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This Year’s ACC Basketball Coaches

Something old, something new, something borrowed a few things blue

Georgia Tech v Duke
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 26: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski (L) of the Duke Blue Devils talks with head coach Josh Pastner of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 26, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

This will be the fifth straight season the ACC sees at least one new head coach, the 11th coaching change in the past seven years.

The newcomer in 2020-21 is Wake Forest’s Steve Forbes, an Iowan who’s made more professional stops than a streetcar and won three quarters of his games as a head coach.

Wake is Forbes’s 11th stop since embarking on a college coaching path during the 1989-90 season. That was after a year as sports information director at Southern Arkansas, his alma mater, where Forbes surely realized there was a more prestigious (or at least more lucrative) career in directing players than in hyping them.

Much of his time was spent at junior colleges in Iowa and Kansas and more recently at Northwest Florida State. Forbes landed at NFS after being banished by the NCAA for abetting Bruce Pearl’s lying about a rules violation at Tennessee. His combined juco record was 130-34, a superlative .792 winning percentage.

Forbes moved for two seasons to Wichita State (2013, 2014) as an assistant to Gregg Marshall, a period that was a highwater mark in Shocker history. The ’13 team reached the Final Four, upsetting No.1 seed Gonzaga in the process. The ’14 team won its first 35 games, entering the NCAAs as the top seed in the Midwest.

That prosperity made Marshall a popular candidate for the Wake job when it came open with the merciful firing of Jeff Bzdelik, but he declined to consider trading WSU for WFU. Wake couldn’t pay him enough, Marshall teased.

Forbes, buoyed by the Shockers’ success, landed at East Tennessee for the 2016 season. A solid Southern Conference program, ETSU previously gave the ACC another head coach, Les Robinson.

Robinson arrived at Raleigh 30 years ago following Jim Valvano’s ouster. The Wolfpack alumnus called the State gig his “dream job”, and was promptly engulfed in a nightmare scenario of academic rectitude that circumscribed recruiting and limited player eligibility.

Forbes posted a cumulative 130-43 record, .751 winning efficiency, in his five years directing the Buccaneers. His team reached the 2017 NCAAs, losing to Florida after trailing by a point at halftime. East Tennessee was 30-5 in 2020, won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Southern, and was destined for another NCAA bid that never came.

Last season’s ACC coaching newcomer made a similar journey to Forbes’s.

Mike Young, hired at Virginia Tech, had crafted a 30-5 record in 2019 and earned an NCAA invitation at Wofford, another Southern Conference school. The Southern of course was the precursor of the ACC (and the SEC).

Forbes, from Lone Tree, Iowa, a town of barely 1,000 named in the 1870s after a giant elm, is the sole ACC coach born west of the Mississippi.

Young is among three coaches working in their home state, along with North Carolinian Roy Williams of UNC and New York’s Jim Boeheim at Syracuse.

North Carolina and New York remain the ACC leaders in producing active league coaches, with three each.

Four ACC head coaches are in their 40s, the youngest Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner. Four are 70 or older. The average age is 57, the same age as Young.

Forbes is six weeks younger than BC’s Jim Christian.

ACC HEAD COACHING ROSTER, 2020-21<
Based On Age As Of November 1, 2020
Coach Birthdate Age Home State Yrs at School
Jim Christian, BC February 6, 1965 55 New York 6
Brad Brownell, C November 15, 1968 49 Indiana 10
Mike Krzyzewski, D February 13, 1947 73 Illinois 40
Leonard Hamilton, FS August 4, 1948 72 North Carolina 18
Josh Pastner, GT September 26, 1977 43 West Virginia 4
Chris Mack, UL December 30, 1969 50 Ohio 2
Jim Larranaga, Mi October 2, 1949 71 New York 9
Roy Williams, NC August 1, 1950 70 North Carolina 17
Kevin Keatts, NCS July 28, 1972 48 Virginia 3
Mike Brey, ND March 22, 1959 61 Maryland 20
Jeff Capel, PU February 12, 1975 45 North Carolina 2
Jim Boeheim, SU November 17, 1944 75 New York 44
Tony Bennett, V June 1, 1969 51 Wisconsin 11
Mike Young, VT May 1, 1963 57 Virginia 1
Steve Forbes, WF March 22, 1965 55 Iowa New