Ranking the best basketball jobs by conference: ACC
Over the next several weeks, Dan McDonald will compile a series in which he ranks the best college basketball jobs by conference. If all the jobs in each conference were to open, which would college coaches covet the most? We start with the ACC.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
1. North Carolina
There isn’t much doubt what the two best jobs would be in the ACC, but which school claims the top spot definitely can be the subject of a heated debated on Tobacco Road. Let’s go with North Carolina here in a very close call. The Tar Heels have now won multiple national championships with multiple coaches. It’s arguably the biggest brand in the sport. Plus, we’ll give the nod to the Chapel Hill campus over Duke’s campus in Durham.
There is a strong argument to be made that Duke could take the top spot, as no program has received more media attention in recent years, but we’ll slot the Blue Devils in comfortably at the No. 2 spot. Coach K’s five national championships and decades of success at Duke have made the program as nationally respected as any.
Louisville checks all boxes for a great college basketball job. There is a tradition of winning with multiple coaches, a passionate fan base, great facilities and a strong recruiting footprint within 200 miles of campus in any direction. Chris Mack very patiently waited for the right job to come open while he was the head coach at Xavier, and it says a lot about the Louisville job that he was willing to take it with the NCAA situation he inherited.
Syracuse has won for decades under Jim Boeheim and is always in the national conversation as one of the biggest brands in the sport. The Orange can recruit players from coast to coast to come play in front of its super passionate fan base that fills the Carrier Dome. Final Fours and national championships are clearly an attainable goal here, but the winter weather in central New York can be an obstacle for the Orange to overcome on the recruiting trail.
Tony Bennett has shown exactly what the Virginia job can look like with the right man at the helm. You can attract top players from all over the country because of the academic reputation and the conference affiliation. Add in really nice facilities and a beautiful campus and you have one of the top jobs in arguably the best conference.
6. NC State
There is a lot to like about the NC State job. It’s located right in the heart of ACC country and a basketball crazy state that produces tons of top talent. The fan base is a passionate and the Wolfpack play in a pro arena. The problem is you are constantly operating in the shadow of Duke and North Carolina, and it will always be tough to beat those two out for top in-state talent. Regardless, this is still a really good job.
7. Florida State
The recent success of Leonard Hamilton has certainly elevated this job. Florida has become one of the better states in the country for basketball talent, but you can also drive 250 miles north to metro Atlanta and steal some really good players, as the current staff has done regularly. There just isn’t the winning tradition or the fan support for Florida State to be higher on this list.
This might be one that generates some debate, but I feel pretty strongly about Clemson being a pretty good job. It’s located right in between Atlanta and Charlotte, two strong areas for talent, but the Tigers don’t have to deal with the in-state recruiting politics in either area. You can go any direction from Clemson’s campus and attract really good players, and the dominance of football only enhances the profile of everything at the school. The fan base is probably a little more passionate than most think. There just isn’t a strong history of consistent, high-level success.
9. Notre Dame
Like Virginia, the biggest positive for the Fighting Irish is they can attract some of the top student-athletes from all over the country because of the academic reputation. The academics also becomes a little bit of an issue as it also shrinks the pool of players you can recruit because the school won’t bend on its academic standards. Mike Brey has proven you can win at Notre Dame, but it feels a lot more like he’s overachieved than this being a great job. It felt like a better fit in the old Big East.
10. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is another job that you could make a lot of arguments both for and against. Multiple coaches have taken the Yellow Jackets to the Final Four. There have been some really good NBA players that have come from the school. Not only is there tons of talent right in Georgia Tech’s backyard, but the academic reputation opens doors nationally.
However, it’s now been over a decade since the Yellow Jackets have made the NCAA Tournament, and this past season’s 11-9 conference record was the first winning ACC record since the Final Four run in the 2003-04 season.
11. Wake Forest
Chris Paul and Tim Duncan give the Demon Deacons two of the biggest names to play in the ACC in recent memory. Wake Forest has had success since those two left Winston Salem, but it’s been tough to come by lately. It’s the fourth-best ACC job in North Carolina, which leads to obvious problems sustaining any sort of substantial success. Steve Forbes has a lot of work ahead of him, but his strong recruiting background and big personality should give him a real chance at attracting top talent and energizing the fan base, much like he helped Bruce Pearl do back in their time at Tennessee.
12. Virginia Tech
There isn’t a natural recruiting base for the Hokies. Any direction you go from Blacksburg leads to real uphill battles on the recruiting front. Buzz Williams proved it can be done with the right coach, and maybe Mike Young continues that success. But the fact that Williams left for a middle-of-the-pack SEC job also probably says a lot about the challenges of winning at Virginia Tech. There is a passionate fan base here, though, that can create a real home-court advantage.
There are some similarities here to both the Georgia Tech and Florida State jobs. The in-state talent is there to be had at Miami and being in a big, international city can be an attraction all over the country, as is the academic reputation of the school. The downside is the Hurricanes have never really sustained success and the fan support isn’t at the same level of Miami’s peers in the ACC.
Like Notre Dame, Pittsburgh feels like it’s really struggled to find an identity after breaking away from the old Big East. Going into the Midwest can be a challenge recruiting against Big Ten schools and going east is always a challenge with so many schools recruiting up and down the East Coast. Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon sustained success over the long haul and the fan base seems pretty supportive, but it just feels like there is an uphill battle to sustaining real success in the ACC.
15. Boston College
Another school with a strong academic reputation, but the move from the old Big East to the ACC hasn’t really gone so well for the Eagles. The problem for Boston College - and it’s one Miami deals with too - is that it’s a pro sports city and the facilities aren’t great.