Lauren is a regular DBR reader who submitted this paper as her freshman thesis at her high school, and we thought we'd share it with you:
Atlantic Coast Conference Men's Basketball
"It's a piece of Americana!" one rabid fan explained
at The Waffle House as he ate breakfast before the first full day of
games at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Men's Basketball
Tournament. And this man is not alone in his fanaticism. He is
just one of the thousands of enthusiastic fans that appreciate the
quality and history of ACC basketball. The ACC men's basketball
conference is the most important in college basketball. It has been
home to the most influential people and games that have shaped what
is now called March Madness.
According to David Teel, "The
ACC's basketball heritage remains unrivalled" (Teel, David 1B).
The conference set the precedent for end-of-season conference
tournaments, hosted a game that resulted in the shot clock be
introduced to college hoops, and was the site of what is generally
considered the greatest game ever played (which added at large bids
to the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] tournament).
These have helped change the college game into what it is today.
While the games have been exciting to watch, they are not the only
part of the conference that has been vital to its overall
contribution in college basketball. The coaches of the ACC have been
equally important. Dean Smith, Everett Case, Lefty Driesell, and
Mike Krzyzewski are some of the finest college coaches. Each of
them is now a household name and is known around the basketball world
as the best in his profession. Coaches all over the country, from
recreation league teams all the way to other college teams, now
imitate their individual styles in an attempt to bring the success
these men had with their own programs. Great coaches help win
championships, but so does immense talent; another element the ACC
brings to the college game. Each of the original seven Atlantic
Coast Conference schools
has had at least one extraordinary player go through its program.
In fact, in many cases each school has had many great players. When
discussing the outstanding ACC players, names like Michael Jordan,
Art Heyman, Horace Grant, Tom McMillen, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan,
and David Thompson come to mind. ("ACC 50th
Anniversary Men's Basketball Team") The
growth in popularity surrounding college basketball is in large part
because of the influences of the ACC, the tournament, the people, the
coaches and players alike.
The impact of the ACC in traceable to
the conference tournament. "The ACC quickly established its
claim to the basketball fervor that would captivate the region for
the next half century" says Barry Jacobs as he speaks about the
first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. (Jacobs, Barry 57) The
first tournament was frowned upon by the basketball world. They just
could not understand how the teams selected to go to the national
tournament could be decided by three days of tournament games instead
of the months of regular season play. The ACC argued "Why not?
The national championship is decided on in a series of just a few
games, not months of playing" (Tiede, Joe).
While the success of the first
tournament was not monumental, it sold eighty percent of its tickets
and had a host of exciting games. Most importantly, it set the stage
to make the ACC tournament the event it is now. Today, the ACC
tournament is so successful the tickets are no longer available to
the public and have not been for forty years. (Bjarkman, Peter C
225) In order to be eligible to get tickets, you must meet
requirements set by one of the ACC schools. The requirements include
how much money you give annually, how much you have given over your
lifetime, and how long
you have given donations. Then, if selected, you get an
application for the number of tickets you would like. From the
applications the school reviews who has given the most money and
offers the opportunity to buy tickets to those selected. The tickets
are sold in books or sets of tickets to all the tournament games.
For the 2003 tournament, each book was $260. The tournament has
become so popular that the books are sometimes scalped for as much as
a thousand dollars. After the ACC started the tournament, it became
a less radical idea. Soon many conferences saw its benefits and
actually began their own end-of-season tournament. Now nearly all of
the Division I conferences have a tournament like the ACC's and the
winners of the championship get automatic bids to the NCAA
tournament. (Feinstein, John 98)
The Greatest Game Played. Ever.
Out of all the hundreds of games played every year, the championship
game of the ACC Tournament in 1974 between the University of Maryland
and North Carolina State was the best. At the time, only a field of
were invited to the NCAA tournament. The rest could get National
Invitation Tournament (NIT) bids. Now the NCAA hosts sixty-five,
forty more than it used to. Under the old rules, the ACC had declared
that only the winner of the ACC Tournament would get a bid to the
NCAA Tournament and a chance to advance and win the national title.
NC State and Maryland were two of the best teams in the country and
both obviously deserved to be invited to the NCAA tournament. Both
teams had incredible players who helped lead to their success. NC
State had David Thompson, who had one of the most successful college
careers ever. Maryland had the heavily recruited Tom McMillen. They
also had Lefty Driesell on the bench coaching. (Johnson, Dave 1B).
At half time of the game, Maryland was
up by five, 55-50. NC State pulled ahead by four with just two
minutes left in the game. Maryland, however, was not ready to give
up and tied the game, forcing it into overtime. In overtime, a
Maryland player overthrew a pass and turned the ball over with just
six seconds on the clock. When NC State got the ball Monte Towe was
fouled. He made both free throws and NC State won the game 103, to
Maryland's 100. The Wolfpack of North Carolina State proceeded on to
win the NCAA Tournament. Maryland did receive an NIT bid but turned
it down because they felt that they had proved all they needed to.
