The retirements of Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams turn ACC basketball into a new page of coaching leaders.
If you thought losing one Hall of Fame coach to retirement was hard, think about losing another in a matter of months. ACC basketball undoubtedly took a major hit as North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski both turned in their coaching suits for bathing suits, calling it quits on the basketball court sidelines.
Even with two all-time legends stepping away from the game, ACC basketball is a big enough brand to still have some notable names leading the conference. Multiple championship-winning head coaches continue to lead the conference, so while the two larger-than-life coaches move on, the ACC has found a way to make it sting a little less.
15. Jeff Capel, Pitt
Capel is on the hottest of hot seats. In four seasons at Pitt, Capel has yet to lead the Panthers to one winning record. These challenges have been insurmountable, with Pitt having trouble filling their roster with scholarship players. Capel’s had success before, with his performances at VCU helping him to lead a job at Oklahoma where he recruited and coached Blake Griffin. However, the clock is ticking on him to turn it around in the Steel City.
14. Earl Grant, Boston College
One year is far too difficult to tell if Grant will be the one who finally gets Boston College basketball in the right direction. The Eagles only finished 13-20 but did pick up a few solid wins over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. However, it’s a tough job to perform well at, so from that standpoint, it’s tough to see how much Grant can elevate his status among ACC basketball coaches.
13. Kevin Keatts, NC State
Keatts got out to a rampant start, leading the Wolfpack to three straight seasons of 20+ wins after landing the job in 2017. They’ve since slid to two consecutive seasons below .500, questioning Keatts’ ability to recruit the right players for the conference. He’s certainly on the hot seat more than Grant, but his track record is what gives him the upper hand.
12. Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech
Pastner did an underrated job at replacing John Calipari at Memphis. His transition to Georgia Tech was ugly, but Pastner has found a way to turn that around, keeping the Yellow Jackets out of the ACC basketball cellar. He hit an all-time high, as Georgia Tech caught fire to win the 2021 ACC Tournament, but was brought back to reality with a 12-20 overall record last season.
11. Brad Brownell, Clemson
Brownell’s tenure at Clemson has had some ups and downs and right now it’s heading south. After back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time as the head coach of the Tigers, Brownell has had a trio of less than stellar seasons. Last year, the Tigers were barely over .500, and it seems as if that short run may have been the peak of what he can do at Clemson. In no way is Brownell on the hot seat, but what he’s capable of doing with the program may have reached its high point.
10. Kenny Payne, Louisville
I struggle with where to rank first-time college basketball head coaches, but this seems like a fair placement for Payne. His experience in college basketball ranges from playing for the Cardinals and then as an assistant coach for 17 years with Oregon and Kentucky. Payne spent the last two seasons on the bench with the New York Knicks. To me, that speaks volumes about who he is around the entire coaching landscape. Louisville is arguably a top 15 job in college hoops, so whoever they choose didn’t just come about in a matter of minutes.
9. Steve Forbes, Wake Forest
A new coach on the block, Forbes had one of the greatest season-to-season turnarounds in power conference basketball history. After leading East Tennessee State to a 130-43 record in five seasons, Forbes went 6-16 in year one with the Demon Deacons. Then, they rebounded for a 25-10 record last year, just missing the NCAA Tournament field. Forbes also helped develop Alondes Williams and Jake Laravia into NBA players, which is a testament to his ability to coach and improve players at the same time. It’s an underrated quality to have.
8. Jon Scheyer, Duke
Ranking an unproven coach this high comes with its doubts, but when a program like Duke places their trust in someone, you have to respect it. Of course, the 34-year-old former Blue Devil was an assistant from 2014-2022, including the role of Associate Head Coach since 2018. He’s used to the responsibility that being on Duke’s coaching staff entails, but now it’s his boat to drive. Hubert Davis did just alright in year one, so we’ll see what Scheyer has up his sleeve.
7. Mike Young, Virginia Tech
Some coaches have to wait their turn more than others, and Mike Young is a prime example. After 17 seasons at Wofford, Young finally got to the power conference level with the Hokies. He’s done an exemplary job, taking them from a 16-16 record in year one to a 23-13 record and ACC Conference Tournament title last season. The Hokies’ outlook for 2022-23 looks just as good with Hunter Catoor and Justyn Mutts staying for another year and Wright State transfer Grant Basile joining the squad as one of the top transfers this offseason.
6. Jim Larrañaga, Miami (Fla)
Larrañaga seems locked in at Miami until he decides to call it quits, especially after a 16-win improvement after the worst of three consecutive losing seasons. He’s turned the Hurricanes into a program you expect to win, rather than an afterthought in ACC basketball discussions. Miami does lose some important players heading into next season, but doubting someone with Larrañaga’s experience isn’t the best idea.
5. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
The former head coach of Miami (Fla), Hamilton took the Florida State job in 2002. He’s done a lot of great things for Seminoles basketball – including four NCAA Tournaments from 2017 to 2021. Last season was a disappointment, but shouldn’t be what defines Hamilton, who has turned Florida State into an ACC basketball powerhouse in recent years. However, with all of that success, he’s still never reached a Final Four with the Noles. For what it’s worth, they did come close in 2018 and had their best shot as a program in 2020 when COVID spoiled it all.
4. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Brey’s consistency is the best part of his coaching attributes. Even after an 11-15 season, Brey coached up the Fighting Irish to an NCAA Tourney appearance in 2022. He’s never had back-to-back losing seasons, so Notre Dame basketball has come to expect NCAA Tournaments each year. The best coach you can have is one where you don’t have to worry about if you’re about to backslide into a struggling program. That won’t happen with Brey.
3. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
It’s like the gift that keeps on giving, but in Central New York, it’s the coaching that keeps on coaching. Take that to mean what you want, but there’s no doubt Boeheim’s had a massive impact on Syracuse basketball, which includes a championship in 2003 and five Final Fours. The past handful of seasons haven’t been up to par, but doubting a Hall of Fame coach isn’t smart. He’s still near the top of the conference.
2. Hubert Davis, North Carolina
The biggest (pleasant) surprise of 2021-22, Davis came into Chapel Hill needing to follow up a tremendous job by Roy Williams. I’d say carrying the Tar Heels to the national championship game in year one is an okay way to start out. Duke and North Carolina will always be the faces of the ACC and with Coach K and Williams now on to greener pastures, Davis holds the top spot on the podium.
1. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Tony Bennett is now one of only two ACC coaches with national championships. The other turns 78 years old in November, so as far as someone who still has a lot of years left in the tank, Bennett answers the bell. The Cavaliers have been dicey the past couple of years but no one should question Bennett’s program after the “all-time turnaround title” in 2019. He’s an established recruiter, defensive wizard, and has the trophy to back it up.