The number is eye-catching.
Let that sink in for a minute ... 900. It’s a big number no matter what the topic, but it’s more than impressive when a coach reaches that milestone in number of wins.
It’s not unheard of in college basketball. Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski is the national leader with more than 1,100 wins — and counting. Former Iowa women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer has more than 1,000 wins — and counting.
Eleven former or current NCAA Division I college basketball coaches have more than 1,000 wins.
Big, impressive numbers.
Kirkwood Community College women’s basketball Kim Muhl isn’t at 1,000 — yet.
But he hit 900 last week.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said Muhl, 901-158 overall with an 11-0 too-ranked team this season.
Nine hundred. That, too, is a big, impressive number.
“It’s a number,” Muhl said.
It’s not the only impressive number in Muhl’s portfolio, of course. The 64-year-old Lost Nation native — who once upon a time followed legendary Jim Van Scoyoc as Norway’s baseball coach — has directed the Eagles to 19 national tournaments and seven NJCAA titles. There have been 27 regional finals appearances, 30 20-win seasons — including a school-record 37 wins in 2009-10 — and 18 Region XI Coach of the Year honors.
Big, impressive numbers.
“The accomplishment is remarkable,” Kirkwood athletics director Doug Wagemester said in a release.
But, of course, success can be measured in many ways. Wins are obvious and important to Muhl and all coaches. They wouldn’t spend countless hours in practice, breaking down opponents and recruiting — all things Muhl still loves, by the way — if there wasn’t a reward. But it’s not the only measure of success.
“Through those years hundreds of young women have benefited from his commitment to working hard, doing things the right way and putting his team first,” Wagemester said.
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Unlike four-year athletics programs, junior colleges are supposed to get students and athletes ready for the “next level.” Muhl said he has sent 90 women to NCAA Division I and more than 100 to Division II programs.
“That’s the plus,” he said.
Muhl, too, has had opportunities at that “next level.” He said he’s never seriously considered leaving Kirkwood.
“I never was in a situation where I felt comfortable leaving,” he said. “It’s a comfort zone, I’m sure. (But) Kirkwood is a good situation.
“We have a chance to win a national championship or, at least get close, every year.”
He often asked himself “what do you want?”
“It’s not always beautiful on the other side of the street,” he said.
These days he has even more incentive to stay. He and his wife, Freeda, have three children and four grandchildren, the latter all within driving distance. The eldest granddaughter, Kennedy Hill, will play softball at Kirkwood next year.
And retirement? Forget about that, too,
“I think I’d lose my mind if I retired right now,” he said.
So maybe within the next four or five years, Muhl will be celebrating the next big, impressive number.
“People ask ‘what about 1,000?’” he said, then added with a laugh. “I said ‘I just got here.’”
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