When he arrived at McKendree College, a tiny liberal arts school (1,500 students) in Lebanon, Ill., in 1966 to coach men's basketball, Harry Statham had no intention of sticking around. His dream was to coach a high school team to a state championship; he saw the McKendree gig as a stepping stone to that. Four decades later he's still stalking McKendree's sideline--and he's about to become the winningest college coach ever. Last Saturday, McKendree, an NAIA school, beat Freed-Hardeman 78--69 to give Statham, 67, career win number 879, tying him with Dean Smith for the most victories by a coach in any division. "If you coach long enough, those things happen," said Statham, who's never won a national title and reached the NAIA Fab Four only once, in 2003.
Statham (above left), grew up in Illinois idolizing Adolph Rupp, whom he passed on the win list on Nov. 20, and he modeled his program after the up-tempo Kentucky Wildcats. The Bearcats, who were 8--2 and ranked No. 18 in the NAIA Division I poll at week's end, have topped 20 wins in 29 of Statham's 38 seasons at McKendree and reached the postseason 33 times. Said Statham of reaching the milestone, "I'm just going to be glad when it's over." --A.C.