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How They Started: First Year Records For ACC Coaches

Since 2011, only eight first-year coaches have have winning records.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at N.C. State
Mar 6, 2019; Raleigh, NC, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Josh Pastner (left) and North Carolina State Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts shake hands prior to a game at PNC Arena. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Since the 2010-11 season, when Wright State’s Brad Brownell came aboard, through 2021-22, the ACC has seen 19 new coaches join its ranks.

Only twice over those dozen years, in 2014 and 2016, has there been no turnover on the sidelines.

While the pay is substantial, job security has not been great. Nine schools changed oncourt leaders at least twice since 2011. Four have started over three times – Boston College, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Wake.

At BC there is a fourth new coach, Earl Grant, since the school joined the ACC in 2006 and quickly ousted long-time success Al Skinner. Meanwhile at North Carolina there is a fourth new coach, Hubert Davis, since Dean Smith retired in 1997.

Adding multiple ACC coaches in the same season is fairly common – it’s happened seven times since 2011.

Two were added in 2019 (Louisville’s Chris Mack and Pitt’s Jeff Capel); two came in 2018 (Kevin Keatts at NC State and David Padgett at Louisville); and in 2017 Kevin Stallings and Josh Pastner shuffled in at Pitt and Georgia Tech, respectively. Four of the six — Mack, Capel, Keatts and Pastner — remain where they landed.

Among three coaches hired for 2010-11, only Clemson’s Brownell remains on the job. Brownell is now the all-time leader in wins at Clemson (201).

Coaching triplets also were delivered to the ACC in 2012 and 2015. A single member of the 2012 group is still in place – Miami’s Jim Larranaga, who’s 20 wins short of the program standard. Bruce Hale racked up 220 career victories long before the school joined the ACC (1955-67).

None of the 2015 trio remains; only Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams left of his own volition.

Of course not all new coaches have equivalent opportunities from the outset. Some arrived when the league had nine teams. Now it has 15, providing more chances to win (or lose) games. What each coach inherited in the way of talent and tradition also varied and had an impact on his program’s eventual fate.

Most coaches did about as well as expected with their new squads. This didn’t protect them in the long run.

The two most successful rookie coaches of the past 12 years in terms of ACC finish versus preseason prediction – NC State’s Kevin Keatts (2018) and Louisville’s Chris Mack (2019) – are still around. Of four who debuted with a 9-7 league mark, only Brownell and Miami’s Jim Larranaga remain.

Incidentally, the best first-year record of a new ACC head coach in this century was posted by someone whose name was assiduously avoided when Hubert Davis was introduced this past spring at Chapel Hill.

Matt Doherty’s UNC Tar Heels secured 13 league victories and finished first during the 2001 league regular season. In fact, enchanted by initial impressions but showing a distinct unfamiliarity with ground truth, writers at a remove voted Doherty the national coach of the year even as his team faded.

The ACC media went with Tech’s Hewitt, who did more with less, for the league’s 2001 coach of the year.

Records of First-Year ACC Men's Coaches Since 2011 Season
(Excludes Those On Hand When Joined League, Listed By ACC Wins)
ACC Season Coach, School Overall Projected
11-7 2018 Kevin Keatts, NCS 21-12 12 3 tie
10-8 2019 Chris Mack, UL 20-14 11 6 tie
9-7 2011 Steve Donahue, BC 21-13 10 4
9-7 2011 Brad Brownell, C 22-12 7 4
9-7 2012 Jim Larranaga, UM 20-13 5 5 tie
9-7 2012 Mark Gottfried, NCS 24-13 8 4 tie
9-9 2018 David Padgett, UL 20-14 5 6 tie
8-10 2017 Josh Pastner, GT 21-16 14 11
7-13 2020 Mike Young, VT 16-16 14 10 tie
5-13 2015 Danny Manning, WF 13-19 11 14
4-12 2012 Brian Gregory, GT 11-20 10 8 tie
4-14 2013 James Johnson, VT 13-19 10 12
4-14 2015 Jim Christian, BC 13-19 14 13
4-14 2017 Kevin Stallings, UP 16-17 12 13 tie
3-15 2019 Jeff Capel, UP 14-19 15 14 tie
2-16 2015 Buzz Williams, VT 11-22 15 15
1-15 2011 Jeff Bzdelik, WF 8-24 12 12
NOTE: Interim coaches Mike Hopkins (Syracuse, 2016) and Scott Spinelli (BC, 2021) each served for a handful of games but are not included.