By R.L. Bynum
CHARLOTTE — With one Hall of Fame coach retiring in the offseason and another headed that way after the upcoming season, many of the ACC’s other head coaches talked about that transition Tuesday at ACC Tipoff.
It figures to be comforting to most coaches that they won’t have to deal with battling Coach Roy Williams when they face North Carolina this season and, after next season, coach against Mike Krzyzewski when tangling with Duke.
The fact that both were in the league was a big lure when Tony Bennett was coaching at Washington State and the Virginia job opened up.
“One of the reasons I chose to coach in the ACC was to have the opportunity to test myself as a younger coach at the time — not anymore — against Coach K and Duke and Coach Williams and Carolina,” Bennett said. “You want a chance to test yourself against the best. They’ve done a lot for the game of basketball. They have storied programs. So, I was just grateful for their impact on the game that’s helped out coaches and made college basketball what it is and the ACC what it is.
“So, you always want someone to go out on their terms, and both of them get to do that,” Bennett said. “And that’s a good thing, especially in today’s climate. So I have a ton of respect for them and I’m thankful for them. And I hope they can enjoy their family now and the things that are well deserved.”
The conference’s coaches showed respect for the two coaching legends, including N.C. State’s Kevin Keatts, who will become the dean of ACC coaches in North Carolina next summer.
“What Coach K and Roy Williams did for college basketball is probably second to none,” Keatts said. “When you look at those guys, between the two of them they have eight national championships, and Coach K has six gold medals. So, they have both been tremendous, not just for the ACC, but for our entire basketball programs across the country. So they will be missed. They’ll be missed not just on court and what they’ve done, but also just behind the scenes.”
Two coaches who are around the same age as Williams and Krzyzewski — Miami’s Jim Larrañaga and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton — understood their decisions and took note of the major change in the league.
“One of my goals when I came to the ACC was to outlast them,” Larrañaga said. “At the end of next year I will be able to say I accomplished my goal.
“But you’re talking about also two of the great leaders of college basketball, role models who really set the example of how to run a program, how to develop your players and prepare them for life after basketball,” Larrañaga said. “So, hats off to two guys that I consider friends and contemporaries, but certainly two men that deserve all the accolades that they’ve earned throughout the years.”
Hamilton said that the ACC won’t be the same without them.
“There’s no doubt that those two guys have been the pillars of our league,” Hamilton said. “They are icons. We’re going to really miss them. Not only what they brought to us, the conference, on the court. I thought their leadership in legislations and the respect that they brought to the game of basketball will be missed.”
Like most coaches, Hamilton spoke well of Coach Hubert Davis, who begins his first season as UNC’s head coach this season, and Jon Scheyer, who takes over at Duke after this season.
“Because they’re such rich traditions and successful programs, I expect the guys that are replacing them, you know, could not have been selected better,” Hamilton said. “I expect Scheyer and Davis to step right in and keep the beat going. They have probably two of the most successful programs in the history of basketball. And the tradition and support and the legacy that the school has built for itself, I’m sure that, even though they’ll miss them, you expect them to maintain their rightful place in the hierarchy of basketball programs around the country.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, a former Krzyzewski assistant coach, joked about the transition.
“I couldn’t wait to get them out of the league,” Brey said with a laugh. “I’ve been waiting, man. Get out. Get out.”
But he was another coach who doesn’t expect a huge drop-off at either program.
“I do think those programs aren’t going to really go anywhere,” Brey said. “I think they’ve done a great job with their head coaching hires. For me, though, Mike, and even Roy — obviously I worked with Mike. Roy became a really good friend and a mentor — I was like that next generation of guys. I will miss Roy this year because there’s a personality about him, as you all know, that kind of keeps you smiling.”
New ACC commissioner Jim Phillips welcomed Davis to the league.
“Excited to have one of our own back home,” Phillips said. “Great player for the legendary Dean Smith, and then had a stellar NBA career for 13 years before taking over and working for Coach Williams for over a decade and taking over.”
Photo courtesy of the ACC