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College basketball insider: Coach K, Boeheim made perfect fit

| Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 11:19 p.m.

In his spare time, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski doubles as USA men's basketball coach. When Krzyzewski replaced Larry Brown in 2008, he added Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, joining the two winningest coaches in Division I on the same staff.

“Coach K immediately said, ‘Jerry, the guy I want alongside me is Coach Boeheim,' '' USA men's basketball director Jerry Colangelo said during a teleconference last week. “I had no problem with that because I had a vested interest in Jimmy, since I was the guy who cut him when he tried out for the (Chicago) Bulls many years ago and set him off on his new career that turned out to be pretty good for him, coaching at Syracuse.”

Krzyzewski has the most career victories in Division I. On Saturday, he won his 900th game as Duke's coach. The Blue Devils defeated Pitt, 80-65, Monday night at Petersen Events Center.

Boeheim is second on the Division I career victories list. Boeheim and Krzyzewski are the only Division I coaches with 900 victories at one school.

On Boeheim, Krzyzewski said, “I knew when I was given the opportunity to coach that the guy I had the most respect for in the game and someone who I thought was brilliant and different than me, but a lot of the same things as me, that we would complement each other well.”

The U.S. won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and a FIBA World Championship in 2010 with Krzyzewski as coach and Boeheim as his assistant. They also have combined to win five NCAA titles.

“He's got unbelievable organizational and motivational skills, better than anybody I've seen. It's really helped me,” Boeheim said. “Coaching is a competitive field. You're not going to have a lot of friends in coaching because you're trying to beat each others brains in. But it's good to have a really good friend in coaching.”

FGCU revisited

His coach, Andy Enfield, left for USC, while the team's best player, Sherwood Brown, ran out of eligibility. However, Florida Gulf Coast junior forward Chase Fieler still plays above the rim, and his Eagles are positioning for a return to the NCAA Tournament.

Fieler — best remembered for his scintillating dunking exhibition against Georgetown during last year's NCAAs — leads FGCU in rebounding and is second in scoring and blocks.

As the second-place team in the Atlantic Sun, Florida Gulf Coast is building for another run to the conference title. Last year, the Eagles secured the school's first NCAA Tournament berth in its second year of full NCAA eligibility and became the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.

Hofstra happiness

A year ago, Hofstra won seven games during a season in which six different players were arrested — including four for campus burglaries — resulting in the dismissal of third-year coach Mo Cassara.

Under first-year coach Joe Mihalich, Hofstra already has won seven games, despite having a roster with only four scholarship players.

Hofstra's two leading scorers played at different schools last season. Senior Zeke Upshaw played his first three seasons at Illinois State, where he averaged 1.6 points. Taking advantage of the NCAA's transfer rule allowing players to change schools if they graduate early, Upshaw settled at Hofstra, where he averages a team-high 18.8 points. Fellow senior Dion Nesmith, a two-year starter at Monmouth also benefiting from the transfer rule, is second in scoring.

Mihalich, who guided Niagara to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and '07, pulled it all together, Blending some old with a little new, he's uplifted a battered Hofstra program — both on the court and off.

And the best has yet to come. Next season, two scoring leaders from Mihalich's last Niagara team will join their old coach at Hofstra.

Lone star comeback

Texas has a single NCAA Tournament victory since 2009-10. Last year, the Longhorns finished 16-18 and missed the NCAAs for the first time under coach Rick Barnes, who arrived in 1998-99.

Texas' top four scorers departed, including two who transferred, creating an aura of concern entering 2013-14.

So far, no worries for the new-look Longhorns. Ranked No. 25, Texas already has equaled last season's win total and carries a five-game Big 12 winning streak into Saturday's home matchup against No. 6 Kansas.

“It's a great group of guys because of where we were a year ago, and the guys who came back, and the attitude they gave us from the spring to the summer to the fall,” Barnes said. “It's been fun having a group of guys that really care about one another. As coaches, we look forward to going to the gym every day.”

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