Much was made of Jon Scheyer’s youth when Duke announced two springs ago that 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 launched a 5-year run of Final Four visits — will be 34 when he takes command of the Blue Devils in November. That would still only 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 an ACC program at a younger age than Scheyer, three had previously served as a head coach. All prospered in the ACC. Krzyzewski had been at Army for five years. Terry Holland was at Davidson for five years before joining the conference at Virginia. Cremins spent six years tuning up 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 publicly dissolved and several players were arrested for off-court misadventures. Jones currently is head coach at Old Dominion.
Padgett was a stopgap hire when Rick Pitino was let go, trailed by the odor 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).
Smith helped to define the ACC until Coach K superseded him.
In fact, all previous ACC coaches age 34 or younger won at least 20 games one or more times. 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.
Six early starters reached a Final Four – Holland, Bubas, Cremins, Valvano, Krzyzewski, and Smith.
Among the coaching veterans who got going in their 30s, Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner and K disciple Jeff Capel remain active in the ACC.
Youngest ACC Head Coaches By Age, All-Time
|30||Jeff Jones||Virginia||11-23-90||6-29-60||8 yrs|
|30||Dean Smith||North Carolina||12-2-61||2-28-31||36|
|34||Bobby Cremins||Georgia Tech||11-20-81||7-4-47||19|
|34||Jim Valvano||NC State||11-29-80||3-10-46||10|
|39||Josh Pastner||Georgia Tech||11-5-16||9-26-77||6|