When the final buzzer sounded, the Union (TN) Bulldogs defeated Auburn-Montgomery 43-40 to move to 14-1 on the season. For head coach Mark Campbell, that 14th win was extra special.
Any way you cut it, Campbell is now the fastest coach in NCAA women’s basketball to 600 wins. It's pretty unfathomable, reaching 600 wins in just 691 games. He's bested Illinois head coach Nancy Fahey in games by 15 and did it in fewer years than UConn's legendary Geno Auriemma, who needed 22 years to reach the milestone. Here's how Campbell matches up against women's basketball's legendary coaches.
|Gary Fifield||711||24||Southern Maine||2012|
|Phillip Kahler||716||27||St. John Fisher||2000|
|No. 8 Pat Summitt||734||23||Tennessee||1996|
The Union head coach arrived on the Jackson, Tennessee campus for the 1999-2000 season. He went 28-8 in his debut and has yet to post a losing season in his 19 years since. In fact, the 2016-17 campaign was the only season his teams posted less than 22 wins over the course of his career. That is consistency.
"Uncomfortable," Campbell said reflecting on his first win back in 1999. "All the best things in my life start out uncomfortable. Everyone wants to be comfortable where they are, but I think when we're stretched, we really see the beauty."
The Bulldogs, who had won an NAIA title the year before Campbell arrived on campus, took it to powerhouse levels once Campbell took charge. From 2005 to 2012, Union went to six championship games, winning four of them. It was the No. 1-ranked team for 48-straight weeks. The Bulldogs left the NAIA on the losing side of their final championship game in 2012 as they embarked on Union's DII era.
"To be honest with you, after we won the national championship in 2005 I remember how unfulfilling it was," Campbell said. "It didn't last very long. I want to compete and try to win a national championship every year, but it doesn't compare to the relationships or the opportunity we have to impact people's lives."
Last season was one of historic proportions for the program as Union set the new bar for its DII era. The Bulldogs went 32-4 and reached the national semifinals. Chelsey Shumpert was amongst the nation’s leaders in scoring, setting the Union record with 856 points in a season. One would think losing a player as prolific as Shumpert would hurt the team, but in true Campbell fashion, Union is right back in the hunt for a national championship, seemingly not even missing a beat.
"At every turn, the Lord guided me," Campbell said. "I always wanted to be in the same place. I never wanted to move around. My faith has been a place of peace and joy, being able to coach a game and watch people's hearts change. To be honest with you, that ride of watching people's hearts change, there's nothing compared to it.
Now Campbell is atop the NCAA women’s college basketball world as the fastest to 600 wins. How does he stack up against the men’s side? He's believed to be the fastest there as well. Campbell reached 600 more rapidly than any DI coach for certain, and the names he left behind make for some pretty impressive company.
|Jerry Tarkanian||720||24||Long Beach State, UNLV||1992|
|Roy Williams||739||22||Kansas, North Carolina||2010|
|John Wooden||755||27||Indiana St., UCLA||1973|
"It really hasn't sunk in, when you're mentioned with a group of people I've read books about and look up to from a basketball standpoint," Campbell said of being mentioned with iconic college basketball names. "I'm not ungrateful for winning, it provides an avenue for ears to open and people to listen. But the last two coaches have won over 1,100 games. It says a lot about Union, too."
So, what's next on the climb for Campbell? Auriemma needed just three years and 106 games to reach the next milestone, being the fastest to reach 700 wins in the history of the game. It took under three years for Auriemma to reach 800, also the fastest coach to accomplish the feat.
That's for another day, however. Tonight, Campbell will sit back and enjoy No. 600. Because tomorrow, it's just another day at the office.
"We have a lot of new players," Campbell said. "We're somewhere where the expectation is not to rebuild but figure out pieces that put players in positions to make plays. Competition brings out my worst, and relationships bring out my best. If I'm not attacking those things that bring out my worst, I'm not growing.
"I want to convince the team how much they're loved by us and how much we care for them as people first. That's the hardest thing as a coach, you're defined by an outcome. There's a lot of great coaches that do this the right way and don't win as much but are impacting people's lives forever. It's easier to teach things when you are winning, but winning shouldn't be the ultimate goal. I just want to impact lives. That's where the ultimate fulfillment is."
Campbell's memorable victories
|200||2005||79-67||The Master's (CA)|