(this post was inspired by Matt Brown's smart article around the Big Ten over at Land Grant Holy Land -- read that too if you like broadening your conference horizons)
Welcome to the basketball off season. Full of recruiting news, college athlete declarations of going pro, transfers to other conferences, and the NCAA basketball coaching carousel in full swing. With all of these moving pieces, it's time to take a step back and evaluate all of the basketball jobs in the ACC from top to bottom.
A school with a beautiful campus, great weather, and a powerhouse football program, Clemson hasn't had a first or second team All-American since Horace Grant 29 seasons ago. Littlejohn Coliseum is truly little, seating only 10,000 people and rarely selling out. Only three times in program history have they made it past the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. A football-first school with a disinterested fan base definitely makes the Tigers a tough sell. Even more so with South Carolina not being a major hub for basketball talent.
14) Virginia Tech
The Hokies program is an afterthought in the college basketball world, and have the history to support the claim. Virginia Tech plays in an arena built in 1962, and have made it to the Sweet 16 just once in program history. Throw in an in-state rival who is currently thriving and you can see why Virginia Tech has the worst ranked recruiting class in the conference coming in next season. But hey, they attracted Buzz Williams away from a relatively successful Marquette program, so maybe there is something I'm missing.
13) Wake Forest
Wake Forest has run in to some tough seasons, which is how it's fallen from its previous place as a semi-attractive job. The Demon Deacons have strong alumni support, a good-sized arena, and are in the heart of ACC country -- but Winston-Salem is not the same city sell that Raleigh might be. It's not easy recruiting against the likes of Duke, North Carolina, and NC State, but Danny Manning and company have four quality recruits coming in that could help return them to winning ways? The build has been pretty slow, and the fans have gotten pretty impatient with the athletic department's lack of real investment.
12) Boston College
Since joining the ACC in 2005, Boston College has seen very limited success, with their last NCAA Tournament appearance coming over five seasons ago. The Eagles are on their third coach since joining the conference, and put up a doughnut for wins this season in conference. Playing in a facility that's old and routinely half full, the Eagles struggle to find stability. Boston College is a college team in a pro sports town, making it difficult to recruit to -- but it does have proximity to fertile recruiting grounds. It just hasn't hired the right coach
11) Florida State
Florida State is a program that's difficult to understand. A beautiful campus, decent facilities, and good fan support despite a football-first athletic department. They're a school that seems to be able to attract the type of players that can sustain success, but do so inconsistently. Coming off of an NIT season, the Seminoles have the fourth-highest ranked recruiting class in the ACC behind Duke, Virginia, and Miami. They've won this league in the past decade. Can they get back to those heights, though?
The Hurricanes have had a recent rise to prominence by their standards under Jim Larranaga. With a pair of Sweet 16 appearances, Miami has played conference opponents tough. These recent successes for Miami speak to the coaching ability of Laranaga, because it is not the most attractive of jobs. Sure, it's in Miami, who wouldn't want to be there? Anyone who wants to play in front of more than 8,000 people (a rarity at Miami) and have fan support that goes beyond just when you're winning. The Hurricanes program has potential due to geography, but it's yet to be seen if Larranaga is the only reason for the jump. It would stand to reason a little, since resources are slim, especially for hoops.
9) Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech isn't a bad job. While they have some of Boston College's problem of being a college team in a pro town, the Yellow Jackets have shown they are capable of winning. They haven't made the tournament in six seasons, but history has shown that they can be a solid program. (see: 2004 title game) They won't be bringing in All-American players yearly, but with a prime location in Atlanta and a history of relative success, the Yellow Jackets should be able to land good recruits with the right coach. Is that Josh Pastner? No comment.
Pitt's job takes a bit of a hit considering Jamie Dixon left to lowly TCU (his alma mater) of his own accord. And hiring Kevin Stallings doesn't necessarily elevate the thinking around the gig, despite the program's recent hiring win streak (Dixon and Ben Howland). But Pittsburgh has a rowdy student section in the Oakland Zoo, and one of the best arena experiences in all of college basketball. They've had some struggles come tournament time, but during the regular season Pittsburgh is year in and year out a tough win on any schedule. Resources are clearly dedicated to basketball and they play in a basketball-rich state.
7) NC State
The Wolfpack have been one of the better jobs in the ACC. They play in gorgeous PNC Arena, have fantastic student support, and routinely have one of the tougher home court advantages in the conference. They're a program where making the NCAA Tournament is standard procedure, which makes this job attractive to anyone. The constant comparisons to UNC and Duke likely don't help. But selling history, location and a commitment to basketball success has worked well here.
6) Notre Dame
Love them or hate them, Notre Dame is a great college basketball gig. Sure the Irish have some academic barriers that one would think would hurt their recruiting, but it never seems to be the case. Year-in and year-out, Notre Dame brings in some great talent and are always in the mix for the conference crown. This is a very healthy program that can get any number of top tier coaches they want, which is no surprise seeing the excellence of their current coach Mike Brey. They fail to crack the top of the list solely based on continually falling short of the Final Four.
The Wahoos have morphed back into a traditional power, recently surging to annual ACC contender status. Virginia has top-notch facilities, leading to a lot of recruiting success. They're the second-rated recruiting class in the ACC coming in next season, behind only Duke. As everyone knows, they're in prime recruiting territory. With four big additions coming in, Virginia will be loaded again and primed to make a run at another league title. Don't expect Tony Bennett to leave any time soon, because this job is as good as they come in the country.
It really speaks to the power of this conference when teams like Louisville and Virginia are not at the very top of the list. The Cardinals have a recent National Championship banner hanging in front of the beautiful KFC Yum! Center right in the heart of downtown Louisville. If you want a professional experience while playing in college, you can head right to the Cards. The arena alone will secure Louisville's success for years to come. And if that wasn't enough, the statewide fan and student support is the cherry on top. Don't expect any potential NCAA violations to hold this program down for long because they are among the best programs in college basketball.
It's no surprise we find the Orange here. When you're in a conference that boasts three of the top five winningest programs of all-time, it's only natural SU is among the most attractive jobs in the conference. But Syracuse was not always an attractive job. To think Jim Boeheim almost passed up on the Orange job to coach at Rochester speaks for itself in how far this program has come along while under his control. The construction of the Carrier Dome was the greatest recruiting tool the University has ever had, and players are constantly knocking down the door to come play in front of 35,000-plus people. Syracuse is a basketball first, basketball crazy city. There's a reason Mike Hopkins waited as long as he has to take over as the head of the program. He'll also be its steward toward keeping them here.
I know this one would be no. 1 on a lot of people's lists. They are a program that pumps out All-Americans, wins National Championships, and routinely wins the ACC. It is without question that they are a top-five (or maybe even top-three) coaching job in America. Duke has one of the most unique home court experiences in college basketball, and their resume of success speaks for itself. The only thing that really sets it a half-step under UNC is its academic standards. They're another program that's built on one coach, however. Will be interesting to see what happens to the job post-Coach K.
1) North Carolina
North Carolina is the best coaching job in the ACC. The Tar Heels fit the mold of dominance for every major category you could think of when dreaming up the best coaching job in America. Easy to recruit to. Perennial powerhouse on the court. Beautiful campus. National brand. Tremendous home court advantage. And the list goes on. Not that Syracuse and Duke don't also meet these same standards, but we're talking about a program with the second highest winning percentage in the history of the NCAA. Roy Williams left a job coaching at Kansas to come here (his alma mater). It's tough to bank on NCAA penalties, because that's the only way they fall from this perch.