What sport comes to mind first when you think of the Atlantic Coast Conference?
If you are like me, men’s college basketball is the immediate answer. The ACC has a rich and renowned history for excellent hoops action.
One of the reasons for this longstanding success is the quality of head coaches who have led these programs. Some of the best coaches of all time have prowled the sidelines for these schools.
Here is a quick look at the best coaches in the history of each of the current 15 ACC members. Because we will consider the entire coaching histories of these schools, some of the men on this list coached in the times before the colleges and universities entered the conference.
For example, Duke entered the ACC in 1953. It's possible that the best Blue Devils' coach was back in their Southern Conference days (Yeah, right!).
In some cases, the men on this list were not the longest-tenured coaches or those who have the most wins.
We will, of course, look at total wins, but we will also consider average wins per season, postseason success and more to select the best at each school.
The coaches on this list represent three of the four all-time winningest coaches. They have won nine NCAA championships
Coaches information comes from Sports-reference.com
Charles Moir is Virginia Tech’s all-time wins leader. During his 11 years as the Hokies head coach, he compiled a 213-119 record.
During his tenure (1976-87) in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech was an independent (1976-78) and a member of the Metro Conference (1978-87).
Moir consistently kept the program in a winning mode. His Tech teams accounted for half of the school's eight NCAA appearances (four; 1979, 1980, 1985 and 1986), and a third of its 12 NIT appearances (four; 1977, 1982-84)
Over the years, Clemson basketball has not had significant or consistent success.
The Tigers were one of the founding members of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953. Since then, they have only won one regular-season championship (1989-90) and have never won the conference tournament.
While Clemson has had a notable list of former head coaches (Press Maravich, Bill C. Foster and Cliff Ellis, to name a few), Rick Barnes was the best.
Barnes was the Tigers’ head coach for only four seasons (74-48), but in that time, they made it into postseason play in all four years, three of those being the NCAA tournament (1995-98).
His 1996-97 team finished 23-10 and advanced to the Sweet 16.
Jim Larranaga has only been Miami’s head coach for two seasons, but he has already established himself as the standard-setter in Coral Gables.
Larranaga’s two-year record of 49-20 is only the beginning of the story.
In Year 1 at The U, Larranaga was the first Miami head coach to log 20 wins in his initial season. Also, in 2011-12, UM won nine games in ACC play, the first time Miami has posted a winning record in conference play since joining the ACC.
Last year’s team won both the ACC regular season and conference tournament (both firsts in school history).
After losing their top six scorers off of last year’s team, Larranaga and the Canes will be facing a serious challenge in 2013-14.
Hall of Fame point guard Bob Cousy went from running the show for the Boston Celtics (1950-63) to leading the Boston College men’s basketball program (1963-69).
In his six seasons as the Eagles head coach, The Cooz posted an impressive 114-38 record (75.5-percent winning percentage), with four 20-win seasons.
In five of his six seasons, BC played in either the NIT (three times) or the NCAA tournament (twice).
In his last year (1968-69) as a college head coach, the Eagles won 21 consecutive games.
According to NBA.com, an unidentified writer once said, “People have little doubt that while Dr. Naismith may have invented the game, Cousy made it as close to an art form as possible."
Sometime in the upcoming season, current Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton will become the school’s all-time wins leader (surpassing J.K. Kennedy’s school mark of 234 victories that took him 18 seasons to set).
Going into the 2013-14 season, Hamilton has stacked up a 219-143 record since going to Tallahassee (2003-present).
In 2012, Florida State won its first ACC title in school history.
His Florida State bio expresses that the ‘Noles are the third winningest program in the ACC since the start of the 2005-06 season.
In his 11 years at the FSU helm, the program has gone to postseason play in nine of those seasons (four NCAA tournament appearances; five NIT looks).
When Bobby Cremins took over at Georgia Tech in 1981, he had his work cut out for him.
The Yellow Jackets had won a total of 12 games in the previous two seasons as they entered the ACC (in 1979).
Cremins made immediate progress, winning 10 and 13 games, respectively, in his first two years in Atlanta.
But from that point forward, he guided Tech to 14 winning seasons and 14 postseason berths in his remaining 17 years. He led the Yellow Jackets to three ACC tournament titles, two ACC regular-season titles and a Final Four appearance in 1990.
His overall record at Tech was 354-237. His career mark was 570-360.
Cremins is Georgia Tech's all-time winningest coach.
It didn’t take Jamie Dixon very long to start piling up wins as the Pitt head coach. In his first year, the Panthers went 31-5, won the Big East and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Over his 10 years in charge, he has a 262-86 (75.3 winning percentage) record and has taken the Panthers to a postseason tournament every year.
Dixon’s won 188 games in his first seven seasons, tying the NCAA Division I record for most wins in the first seven seasons of a head coaching career.
