Rating the ACC’s Best Coaches Ever

The first reaction anyone has upon meeting my bride is always the same.

What is an Angel like her doing married to a hound dog like you?

Wily me, I knew how much Tybee loved the ocean, so I promised her a house at the beach to get her to the alter. Going on 36 years later, she’s still waiting on me to make good on that promise.

I was absolutely sure I was going to be able to swing it five years ago when Blair Publishing of Winston-Salem rolled out my The ACC Basketball Book of Fame. Seeings how no one had ever gotten around to establishing a hall of fame of ACC basketball, I decided to do it myself and turn it into a book.

When I first held a copy in my hands, I could hear the waves crashing and see the smile on Tybee’s face.

Alas, the public didn’t buy the concept, and thus didn’t buy the book. Instead of a home by the shore, I barely made enough for a long weekend at Myrtle Beach.

The concept was borne out of my participation, back in 2002, in the “blue-ribbon committee” that celebrated the first 50 seasons by naming the 50 greatest players in the league’s illustrious history. There were 120 members of the “BRC”, and as knowledgeable and well-meaning as we all were, we really botched it in several regards.

Bobby Jones and Walter Davis were both really good players and good guys. I should know, because I covered both during their careers at North Carolina and got to know them.

But to include Jones and Davis on the 50th Anniversary team, and leave out the likes of Bob Verga and Rod Griffin was an egregious oversight.

Jones made second-team All-America as a senior, the only season he made first-team All-ACC. And Davis made second-team All-ACC as a junior and first-team as a senior (barely, with the fifth-most votes), but never made All-America.

Verga, conversely, was first-team All-ACC all three seasons he played for Duke, and made consensus second-team All-America as a junior and consensus first-team as a senior. And Griffin made second-team All-ACC as a sophomore and first-team as a junior and senior at Wake Forest, and was a consensus second-team All-America his final two seasons.

What became obvious upon reflection is our memories are never quite what we thought we remembered. So I took it upon myself to devise a formula that take into account accomplishments accrued during a career – such as All-ACC and All-America voting and additional decorations like conference or national Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, All-Tournament, etc. – and assign a weight to each and add up the numbers.

If a player good enough to be a candidate reached the magic number of 1,000, he was in. If not, he was relegated to the annex, which I termed the Portico of Prominence.

To this day I feel the formula was a useful tool for deciding who belonged in the Hall of Fame and who did not., But it had a flaw, in that it never reconciled the difference of some players being eligible for only three seasons (pre-1975) and some being eligible for four.

So when Tyler Hansbrough accumulated the most points, I had a real problem. I tried to write my away around it by prominently recognizing what everyone should know, that David Thompson was the greatest player to ever grace an ACC basketball court. And the incomparable Thompson did finish second in the voting, despite playing one season less than Hansbrough – who started piling up the honors as a freshman and kept piling them up all four seasons.

But when people saw Thompson listed below Hansbrough, they didn’t bother with the fine print. They, again, didn’t buy the formula, so they didn’t buy the book.

To this day, I’m glad I wrote the book. I loved working with the good folks at Blair, and I’ve always loved history as well as ACC basketball. I remain proud of the 800-1,500 word profiles I wrote on each of my 79 inductees, which were chock full of stories and anecdotes that might have otherwise been forgotten.

And it’s always a kick to walk into a library, or maybe even a book store here or there, and find your contribution on the shelf.

Furthermore, I will argue that the concept of ranking players based on objective contemporaneous measures instead of subjective memory remains valid. So I hauled it out again a couple of weeks ago when I watched Virginia beat North Carolina for the ACC title and put the finishing touches on one of the most dominating seasons in conference history.

It got me to thinking about where Tony Bennett, after only nine seasons, would rank among the greatest coaches in ACC history.

So I pulled out my ACC media guides, a pen and a notepad and went back to work. The first order of business was to establish a formula, and this time I didn’t have to worry about comparing a player eligible for only three seasons with those eligible for four.

What I quickly found is there are relatively few great coaches in the history of ACC. It occurred to me that the great ones, coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith have been so dominant over the years that they weeded so many others out.

The baseline for the formula is a coach’s record against the other ACC coaches he was hired to beat, in regular-season and ACC Tournament play. And then I added bonus points for additional accomplishment and awards.

What I came up with is as follows. In days to come I will reveal which coaches made the cut and where they ranked. And if you see any obvious flaws in the formula, please speak up before I publish another book and it becomes too late.

1 point – For each ACC win over .500 (including ACC Tournament play).

2 points – Per win in NIT play.

3 points – Per win in NCAA Tournament play.

4 points – ACC Coach of the Year.

5 points – For tying for first-place finish in ACC regular season.

7 points – For finishing first outright in ACC regular season.

7 points – NIT Championship.

7 points – For National Coach of the Year.

10 points – For ACC Championship.

15 points – For appearance in Final Four (without winning title).

20 points – For National Championship.

The cutoff is 100 points, and 15 coaches made the grade.

2 thoughts on “Rating the ACC’s Best Coaches Ever

  1. Speaking of coaches, watch local guy Ryan Odom land somewhere like Xavier, when Chris Mack takes the now vacant position at Louisville, and then goes on to sustain and build on the Musketeers high level performance of recent years. In the meantime, Wake’s clueless AD will just continue spitting in the wind.


  2. I think you have to break up your NIT stuff. An NIT win in 2000 is nothing like an NIT win in 1970 and an NIT title is certainly not the same.

    Definitely a modern era NIT title should not have more weight than an ACC championship or Coach of the Year honor.

    I wouldn’t value a modern NIT win at all. I would give some value to an NIT championship. Perhaps an equivalent value to these 8 team holiday tournment, which you didn’t give any weighting to.


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