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Mike Martin's Career Wins Total Stands Alone

Mike-Martin-2017-CWS-Getty
Florida State coach Mike Martin (Getty Images)

Mike Martin this weekend became the first coach in NCAA history in any sport to reach 2,000 career victories. The Florida State coach last year became the winningest college baseball coach, passing Augie Garrido in the record books.

The raw numbers alone are astounding. Martin has compiled a career record of 2,000-714-4 in 40 seasons. His .736 career winning percentage is the best among active coaches. Every team he has coached has won at least 40 games and reached the NCAA Tournament, streaks that Florida State is aiming to extend this season.

Martin last year announced that the 2019 season would be his last before he retires. When the Seminoles conclude this season, it will mark the end of a legendary career for the man known as “11,” his uniform number.

Martin may be preparing to step away from the game, but he will leave a record that will stand as one of the sport’s unbreakable marks.

After Martin, the two active coaches with the most wins are North Carolina’s Mike Fox (1,441) and Louisiana State’s Paul Mainieri (1,426), which ranks them ninth and 12th all-time. They are the only two active coaches within even 600 wins of Martin. (The NCAA’s career coaching records require a coach to have spent at least 10 years as a head coach at an NCAA school and counts all victories as a coach at a four-year school.)

But to win 600 more games, they would need to average 40 wins for the next 15 seasons. Fox will turn 63 this year and Mainieri will be 62. Neither has any interest in coaching as long as they would need to reach 2,000 wins.

“Good gosh, no,” Fox said. “That number is unimaginable to me.”

“I can make prediction with a lot of confidence that I won’t coach long enough to win 2,000 games,” Mainieri said. “He has like 600 more. I’d have to coach, what 15 more years? No, I’m not coaching 15 more years.”

That figures to be a common problem among any coach who could challenge the 2,000 wins mark. Martin was 34 when he was promoted to head coach at Florida State, a young age for a premier program. He then proceeded to rattle off 12 straight seasons of at least 50 wins and won his 1,000 game in 1998, his 19th season.

The combination of his breakneck, early career pace and the young age at which he took over Florida State, Martin positioned himself early on to become the winningest coach of all-time. But he also never slowed down. Garrido won less than 40 games four times in his last five seasons and missed the NCAA Tournament three times in that same stretch. Martin has avoided that, keeping Florida State in the College World Series picture even down the back stretch of his career.

Also working against any future coach hoping to reach 2,000 wins is that the NCAA limits teams to 56 regular-season games per season. During the first 12 years of Martin’s career, teams were allowed 70 games. It seems more likely that the NCAA will further cut into that maximum than add games to the calendar.

The pay scale for coaches has also changed. The best baseball coaches in the country are now making $1 million a year or more, which means they are less likely to continue coaching deep into their 60s or even 70s, as they may find the grind of coaching and recruiting not to be worth continuing if their retirements and children’s futures are already financially secured.

Furthermore, college baseball has become much more competitive even in the last 20 years, let alone the last 40 or 50. More schools are dedicating more resources to baseball at the Division I level, making it harder to pile up wins.

Martin’s career spans all of these changes, making his accomplishment even more impressive. But for anyone to match it, a lot of things would have to fall just right.

Any of the 13 other active coaches who began the season on the top 50 career wins list is unlikely to make it to 2,000 due to their age.

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But what about Virginia’s Brian O’Connor, Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan and Texas Christian’s Jim Schlossnagle, who rank Nos. 3-6 among active coaches in winning percentage (minimum five years as a head coach)?

Schlossnagle has the most wins of the group at 734. He’s also been a head coach the longest, 17 years. The 48-year old would have to average 40 wins a year for the next 32 seasons to reach 2,000.

O’Sullivan, 50, has averaged 45 wins a year since taking over Florida. He’d have to continue that pace for the next 33 years to reach 2,000.

O’Connor, 47, needs to average 40 wins for the next 33 seasons, while McDonnell, 48, needs 40 wins a year for the next 36 seasons.

Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin and UCLA’s John Savage are both older than 50 and are at least 30 years away from reaching 2,000 wins at a pace of 40 wins a season.

So, none of this generation’s elite coaches are likely to challenge Martin’s record. Who, then, has a shot?

Florida International’s Mervyl Melendez is off to a solid start, having recently won his 600th career game. But the 45-year-old would still need to win 40 games a year until he was 80.

It’s possible that a coach such as Indiana’s Jeff Mercer, 33, or UC Irvine’s Ben Orloff, 31, who are just at the outset of their careers could make a run at 2,000. They both have the early start required to do so, but it’s still far too early in their careers to know if they’ll win even 500 games, let alone 2,000.

Maybe a coach at a lower division will build a dominant program capable of tearing up the record book. But the schedule is shorter in Divisions II and III, making the numbers even harder to make work.

Forty years ago, no one would have picked Mike Martin as the first coach to win 2,000 games. But he became the most consistent winner college baseball has ever seen. And once he retires after this season, it’s unlikely college baseball will see anyone like him again.

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