Dave Odom was the second-winningest coach in Wake Forest history, winning 240 games in 12 seasons (Murray Greason, the school’s career wins leader, won 285 games in 23 years; 1933-57).
Odom’s Demon Deacons made it to postseason play in all but his first season in Winston-Salem.
During a four-year stretch (1992-96), Wake made an Elite Eight and two other Sweet 16 appearances.
Odom was named ACC Coach of the Year three times (1991, 1994 and 1995). His Demon Deacons won back-to-back ACC Championships (1995 and 1996).
According to Inside UVA, college basketball analyst Billy Packer once said, “Before Terry Holland, there was no Virginia basketball.”
When Holland was hired at Virginia, the bar was not set very high. The Cavaliers had averaged less than 10 wins per season over the previous 23 years.
Holland came to Charlottesville and took the Cavs to the NCAA tournament in his second year (1976). Can you say “job security?”
Over his 16 years as head coach at UVA, he posted a 326-173 record (best in school history).
In a five-year stretch on Holland’s watch, the Cavaliers won the 1980 NIT and made two Final Fours (1981, 1984), one more Elite Eight (1983) and one additional Sweet 16 (1982) appearance.
The Cavaliers also won or shared the ACC title in three straight seasons (1981-83).
With only one year of collegiate head coaching experience under his belt, Digger Phelps took over at Notre Dame in 1971 at 30 years old.
Phelps paid his dues in his first season at South Bend, only winning six games in the 1971-72 season.
For the next 19 seasons, his Fighting Irish teams competed in 17 postseason tournaments, including the school’s only Final Four appearance (1978), one additional Elite Eight and five more Sweet 16 games.
In 20 years, Phelps notched a 393-145 record (most wins in school history).
His ND teams earned a well-deserved reputation as Giant Killers, and Phelps holds a share of the NCAA record for most wins over top-ranked teams with seven.
The biggest of those surprise victories was ND’s win over UCLA in 1974, breaking the Bruins NCAA-record 88-game consecutive win streak.
Picking Maryland’s best head coach was the most difficult of any of the ACC schools.
While Driesell was an awesome sideline leader, putting up a 348-159 record in 17 seasons, Williams won 461 games in 22 seasons.
His Terrapins had 20 winning seasons, but where Williams really carved out his place in school history was in March.
Maryland, on Williams’ watch, made five Sweet 16 appearances (outside of his Final Four appearances), two trips to the Final Four, including winning it all in 2002.
Jim Valvano is not North Carolina State’s wins leader. He was not even No. 2.
But Jimmy V’s 209-114 record was only the beginning of his Wolfpack profile.
His coaching stint was not lengthy (1980-90), but it was certainly successful.
N.C. State, in a four-year stretch (1982-86), made two Elite Eight appearances and won the 1983 NCAA championship, beating Houston on a last-second putback by Lorenzo Charles.
Under Valvano, the Pack won the ACC tournament twice (1983 and 1987) and the ACC regular-season championship in 1985 and 1989.
Jim Boeheim played college basketball at Syracuse (1962-66). He was an assistant at Syracuse (1969-76). Thirty-seven years ago, Boeheim became the Orange’s head coach, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Boeheim has grabbed hold of a 920-313 record. He is currently second on the all-time NCAA wins list to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
During his run, 'Cuse has won five Big East tournaments and nine Big East regular-season championships. The Orange have played in the postseason in all but one year (1993) of Boeheim’s tenure.
They have made 11 additional Sweet 16 and two more Elite Eight appearances outside of their Final Fours under Boeheim.
Boeheim’s longstanding success was validated in 2003 when his squad beat Kansas in the 2003 NCAA championship game.
When Dean Smith retired right before the 1997-98 season, he left the game on his own terms as the (then) NCAA all-time wins leader with an 879-254 record. His 77.6 win percentage puts him in the top 10 of all time.
Under Smith, the Tar Heels won 13 ACC tournament titles and 17 conference regular-season championships. Can you say, “domination"?
UNC made 11 Final Four appearances (tied for second all-time with Mike Krzyzewski), four more Elite Eights and five additional Sweet 16s.
Before stepping aside, Smith won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993).
Smith needed seven Final Four appearances just to win his first title, which shows how difficult it is to win it all.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is the NCAA all-time wins leader with a 957-297 record. Right now, he does not indicate any plans to shut things down anytime soon.
Coach K began his Duke tenure in 1980. His first three years in Durham were less than impressive, only winning 38 games in his first three seasons.
But starting in the 1983-84 season, everything seemed to click for the Blue Devils.
In the 30 years since then, Duke, under Coach K, has won four NCAA championships and has appeared in nine additional Final Fours. They have won 13 ACC tournament championships and 12 ACC regular-season titles.
Unless something unforeseen happens, Krzyzewski will win his 1,000th game as a college head coach somewhere in the middle of the 2014-15 season.
Wow! That’s huge!