Over the years, reruns of the thriller have played a number of times,
but the video is not complete. The overtime footage has been lost
(Johnson, Dave 1B). This makes those who have seen the game in its
entirety part of a select few who can truly appreciate the entire
game. "It was only a basketball game- the most beautifully
played, intense game in the ACC tournament's history" (Johnson,
In 1982 the University of Virginia
(UVA) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) played in a game
that was highly anticipated, partly because it was the championship
game of the ACC Tournament, and partly because of the match-up
between the two superstars, Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson. All
the spectators were disappointed when Dean Smith and his Tarheels
played a spread, half court offense. The UNC team used a strategy
that is called "four corners" which is used to hold the
ball for long periods of time and let the clock run out. While
playing this offense the crowd of 16,034 booed the Tarheels (Burke,
Lynn 7B). "What happened in Greensboro wasn't college
basketball. It was stall-ball. It was a coach's ploy that robbed
both fans and
players of competition" (Miller, Skip 7B). The game was
eventually decided on foul shots. The final score was North
Carolina, 47 and Virginia, 45. "But the rulemakers took notice.
A few seasons later, the NCAA introduced the shot clock, and it's
been with us ever since" (Burke 7B).
The UNC coach in the "stall-ball"
game may have been criticized but in his thirty six years as head
coach at UNC (1960-1996), Dean Smith became the winningest coach in
NCAA Tournament history. He has won thirteen ACC Tournament
Championships and qualified for the NCAA Tournament twenty-three
consecutive times. He is a leader in most of the statistical
categories kept for coaches. And while all of his numbers are
impressive, perhaps the most extraordinary part of Dean Smith's
career was not kept in numbers. Ninety-six percent of his players
graduated and to this day he keeps in contact with most of them.
"He told his secretaries that they could put any other person on
hold when they called but that anytime a player called, to put them
through immediately. Those players cherished Dean Smith and many
have been quoted as saying he became their second father"
("Dean Smith"). He is said to have impeccable character.
He was even named Sportsman of the year in 1997. Once John Wooden,
the legendary basketball coach from UCLA, said, "I've always
said that Dean is a better teacher of basketball than anyone else. I
couldn't begin to teach players the things that Dean Smith has taught
them. I've admired him because there's more to him than wins"
Everett Case made his mark on college
basketball in 1950's. He was a man from Indiana, a place where
college basketball is a way of life. Needless to say, he grew up
around the game. In North Carolina basketball was not yet a widely
anticipated sport. He was appointed head coach at North Carolina
State, a place where he was wildly successful and the stories of his
coaching still are told. " It is not an exaggeration to claim
that Indiana's native son Everett Case single-handedly transformed
North Carolina State into a legitimate national basketball dynasty.
It would hardly be an overstatement to boast that it was Everette
Case alone who put Naismith's wintertime sport squarely on the map
everywhere along Tobacco Road" (Bjarkman 212). Case never won
less than twenty-four games and his total wins even reached thirty
games won per season. His success opened the door for future
basketball dynasties like North Carolina and Duke (Bjarkman 212).
Another of the great ACC coaches is a local. Lefty Driesel used
to coach at Newport News High School. The University of Maryland
hired him as their head coach in 1969. He promised to turn Maryland
into "the UCLA of the east." While the teams that Driesell
coached were incredibly talented and successful, he never could live
up to his promise. He had bad luck and unfortunate situations plague
his entire career. The highlight of his coaching career at Maryland
was in the ACC tournament game of 1974 when he coached in the
overtime thriller that is commonly called the greatest game ever
played. Although he lost, he is remembered for the tremendous effort
he and his team put into the game (Bjarkman 219). Ten years later,
in 1984, he won his only ACC tournament. Even though he only won the
tournament once, he finished with a winning record in the tournament,
17-16 in his seventeen seasons at Maryland (Johnson, Dave and David
Teel 7B). "Driesell may have failed at the highest levels
almost as much as he triumphed, but the victories were frequent
enough and impressive enough nevertheless to
leave one of the league's most colorful and controversial figures
high on the list of the ACC's biggest overall achievers"
The most recent in the line of remarkable college coaches is Mike
Krzyzewski. Casey Sanders, a current Duke senior who has played under
Krzyzewski for four years says "I'll tell you right now-nobody
in the country does a better job of getting his guys ready to play.
And nobody is better at scouting a team on a quick turn around. The
players come and go, but there's that same guy sitting on the bench
giving the orders. And nobody can compete with that."
