ACC coaches respect record-breaking career of Kihei Clark
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The sentiment before the season at the ACC Tipoff in Charlotte among ACC coaches were collective groans about the return of Virginia point guard Kihei Clark, now months into Clark's final season the respectful wishing his career would end remains.
"I told Clark, hopefully it's the last time I'll see him, I really don't want to see him anymore," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said, "He's the ultimate winner, man."
Those messages at the end of handshake lines have become commonplace this season for Clark, who always gives a chuckle when asked about his chats with ACC head coaches while remaining grateful for their words.
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"I appreciate the love and the praise from a lot of the coaches," Clark said, "Honestly I get from the ACC and I know we have a lot of highly-touted coaches in this league, so any love I get from them I really appreciate it."
Against Notre Dame, Clark added the latest record and accolade in his tour across the ACC during his fifth and final season at Virginia. Clark passed John Crotty for No. 1 on the program's all-time assists list, with Crotty watching on in the crowd.
Already this season Clark has become the all-time winningest player in ACC and UVA history, also setting the record for minutes played in both the ACC and at UVA and with his most recent start against the Fighting Irish, Clark passed London Perrantes for most starts in program history. Tony Bennett always mentions there might be an asterisk attached because of the fifth-year, but an asterisk does not dull Clark's impact.
"Kihei has been so important for our program," Bennett said, "He's a competitor of the highest level and he's made a difference every since he set foot on campus from his first year with that group, he was the perfect combination to now."
Last season, Bennett challenged Clark to write the perfect ending to his movie of a career, which started with a NCAA Championship. Clark decided to come back after the Cavaliers failed to make the NCAA Tournament and Brey believes Clark could be the key for another deep run in March for Virginia.
"I think when you have guards and you have Clark, who has an air and a confidence about him to just win a game for you somehow, you're always going to have a chance," Brey said, "I mean they can be a Final Four team."