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ACC Coaching Longevity

Some current coaches have really set a new standard

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Duke
 Feb 10, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski (left) greets Florida State Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton prior to a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

You could look at this as a pinnacle moment for ACC coaching, a time of surpassing stability, endurance and accomplishment. Or you could see the coaching ranks as calcified, the best jobs taken, packed with guys comfortably ensconced in their current positions and approaches.

“Because I’ve been doing it so long, you go into work, you usually turn left at this light and maybe you should turn right, or just always pay attention to the light, I should say,” Mike Krzyzewski did say recently of Duke’s 2021 struggles. “That’s what we’re going through.”

Illustrating why we’d go with self-aware experience as a strength of the current veteran corps of ACC coaches.

Regardless of your take on the league’s bench maestros, it’s a striking fact that the majority of ACC men’s coaches (8 of 15) have now held their jobs for 10 or more seasons.

A full one-third have served at their current schools longer than anyone else in their programs’ history. This is a notable achievement for anyone, especially in a league that commands considerable scrutiny and engenders significant competitive pressure.

The five program-defining coaches are Clemson’s Brad Brownell, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, FSU’s Leonard Hamilton, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.

Three more ACC teams are led by men who’ve been in their current position for at least a decade – Miami’s Jim Larranaga, in a three-way tie for the school’s second-longest tenure at 10 years; North Carolina’s Roy Williams, who in his 18th year has served half as long as his mentor, Dean Smith; and UVa’s Tony Bennett, with an 11-year tenure that’s fourth-longest at Charlottesville.

This season is Hamilton’s 19th as head coach at Florida State, the most ever at the school. He just surpassed Bud Kennedy, who won more than a hundred fewer games during his 18-year tenure in FSU’s pre-ACC days.

Hamilton is on a publicized waiting list for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where Krzyzewski and Boeheim, along with UNC coach Roy Williams, already are enshrined. Hamilton, like Williams a North Carolina native, has 372 victories at Tallahassee, fifth in ACC history, and has nearly 550 in his career at three schools.

(Hamilton’s ACC victory total doesn’t count 144 wins he registered at Miami from 1991-2000, years before that program joined the league. If added to his FSU total, Hamilton would rank third behind only Krzyzewski and Smith in wins among all coaches at ACC schools.)

Meanwhile it’s indicative of the difficulties of survival at Clemson that Brownell’s 11-year tenure is the longest ever at the school and barely half as long as Hamilton’s and Brey’s in similarly ingrown, football-obsessed sports ecosystems.

Forty percent of remaining ACC coaches (6 of 15) are in their first five years on the job – Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner, Louisville’s Chris Mack, NC State’s Kevin Keatts, Pitt’s Jeff Capel, Virginia Tech’s Mike Young and Wake’s Steve Forbes.

BC’s Jim Christian, fired in mid-February, was in year seven directing the Eagles. His team was 3-13 overall, 1-9 in the ACC in 2021, virtually guaranteeing his sixth losing season at the school. His league winning percentage was .277.

Program Leaders In Years As Head Coach At Current ACC School
(Records Through Games of Feb. 16, 2021)
School Coach Years 2021 W-L At Second Place
Years At, Coach (Seasons)
Brad Brownell Clemson 11 13-5 198-147 10 Banks McFadden (1947-56)
Cliff Ellis (1985-94)
Mike Krzyzewski Duke 41 8-8 1092-299 14 Eddie Cameron (1929-42)
Leonard Hamilton Florida St. 19 12-3 372-224 18 Bud Kennedy (1949-66)
Mike Brey Notre Dame 21 9-10 446-243 20 George Keogan (1924-43)
Digger Phelps (1972-91)
Jim Boeheim Syracuse 45 12-6 976-405 26 Lewis Andreas (1925-50)