(<http://www.dukebasketballreport.com>) Krzyzewski is in his
twenty-third year of coaching at Duke University. He came to the
program when it was nothing more than an unknown ACC school that had
had a few good players and a couple of runs in the ACC tournament.
Krzyzewski has built the program into a national dynasty which is
"Hated by many, loved by few, and respected by all"
Krzyzewski's impressive career includes
three national titles, including back-to-back ones in 1991 and 1992.
He has also won seven ACC Tournaments, including a record five
straight championships, a streak that is currently still going. He
has won eleven "coach of the year" titles. ("Mike
Krzyzewski Profile"). He's a hall of fame coach who prides
himself not on winning games, but on teaching his players the game of
basketball and life. He is a master of motivation. In his two
books, Leading with the Heart and Five Point Play,
Krzyzewski follows national championship seasons and explains how he
motivates his players and gets the results he wants. Through these
books he demonstrates how and why he is the best coach in the game
today. A former Blue Devil, Shane Battier says in the Foreword to
Five Point Play,
rare, especially in the athletic world that is so focused on winning
games, to find a man who both inspires and demands adherence to
higher principles. With Coach, it's not about winning games. It's
about performing with class and integrity. It's about having fun
along the way. It's about knowing who you are. And it's about
continually improving yourself" (Battier ix).
Great coaches mean nothing without
great players exemplifying what their coaches taught them. All of
the original ACC schools have a player who has come through their
program and worked harder and played better that the rest. For the
University of North Carolina, that man was Michael Jordan. He was
the player and athlete of the year in 1983. Later in his
professional career he was arguably the best player to ever play the
game. He raised the level of playing every time he walked on the
court. (Bjarkman 189).
In the early 1960's Tobacco Road saw
the first of a long line of great player to come through the schools.
Art Heyman, a Duke player, was the National and ACC player of the
year in 1963. Heyman opened the door for future Blue Devils and
really helped build the basketball dynasty Duke University would
become (Bjarkman 185).
Horace Grant, like Art Heyman, was the
first great player at his school. He was the ACC player of the year.
He is the first and only from Clemson University to get that honor
He also led the ACC in shooting percentage and rebounding. He is one
of just two players to do so. In the professional game, after being
chosen first in the draft, he flourished just as much as he did in
college. Grant won three championship rings in
fourteen years of playing in the National Basketball Association
(NBA). ("ACC 50th Anniversary Men's Basketball
Tom McMillen was a man of many firsts.
He was the first high school recruit to ever be on the cover of
Sports Illustrated before being a college player. During his
college career at the University of Maryland, he was a three time
All-American. He was also a three time Academic All-American. He
led his team to the NIT Tournament Championship where he was voted
most valuable player. However, he could do more than just play
basketball; he is also a Rhodes Scholar, has an interest in politics
and served in the United States Congress in the 1980's. ("ACC
50th Anniversary Men's Basketball Team").
The best player to ever play basketball
at the University of Virginia is Ralph Sampson. He was the three
time National and ACC player of the year. He was also a four time
All-American and three time All-ACC player (Bjarkman 186).
He won two prestigious Wooden Awards. While Sampson was the
best player at the time, the ACC was so competitive that he never won
the ACC Tournament. ("ACC 50th Anniversary Men's
Another all-time great was Wake Forest
University's Tim Duncan. He was just the tenth player in NCAA
history to have 2000 points and 1500 rebounds in a college career. He
was also second all time in blocked shots. He was the top pick in
the 1997 NBA draft. In the NBA he has won one championship. In that
postseason series, he was named most valuable player (MVP) ("ACC
50th Anniversary Men's Basketball Team").
The star of the greatest game ever
played was David Thompson. He played on the winning North Carolina
State team. Thompson had a more impressive college career than
Michael Jordan, but Thompson had a less impressive professional
career. Thompson was a three time All-American, ACC player of the
year and National player of the year in 1974 and 1975. He is also
the leading ACC scorer of all time (ACC 50th Anniversary
Men's Basketball Team).
The ACC has been the single most
important conference in college basketball history. It changed
rules, opinions, and standards of the game. The first ACC tournament
had a huge influence on each conference across the United States.
The games of the ACC Tournament in 1974 and 1982 played major parts
in monumental rule changes that have changed the way the college game
is played. The coaching of the ACC has played a vital role in the
conference's success. Men like Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski have
brought the ACC to the forefront of college basketball and set a
standard of excellence for athletics and academic requirements. The
great players of the ACC have touched fan's lives and raised the
standard for basketball today. "Now in its 50th year
of competition, the ACC had long enjoyed a reputation as one of the
strongest and most competitive intercollegiate conferences in the
nation. And that is not a mere conjecture; the numbers support it"
(Swofford, John 6).