Provo • When Jeff Judkins played for Highland High School in the early 1970s, his coach was one of the top three coaches in wins in the state of Utah. So, Judkins was familiar with milestone wins.
Yet, he never would have thought he'd hit a big milestone in his own coaching career.
On Monday, Judkins reached his 400th victory with a 65-47 win at Pepperdine. It was the Cougars' second-straight West Coast Conference win. BYU will continue its conference schedule and start a three-game home-stand Thursday when the Cougars host Gonzaga.
For Judkins, getting his 400th win means he's been fortunate to coach for a long time and do something he loves for a long time.
“No. 2 is I've had really good assistant coaches that have supported me and have helped me achieve the excellence that I really want for my program,” Judkins said. “And third is I've had great players. Players that were skilled and players that were competitive. Players that cared about winning. Having all those things has made my life a lot easier and made it a lot better for me.”
After graduating from Highland, Judkins went on to play at the University of Utah from 1974-78 and then made a career in the NBA from 1978-1983 playing for the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers.
In 1989, Judkins returned to his alma mater as an assistant to Rick Majerus for a decade. After the start of the millennia, Judkins made another career change – he moved over to BYU as an assistant coach to the women’s program.
A year later, Judkins took over the program.
Shortly after becoming the Cougars' head coach, Judkins got offers to go back to coach men's programs or other women's programs. But Judkins chose to stay.
“My sweet wife is the one that probably influences me the most of what we want to do,” Judkins said. “We just felt like, with my family, where I was coaching and the support I got from BYU and the players that I had – all those things were so positive that I really didn't feel like going anywhere else. Other opportunities weren't really as good as what I had.”
Also, Judkins believes it's most impressive that his entire 31-year coaching career has been spent at just two programs.
“Especially nowadays, people jump all over the place for different jobs, for more money, for this and that,” Judkins said. “I'm probably as proud of that as I am anything, is that I've been in two universities where I've spent a lot of my time with basketball – as a player, as a coach. And then I've been at BYU. This is my 19th year as head coach, but I've been at BYU for 21 years. It's been nice to stay somewhere that I've enjoyed and have wonderful memories.”
Looking back over his career, Judkins can't remember his first win as head coach. But he does remember his first season.
Over the 2001-02 season, some of Judkins' favorite memories include beating the Utes twice and beating Iowa State to advance to the Sweet 16. But at the time, Judkins didn't really take much stock of his big moments.
One of his most recent favorite memories came last season, when the Cougars beat Gonzaga three times. It had never been done by anybody before.
And for now, Judkins will continue to try to make as many more memories as possible. Plus, there’s still more he’d like to accomplish, like making it to the Elite Eight of Final Four.
“Like anything in life, you have something going really good for you and you don’t appreciate it – you think there’s something else on the other side better,” Judkins said. “I know the last part of my career, I’d say my last 100 wins – from 300 to now – I’ve appreciated it a lot more. I’ve just realized how lucky I am to be able to be coaching and be able to have a good program. I’ve enjoyed that more.”