From NCAA Basketball’s Greatest Coaches

UPDATED: July 31, 2018
PUBLISHED: March 11, 2016

As you fill out your bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament, remember the hard work and dedication it took—on and off the court—for those 68 teams to get to that point.

Whether they’re battling to break the number of career wins like Mike Krzyzewski or battling off the court with an illness like the late Kay Yow, these legendary leaders know what it takes to be the best.

1. “Bottom line, you’re either a risk taker or you’re not. And if you don’t take risks, you’ll never win big.”

—Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut Huskies (1985-present)

2.  “Basketball doesn’t care what color your skin is. It doesn’t care what language you speak or what religion you practice. It doesn’t care if you’re big or small, fast or slow. It just asks you to play, to complete, to lose with dignity, to win with humility.”

—Jim Calhoun, Northeastern University Huskies (1972-1986), University of Connecticut Huskies (1986-2012)

3. “A successful person never loses… they either win or learn!”

—John Calipari, University of Massachusetts Minutemen (1988-1996), University of Memphis Tigers (2000-2009), University of Kentucky Wildcats, (2009-present)

4. “Empower the people around you, from the janitor to the athletic director. You do that by being sincere, caring about others and then putting it into practice.”

—Sue Gunter, Louisiana State University Tigers (1982-2004)

5. “Everyone should want to excel in life. You should never take the desire to excel away from the human race.”

—Henry Iba, Oklahoma State University Cowboys (1934-1957)

6. “Discipline is the highest form of love. If you really love someone, you have to give them the level of discipline they need.”

—Tom Izzo, Michigan State University Spartans (1995-present)

7. “The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”

—Bobby Knight, Army Black Knights (1965-1971) Indiana University Hoosiers (1971-2000), Texas Tech University Raiders (2001-2008)

8. “A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist. That’s how I want to play.”

—Mike Krzyzewksi, Army Black Knights (1975-1980), Duke University Blue Devils (1980-present)

9. “We didn’t lose. You lose when you don’t go out and apply the ability and talent that you have to the challenge that faces you. When you apply yourself like we did, you don’t lose. You get beat.”

—Andy Landers, University of Georgia Lady Bulldogs (1979-2015)

10. I tell the players that they can’t relive any day in their lives and that they can’t relive the minutes of a game, so they should make a great effort, a Mount Everest type effort, to live up to their potential. Success is a communal type thing, and if we win, then everyone can be considered successful and we can move uptown together.”

—Al McGuire, Marquette University Golden Eagles (1964-1977)

11. “Basketball doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

—James Naismith, University of Kansas Jayhawks (1898-1907)

12. “Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.”

—Rick Pitino, Boston University Terriers (1978-1983), Providence College Friars (1985-1987), University of Kentucky Wildcats (1989-1997), Louisville Cardinals (2001-present)

13.  “Your defense will save you on the nights that your offense isn’t working.”

—Adolph Rupp, University of Kentucky Wildcats (1930-1972)

14. “There is a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option”

—Dean Smith, University of North Carolina Tar Heels (1961-1997)

15. “A lot of people notice when you succeed, but they don’t see what it takes to get there.”

—Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina Gamecocks (2008-present)

16. “The absolute heart of loyalty is to value those people who tell you the truth, not just those people who tell you what you want to hear. In fact, you should value them most. Because they have paid you the compliment of leveling with you and assuming you can handle it.”

—Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers (1974-2012)

17. “If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

—Jim Valvano, North Carolina State Wolfpack, (1980-1990)

18. “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

—John Wooden, Indiana State Sycamores (1946-1948), University of California, Los Angeles (1948-1975)

19. “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.”

—Kay Yow, North Carolina State University Wolfpack (1975-2009)