With Feather’s Help, I Tweak the Formula

One advantage of being long in the tooth is the opportunity I’ve had over my many years to get to know so many people who, among them, have a bountiful amount of collective expertise.

But what is the good of expertise if you don’t avail yourself to it?

My mistake, regrettably, was calling Al Featherston only after I had devised my formula to rate the greatest coaches in ACC basketball history, the one I presented here almost a month ago now. If I had called him before, I would probably have remained with my original formula and maybe, by now, even have written about the results.

I’m proud to say I know ACC basketball history. I’ve covered the ACC since my junior year of college in 1972-73, and have written books about both Wake and ACC basketball history. But having said that, I don’t know anyone who knows more ACC basketball history than Al Featherston.

Being a few years ahead of me, Feather was class of 1971 at Duke, and he worked in the sports information department as an undergrad. I brag about how I go back to David Thompson. Well Feather goes back to Charlie Scott and Vic Bubas.

The local paper was smart enough to hire Feather out of college and he worked for the Durham Sun, and, post-merger, the Herald-Sun until the implosion of our industry claimed another long-time stalwart in 2005. He has since shared his bottomless knowledge with readers lucky enough to catch his work in publications like Basketball Times and Duke Basketball Report.

We’ve been through a lot together in times both good and bad since we first became friends in the early 1970s. And I can’t say I agree with him on every issue of baseball, college basketball and military history – our three main overlapping areas of interests – but I know the man well enough to never dismiss anything he says out of hand.

So I wasn’t really surprised that after he had the opportunity to read and absorb my formula for rating ACC coaches that I first wrote about on March 20, he called back with a few thoughts. Coming from someone else, I might term them “objections.’’ Feather preferred the term “suggestions,’’ which sounded good to me.

To catch the uninitiated up to speed – and refresh the interest of those who have been waiting a month for me to get off my behind and follow up – I present the original formula.

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.

I don’t know a reader named Joey Davis as well as I know Feather, so I’m not sure whether to term his comment an objection or a suggestion. But Joey seemed to feel pretty strongly that I was too generous in how I awarded success from the NIT – especially the modern NIT which has lost so much of its luster since the glory days of the early 1970s.

And what Joey said made sense.

Then the phone rings and it’s Feather on the line. He picked the same point as Joey, stressing out that in the modern era two points is too much to award for an NIT victory and seven points too much for an NIT championship.

But Feather, bless his heart, had some other problems with my formula as well.

One was relatively minor. As a guy who has voted for ACC Coach of the Year over the decades, Feather has learned to not give too much credence for the award. And to watch the North Carolina Press Association pass over Mike Krzyzewski every season since 2000 – during which time he has won nine ACC championships and three national titles – I tend to agree with his assessment.

But what Feather felt most strongly about the difference between an ACC title before 1975 and after. Before 1975, a team had to win the league to even play in the NCAA Tournament. So an entire season would be riding on those three days in March.

After the tournament expanded, winning the ACC title was not the same accomplishment, and shouldn’t be rewarded as such. The distinction grew ever greater with each passing season, to the degree that today most fans – and coaches – would rather see their team reach the Final Four than cut down the nets at the ACC Tournament.

I resisted breaking my formula into eras, but Feather’s points were ultimately too compelling. So I adjusted my formula.

Now any NIT win after 1974 earns only one point, and an NIT crown only five points. But the big change is, I now reward any ACC title before 1975 with 12 points instead of 10. And in keeping with the ever-increasing emphasis on NCAA Tournament success, I now reward a victory in the NCAA Tournament with four points instead of three.

The formula is now as follows:

1 point — ACC wins over .500 (including ACC Tournament.

1 point — NIT win (post 1974)

2 points — NIT win (through 1974).

3 points — ACC Coach of the Year.

4 points — NCAA win.

5 points — Tie for first in ACC regular season.

5 points — NIT Championship (post 1974).

7 points — First in ACC regular season.

7 points — NIT Championship (through 1974).

7 points — National Coach of the Year.

10 points — ACC Championship (post 1974).

12 points — ACC Championship (through 1974).

15 points — Final Four (without winning NCAA Championship).

20 points — National Championship.

As I suspected, the adjustments didn’t really affect much. The same 15 coaches whwere in my Hall of Fame are still in there. But now when another up-and-coming coach comes along – say a guy like Chris Mack at Louisville – and starts making a real name for himself in ACC circles, I can better tell how long it will take him to join the select circle of greatest coaches to ever walk the ACC sidelines.

Over days to come, I’ll trot out my selections in order. But for the time being I’ll hopefully keep the interest up by revealing my 15 inductees in alphabetical order.

Tony Bennett, Vic Bubas, Everett Case, Bobby Cremins, Lefty Driesell, Terry Holland, Mike Krzyzewski, Frank McGuire, Bones McKinney, Dave Odom, Norm Sloan, Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, Gary Williams and Roy Williams.

And a tip of the hat to Al Featherston for help in this project.

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