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Quite Suddenly, Final Four Appearances Are Rare For ACC Coaches

Things have changed, post-Roy, post Boeheim and post-K

CORAL GABLES, FL - MARCH 04: Miami (Fl) Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga watches the second net being cut down after Miami finishes first in the ACC following the game between the Pittsburg Panthers and the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They reached basketball’s promised land, the Final Four.

A few of them, anyway.

Eighteen in 69 seasons of the ACC’s existence. Better than once every four years. (Disregarding the COVID-neutered 2020 season.)

Every year a strong deputation of ACC teams gets invited to the NCAA tournament, where intimations of greatness seem ever more real with each victory. Last year five ACC teams were included in the postseason field. After Duke, NC State and Virginia were quickly eliminated only Miami and Pitt won twice.

For the Panthers it was a belated statement of belonging after six seasons wandering in the wilderness of defeat. For the Hurricanes, knocked off in the ’22 Midwest regional final by Kansas, the eventual NCAA champion, an advance to the Final Four was a program first.

Miami’s appearance on the last weekend of the 2023 NCAAs was the third in two seasons by an ACC squad, after Duke and UNC in 2022, and the fourth in the four most recent years the NCAAs were contested, counting Virginia’s 2019 title.

Some might argue the frequency of these appearances contradicts claims ACC’s men’s basketball fortunes are in competitive decline despite questionable exclusions in selection that lowered the league’s overall number of entrants. There’s no question the ACC dipped in prowess the last few years. Yet it was as recently as the ’19 NCAAs, quickly overshadowed by the 2020 COVID quietus, that five ACC teams reached the Sweet 16.

For Miami coach Jim Larranaga last season yielded a second Final Four coaching berth after unexpectantly taking George Mason’s Patriots to the NCAA semis in 2006. He is the sole active ACC coach with more than a single appearance in the Final Four.

That reduced roster is quite a change from just two seasons ago when the ACC bristled with Final Four veterans, five in all. Included are now-retired coaches Roy Williams at UNC, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. That trio made 19 Final Four appearances between them at ACC schools, winning the majority (8) of the league’s 15 NCAA titles. (Boeheim won a ninth championship at Syracuse in 2003 as a Big East member.)

Larranaga, North Carolina’s Hubert Davis, and UVa’s Tony Bennett achieved one visit each as league members. Bennett and Davis are the only active ACC coaches who won a Final Four game, Davis’ Heels reaching the 2022 championship contest by beating Duke in the semis.

In fact Bennett won a pair of Final Four games in 2019, emerging with UVa’s sole national title in three Final Four appearances, the first two under program-builder Terry Holland in the early 1980s.

Davis, by the way, is one of eight ACC coaches to take a team to the Final Four who previously played at a league school – Wake’s Bones McKinney (1962 berth), Duke’s Vic Bubas (1963,1965, 1966), NC State’s Norm Sloan (1974), Georgia Tech’s Bobby Cremins (1990), Maryland’s Gary Williams (2001, 2002), UNC’s Roy Williams (2005, 2009, 2017), Syracuse’s Boeheim (2016), and Davis.

Active Coaches Who Took ACC Teams To Final Four During Career
Coach, School Final Four
W-L, Final Four
Tony Bennett, Virginia 1 2-0, 2019
Hubert Davis, North Carolina 1 1-1, 2022
Jim Larranaga, Miami 1 0-1, 2023