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The ACC’s New Head Honchos

Pitt’s Jeff Capel and Louisville’s Chris Mack are both new ACC head coaches but for very different reasons. Or maybe you could just say both universities were embarrassed.

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Duke v Notre Dame
 SOUTH BEND, IN - JANUARY 30: Interim coach Jeff Capel III of the Duke Blue Devils confers with an official during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Purcell Pavilion on January 30, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

This is the third straight season in which a pair of new head coaches landed in the ACC, not as adjuncts to expansion members but as choices to run their teams. Only once since Florida State came aboard in 1992 has there been a three-year period in which so many changes were made directing league programs.

You can readily argue that with more members come more opportunities for change. There are more posts to fill, after all. There’s more pressure to keep up, too, and more hiring mistakes to be made in trying to do so.

Then there are coaches like Pitt’s Jamie Dixon (or Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, for that matter) who don’t want to be in the ACC, and jump ship after their school joins. Boeheim apparently isn’t leaving; in 2017 Dixon returned to TCU, his alma mater.

Just one of this decade’s coaching changes came via what might be called natural attrition. That is, the incumbent retired. The exception was Gary Williams, who stepped aside at Maryland following the 2011 season. A few years later Maryland itself retired from the ACC, to be replaced by Louisville.

When the Cardinals joined in 2015, keeping the conference at 15 members, they brought along Rick Pitino, giving the ACC four active Hall of Fame coaches. This much-touted distinction didn’t last long, however. In 2018 Pitino was forced out amid a double-barreled blast of scandal – provision of paid female companionship to UL recruits and entanglement in the sneaker/player procurement scandal involving Adidas.

Pitino’s departure on the eve of the season led Louisville to promote his assistant, David Padgett, to acting head coach. He had no previous experience directing a team. Padgett’s squad was competitive, but at 9-9 in the league and 22-14 overall fell below the program’s standards. Padgett was replaced by Chris Mack, a proven commodity, instead of allowing the younger man to grow into the job.

Pitt has this year’s other new coach, Jeff Capel, who replaced bristly Kevin Stallings. Maybe BC was willing to endure an 0-18 ACC record under Jim Christian in 2016; Pitt was not so forgiving after Stallings’ Panthers posted a similarly dismal league record last year, driving off fans in droves.

Since ’92 there have now been 33 coaching changes in 27 seasons. The turnover rate is accelerating. Just in the nine years of this decade, there have been 17 changes, and in one-third of the time since FSU joined.

Williams, Dixon and Clemson’s Oliver Purnell left voluntarily. Wake’s Skip Prosser died. Everyone else walked the professional plank.

ACC Coaching Changes by Season, Since 1992
(Not Counting Coaches Accompanying A New ACC Member)
Year Changes Name, School
2019 2 C. Mack, UL; J. Capel PU
2018 2 D. Padgett, UL; Kevin Keatts, NS
2017 2 J. Pastner, GT; Kevin Stallings, PU
2016 None NA
2015 3 J. Christian, BC; D. Manning, WF; B. Williams, VT
2014 None NA
2013 1 J. Johnson, VT
2012 4 M. Gottfried, NS; B. Gregory, GT; J. Larranaga, Mi; M. Turgeon, M
2011 3 B. Brownell, C; J. Bzdelik, WF; S. Donahue, BC
2010 1 T. Bennett, V
2009 None NA
2008 1 D. Gaudio, WF
2007 1 S. Lowe, NS
2006 1 D. Leitao, V
2005 None NA
2004 2 R. Williams, NC; O. Purnell, C
2003 1 L. Hamilton, FS
2002 1 S. Prosser, WF
2001 2 M. Doherty, NC; P. Hewitt, GT
2000 None NA
1999 2 P. Gillen, V; L. Shyatt, C
1998 2 B. Guthridge, NC; S. Robinson, FS
1997 1 H. Sendek, NS
1996 None
1995 1 R. Barnes, C
1994 None
1993 None
1992 None

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