All of the craziness surrounding the ACC coaching ranks last week got me wondering: are coaches simply tired of trying to compete with the big three?
Now when I refer to the big three I’m assuming you know who I’m talking about.
First and foremost is King (Coach) K, aka Mike Kzyzewski. Coach K is the proud owner of some shiny new hardware after winning this past seasons National Championship. Coach K might have cemented himself at the top of the list of all time greats with his most recent win, surpassing both his mentor Bobby Knight and his old nemesis Dean Smith. In the past two years, Coach K has won a gold medal, an ACC title, and his fourth national title. He has also gotten back to recruiting the kind of talent that is almost unbeatable under his tutelage. While the Blue Devils will lose at least two key components of this years title team in John Scheyer and Greg Zoubek, they will be reloading for another title run next year with the likes of Seth Curry (yup, the younger brother of Steph and son of Del) as well as freshmen Kyrie Irving, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton.
The second coach I am referring to is good ‘ol Roy Williams. While the Tar Heels certainly had a down season this year, what with nothing more than an NIT birth, I’d say the three Final Four appearances and two national titles in his first 6 seasons in Chapel Hill buy him a lifetime pass. The Tar Heels are poised to be right back at the top of the ACC standings next season with the additions of Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock.
And last but not least is the mighty Gary Williams of the University of Maryland. I’m sure most of you reading this already know the story. Gary took over a program mired in scandal and sanctions and basically rose it back up from the ashes. In his time in College Park, Gary Williams has won three ACC titles, has been to two Final Fours and has won a national championship. His most recent ACC title came this past season when most had the Terps pegged as a middling team within the conference.
To put it into perspective, these three coaches have won 18 of the last 20 conference titles and won 7 of the last 20 national championships.
Let that sink in for a minute.
The only other schools to win outright ACC titles in that span are Georgia Tech in 1996 and Wake Forest in 2003. That’s absolutely incredible. You almost wonder if most of the coaches in the conference just say, 'to heck with it, we aren’t gonna win the conference so lets just try to make the NCAA tourney'.
In that time, there have been some pretty good coaches who have made stops in the ACC.
Rick Barnes made a pit stop at Clemson on his way to Texas. He did and amazing job, at one point having the Tigers ranked in the top 5. He also made 3 consecutive NCAA tourney appearances.NC State tried to throw an absurd amount of money his way when they were looking for a coach a few years ago. Rick decided to stay at Texas with their sparkling new practice facilities, fertile recruiting grounds, and a lot less pressure facing him than trying to beat Duke, Carolina and Maryland night in and night out.
Bobby Cremins did an admiral job at Georgia Tech, reaching the Final Four during his time at Tech and winning the conference title in 1996. Cremins however was unable to keep the fire burning and sustain those winning ways, following up his first place performance in '96 with 4 straight losing ACC seasons before being forced out.
All of this begs the question: is there any coach out there up to the challenge of beating these guys?
Seth Greenberg of Virginia Tech barks as loud as anyone, but he’s yet to show he can run with the big dogs.
Paul Hewitt could recruit kids to play in the prison yard at Sing Sing and has even been to a Final Four, yet hasn’t been able to finish above .500 in the ACC since accomplishing that feat. He flirted with the idea of taking the St. Johns position but ultimately decided to stick it out at Tech and take his beating like a man.
Let’s take a look at Oliver Purnell. He came to Clemson from Dayton and in just a few years has turned them into a perennial NCAA tourney team. Now mind you, Clemson is a football school first with basketball coming in a much distant second. But still, he was able to recruit at a high level and breed a winning culture. So why would he leave a program he’s worked so hard to build for DePaul? DePaul! The same DePaul team that hasn’t won a Big East game in forever. Well I guess I can give you 15 million reasons. But beyond that is the fact that a school like Clemson is looked at as baron waste land of basketball. You aren’t going to pry the top talent of the Carolinas away from Duke or UNC. You aren’t going to beat out Gary Williams for talent in DC. And simply put, you aren’t going to beat these three coaches year in and year out.
So to Clemson, Boston College and Wake Forest I say, ‘Good luck!'. No good coach in their right mind is going to want to take on those three amigos year in and year out.
So good luck Jeff Bzdelik (that’s buzz-DEL-ik, in case you wanted to know), you’re gonna need it!