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NC State’s Kevin Keatts Has Already Done Something Few Other ACC Coaches Have Ever Done

And none of them are named Krzyzewski, Smith, Bennett, Driesell or Valvano.

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NC State coach Kevin Keatts
Kevin Keatts has plenty to smile about at NC State
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

This achievement could easily get past us. We shouldn’t let it.

As we’ve written previously, winning 20 games in a season isn’t as significant as it was when schedules included fewer outings. Still, it’s worth noting that by February’s end six ACC squads had won at least 20 contests. The most recent to cross that line – still ahead of more proven, winning coaches at Syracuse and Louisville – was Kevin Keatts at NC State.

Even more impressive than the fact Keatts hit the 20-victory mark in 2019 is that it’s the second year he’s done it and only his second season in the ACC. Such a start is far less common that you might suppose.

None of the three Hall of Fame coaches active in the ACC – Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim -- started with consecutive 20-win seasons. In fact, despite extensively revamping his roster this year, Keatts became just the 11th coach in ACC history to launch his league career with consecutive 20-win seasons. Of that exclusive group, only Miami’s Jim Larranaga is actively coaching in the conference.

Florida State’s Pat Kennedy posted a pair of 20-victory seasons immediately upon the program entering the ACC, buoyed by less rigorous academic standards under which he’d recruited as a Metro Conference member.

UNC’s Bill Guthridge, Dean Smith’s longtime assistant, hit the 20-win plateau in each of his three seasons at the Tar Heel helm.

Rick Pitino’s squads won 20 or more in his three ACC seasons after Louisville joined during a 2015 expansion, replacing Maryland, only to be fired after the ’17 season.

NC State is the only school that had more than one coach debut with consecutive 20-victory efforts: Everett Case, Mark Gottfried and Keatts.

20-20 VISION
(Consecutive 20-Win Seasons To Start ACC Coaching Career,
Listed By First ACC Season Had At Least 20 Wins)
Coach School Opening 20 Wins Subsequent 20 Wins
Harold Bradley Duke 22-6 in 1954 1955
Everett Case NC State 28-7 in 1954 1955, 1956
Jeff Jones Virginia 21-12 in 1991 1992, 1993
Pat Kennedy Florida St. 22-10 in 1992 1993
Bill Guthridge UNC 34-4 in 1998 1999, 2000
Skip Prosser Wake 21-13 in 2002 2003, 2004 2005
Al Skinner Boston College 28-8 in 2006 2007
Mark Gottfried NC State 24-13 in 2012 2013, 2014, 2015
Jim Larranaga Miami 20-13 in 2012 2013
Rick Pitino Louisville 27-9 in 2015 2016, 2017
Kevin Keatts NC State 21-12 in 2018 2019
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