clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Youth Is Not Always Wasted On The Young

Some of the ACC’s finest coaches started pretty early

Virginia Tech v Duke
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 14: Coaches (L-R) Nate James, Jeff Capel, head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Jon Scheyer watch during their game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 14, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 74-52.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

When Duke performed its sedate coaching shuffle this past spring, much was made of Jon Scheyer’s youth when he would replace Mike Krzyzewski at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Scheyer, born on August 24, 1987 — the summer before Krzyzewski’s teams went on a 5-year run of Final Four visits — will be 34 when he takes command of the Blue Devil bench in November 2022. That would make him the seventh-youngest head men’s basketball coach in ACC history, seven weeks the junior of Bobby Cremins, who took over at Georgia Tech in 1981.

Cremins inherited a wreck, and it wasn’t ramblin’. Two years into their ACC tenure the Yellow Jackets were 4-23, winless in the league and in last place. Two years later they won three ACC contests, guard Mark Price became the first freshman to lead the league in scoring, and Cremins was voted 1983 ACC coach of the year. He won the award again in 1985 when his feisty Jackets tied UNC and NC State for first place and captured the 1985 ACC Tournament title.

Cremins won the coaching honor again in 1996. He is one of nine men chosen the ACC coach of the year at least three times.

Of the half-dozen men who took over ACC program at a younger age than Scheyer, half had previously served as a head coach. Krzyzewski was at Army for five years. Terry Holland was at Davidson for five years before joining the ACC at Virginia, and Cremins spent six years at Appalachian State.

Both Holland and Coach K got their coaching starts at their respective alma maters. Cremins actually played in the ACC at South Carolina.

Jeff Jones (age 30) and David Padgett (32) became ACC head coaches at the schools where they played.

Jones coached the Cavs for eight years (1991-98), had four 20-win squads among his first five, earned five trips to the NCAAs, including a regional final, and won the 1992 NIT. But boosters pushed him out the door after his marriage dissolved and several players were arrested for offcourt misadventures.

Padgett was a stopgap hire when Rick Pitino was let go, trailed by the stench of several scandalous episodes (sneaker shenanigans, prostitutes entertaining recruits on campus). Padgett’s Cardinals won 22 games in 2018 but was quickly ushered out the door after finishing eighth in a 15-team ACC.

Thirty-year-olds Vic Bubas and Dean Smith took over Duke and UNC, respectively, around the start of the sixties and quickly became Final Four habitués. Bubas moved on to administration after a decade; Smith stayed 36 seasons and won a pair of NCAA titles (1982,1993) and helped to define the ACC until Coach K superseded him.

In fact, all the coaches age 34 or younger that ran ACC programs won at least 20 games once. A trio won NCAA championships during their league tenures. Krzyzewski, 33 upon arrival at Duke, won five NCAA titles, Smith two, State’s Jim Valvano once in 1983.

Among the under-40 coaching group Krzyzewski, Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner, and K disciple Jeff Capel are still active in the ACC in 2021-22.

Youngest ACC Head Coaches By Age, All-Time
(Totals For Active Coaches Include 2021-22 Season)
Age Coach School First Game Birthdate Tenure
30 Jeff Jones Virginia 11-23-90 6-29-60 8 yrs
30 Dean Smith North Carolina 12-2-61 2-28-31 36
30 Vic Bubas Duke 12-1-59 1-28-29 10
32 Terry Holland Virginia 12-2-74 4-2-42 16
32 David Padgett Louisville 11-12-17 2-13-85 1
33 Mike Krzyzewski Duke 11-29-80 2-13-4 42*
34 Bobby Cremins Georgia Tech 11-20-81 7-4-47 19
34 Jim Valvano NC State 11-29-80 3-10-46 10
37 Jeff Capel Pittsburgh 11-6-18 2-12-75 4*
39 Frank Haith Miami 11-20-04 11-3-65 6
39 Josh Pastner Georgia Tech 11-5-16 9-26-77 6*
34 Jon Scheyer Duke Unspecified 8-24-87 None
* Active in ACC in 2021-22.