College Basketball: Ranking the Coaches in the ACC

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2012

College Basketball: Ranking the Coaches in the ACC

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    The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is one of the best basketball conferences in the country. To be a head coach in this league, you need to have thick skin and be ready for a knock-down, drag-out fight every game.

    We all know Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, but there are a bevy of first and second-year coaches in the ACC. Who are they, and how do they all stack up against each other?

    This ACC Coaches rankings are based on a combination of their career impact and current success. Here's a look at each program's fearless leader.

12. Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik lands last on our list because his coaching has earned him mediocre results almost everywhere he's been.

    Bzdelik is a journeyman, going from the college ranks to the NBA and back. Now he's working on bringing the Demon Deacons back to ACC prominence.

    Wake Forest finished in the basement of the conference with a 8-24 record in 2010-2011, Bzdelik's first year. This season they've already exceeded the amount of wins they had last season, and they'll compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

    If Bzdelik continues to improve the program, he could find the kind of success that he enjoyed during his tenure at Air Force.

11. Steve Donahue, Boston College Eagles

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    Steve Donahue stood out in the Ivy League, where he ended up leading the Big Red to three straight NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet Sixteen run in 2010.

    But this isn't the Ivy League anymore.

    Now that he's playing with the big dogs of the ACC, Donahue's results are more pedestrian. A second-round exit in the NIT last spring has been followed up by a sub-par .500 record so far this season.

    Recent wins against Clemson and Virginia Tech are a good sign, though.

10. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Longtime Dayton Flyers coach Brian Gregory is in his first year at the helm of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

    The jury is still out on him, so I'll reserve any definitive judgements about his ability to coach in the ACC.

    What we do know is that he was a winner at Dayton in the Atlantic 10 conference. During his time with the Flyers, Gregory compiled a 172-94 record and won a NIT Tournament championship.

    We'll see whether the fiery coach will lead Georgia Tech back toward the top of the ACC.

9. Mark Turgeon, Maryland Terrapins

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    Mark Turgeon has some big shoes to fill at Maryland after the retirement of Gary Williams, but it looks like he's ready for the task.

    Turgeon has the Terrapins sitting in third place in the ACC, playing solid defense and nipping at the heels of rivals Duke and North Carolina.

    Maryland fans set high standards for their basketball program, and they are used to being contenders in the conference. If Turgeon wants to maintain a high level of job security, he'll need to keep up the success and make noise in the big dance.

8. Brad Brownell, Clemson Tigers

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    After leading UNC Wilmington and Wright State to NCAA Tournament appearances, Brad Brownell took his talents to Clemson in 2010.

    The Tigers finished 22-12 in Brownell's first year and made it to the second round of the big dance, so the bar has been set high for his tenure.

    This season, Clemson is struggling to execute on offense and be more efficient. At times, they play down to the level of the inferior team they face.

    Nevertheless, I believe Brownell will eventually become one of the better coaches in the conference.

7. Tony Bennett, Virginia Cavaliers

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    Tony Bennett comes from a great basketball family, and he's turning out to be a great head coach at the Division I level.

    Since taking over the Virginia Cavaliers in 2009, the team has improved each season. This season he's steered Mike Scott and the Cavaliers to a 14-2 record.

    The fact that Virginia was a three-pointer away from toppling Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium tells you how far Bennett has taken this program.

    Bennett is 42, so he has plenty of years in his future to make a mark on the ACC.

6. Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech Hokies

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    The Virginia Tech Hokies haven't traditionally been a team that gets great recruits compared to other ACC titans, but Seth Greenberg manages to get the most out of his players.

    The Hokies have enjoyed seven winning seasons under Greenberg, and they've finished fourth place or higher in the ACC in five of those seasons.

    Conference play has started out rocky for Virginia Tech, and they have yet to pick up a true quality win. They have a lot of work to do if they want to be a part of March Madness for the first time since 2007.

    The Hokies will get back on track—Greenberg's boys have been playing tough defense all season.

5. Jim Larranaga, Miami Hurricanes

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    Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga has nearly 500 head-coaching victories, has 13 straight winning seasons at George Mason and led the Patriots to five NCAA tournaments including a Final Four.

    So why is he not higher on this list?

    Well, we don't know what he can do at the major conference level.

    He's still in the early stages of his tenure at Miami, so it remains to be seen whether he can build a competitive program. I think it was a great move for Miami to hire a veteran coach like Larranaga.

4. Mark Gottfried, N.C. State Wolfpack

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    New N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried is directing the Wolfpack back toward the top of the ACC. The longtime Alabama leader is recruiting hard and working well with the group he has in Raleigh.

    Gottfried's team is running his offense extremely efficiently, averaging 17 assists per game and shooting at a 48 percent clip.

    We'll see how N.C. State fairs against the upper-echelon squads. The Wolfpack have yet to play Duke, Florida State and North Carolina twice.

    If Gottfried's time in Raleigh is anything like his time in Tuscaloosa, N.C. State fans are in for a fun ride.

3. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State Seminoles

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    Leonard Hamilton doesn't have a particularly astounding career resume, but when it comes to recent success, he's top-notch material.

    Hamilton led the Florida State Seminoles to the NCAA Tournament for the past three seasons, including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen last March. In 2009, he became the first coach to ever be named Coach of the Year in the Big East and ACC.

    He's an excellent leader and motivator, as evidenced by his team's 40 rebounds per game and 30-point drubbing of North Carolina.

2. Roy Williams, North Carolina Tar Heels

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    With seven Final Fours and a pair of NCAA Tournament championships, Roy Williams would be the top-ranked coach in almost any other conference.

    Roy Williams' success is ongoing at North Carolina, and there's no end in sight. He routinely lands blue-chip recruits, and he gets these phenomenal athletes to play together and rival Duke.

    Williams runs the best fast break and secondary break that this era of basketball has ever seen.

    This year's Tar Heel club may not be of championship caliber, but you can bet Williams will make several more deep March runs before his career is over.

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Blue Devils

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    Calling Coach K the best coach in the ACC is kind of a disservice to his legacy, because he's arguably the best basketball coach on the planet, no matter what league.

    What recipe does Mike Krzyzewski use to lead Duke to NCAA supremacy so often?

    With 13 ACC titles, 11 Final Four appearances and four NCAA titles, Coach K's time at Duke is clearly not your average coaching tenure.

    His principles of discipline, determination, trust and accountability have helped countless Blue Devil squads maximize their talent. His teams are always fundamentally sound and focused on defense.

    When the Lakers offer you a fortune to coach them and the U.S. Olympic committee wants you to coach Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, you know you've reached the top of your profession.