It’s football season, which to the old guard of the ACC is a nice distraction before basketball begins. At Florida State there aren’t many basketball-first fans (shout out to my peeps!) but there are a ton scattered throughout the conference footprint. So for those fans I’ve created this handy guide linking ACC football coaches with their college basketball counterparts so you’ll know how to think about each team.
Boston College: Steve Addazio - Counterpart: Anthony Grant (Oklahoma City)
Yes, I specifically said I’d compare coaches to their college basketball counterparts, but bear with me. Addazio was a Gator assistant to Urban Meyer, and they won two national titles working together. Grant was a Gator assistant to Billy Donovan, and they won one national title (and a 2nd in the year Grant left). Both guys took mid level head coaching jobs before jumping to the relative big time at schools that don’t really care about their respective sport. Both flopped and now Grant is back working for Billy Donovan. Addazio, meanwhile, should be keeping his eye on that Ohio State offensive line position.
Clemson Tigers: Dabo Swinney - Counterpart: Sean Miller (Arizona)
Both have been head coaches at their current schools for seven years (Dabo gets an extra half year). They were born a year and three days apart. Both played their sport in college, and though Miller was way better, they were both smart enough to immediately get into coaching upon graduation. Neither have yet been able to parlay tremendous talent into a national title. Swinney has come closer to a title, but Miller had a cameo in the movie The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh, so we’ll call that a wash.
Duke: David Cutcliffe - Counterpart: Leonard Hamilton (Florida State)
Each coach runs a program that isn’t funded to compete against the big boys in the conference, yet they have put together impressive stretches nonetheless. They have seven conference Coach of the Year awards between them (3 for Cut, 4 for Ham), and they’ve each been named national Coach of the Year. Cutcliffe rescued Duke from obscurity, while Ham did the same for Miami and Florida State. In his spare time Coach Hamilton runs a gospel music company, while Coach Cutcliffe enjoys long walks on the beach with his wife Karen and tweeting insults at FSU’s strength and conditioning coach.
Florida State: Jimbo Fisher - Counterpart: John Calipari (Kentucky)
Calipari has been head coach of Kentucky for a year longer than Fisher has been at FSU, but both are coaching storied programs. Calipari led Kentucky to the National Title in year three, while Fisher did it in year four. They both put a ton of players in the NBA/NFL, and seem to take as much pride in this as they do in winning. They both sell (and run) their programs as ideal middle grounds between high school and big paydays.
Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson - Counterpart: Randy Bennett (St. Mary’s)
Paul Johnson has won in the ACC by being the unorthodox team that no one wants to face. You get a week to prep for an offensive system you may see once per year. Randy Bennett has won in the West Coast Conference by being the unorthodox team that no one wants to face. Half his players are from Australia, and all they do is run clock and bomb 3s.
Louisville: Bobby Petrino - Counterpart: Bruce Pearl (Auburn)
Coach Petrino has been moderately successful at Louisville, Arkansas, a cup of tea in Western Kentucky, and back at Louisville, though not successful enough to make non-homers overlook his off-the-field escapades. Coach Pearl has been through Southern Indiana, Milwaukee, Tennessee, and now Auburn, and zero people will be surprised if his current tenure ends in scandal.
Miami (FL): Mark Richt - Counterpart: Jamie Dixon (TCU)
Richt was always a winner at Georgia, though his predictable ability to drop games he shouldn’t means he never won in the way unrealistic Bulldog fans expect to win. So he left the Georgia boosters behind and took over at a school that has zero conference titles in 12 ACC seasons. Jamie Dixon led Pitt to 11 NCAAT appearances in 13 years, but never made a Final 4. Being always good wasn’t enough for Pitt fans, so Dixon is now entering his first season at a school that last won a conference title three conferences ago.
North Carolina: Larry Fedora - Counterpart: Cuonzo Martin (Cal)
Larry Fedora has long been that guy who was going to be that guy, but it never quite materialized. Then he went undefeated in conference play last year and hey that guy was finally here. Then he lost to Clemson in the conference championship, and followed that with a bowl loss, and the guy fizzled. Cuonzo Martin is his counterpart, and had me musing years ago that he might stay under the radar long enough to reach Coach Hamilton’s retirement. Alas, Tennessee uncovered him, but his tenure there is best described as not terrible. On to Cal, and in year two he was suddenly the bell of the ball in the PAC 12. Unfortunately, he then lost to Hawaii in the NCAAT opener, and followed that by losing his star freshman as the 3rd pick in the NBA draft. The future is unclear for both coaches.
NC State: Dave Doeren - Counterpart: Brad Brownell (Clemson)
Doeren used a few good seasons at an unknown school to grab a power conference gig, and has since spent three seasons making sure that NC State fans remain completely unenthused about football. Brownell used mid major success to get a high major job, and six years into his tenure Clemson has made the tourney once, and that was in his first year with another coach’s players.
Pitt: Patt Narduzzi - Counterpart: Greg Gard (Wisconsin)
Narduzzi was an assistant coach for 25 years before landing the Pitt job. An early season last-second loss to Iowa had Pitt fans’ hopes shrinking just a bit. Then he turned it around and Pitt had a fantastic season. Gard also spent 25 years as an assistant, taking over Wisconsin when Bo Ryan retired mid-season. The Badgers immediately struggled under Gard, but a month after taking over everything began to click and Wisconsin finished the season on an 11-2 conference run. Hope springs eternal.
Syracuse: Dino Babers - Counterpart: Chris Beard (UNLV)
Who the hell is Dino Babers you (I) ask? Who the hell is Chris Beard I (you) counter.
Virginia: Bronco Mendenhall - Counterpart: Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech)
Bronco Mendenhall was very successful at a mid tier school (BYU), and used that to make a somewhat odd slightly-better-than-lateral move to Virginia. Hoos fans should be thrilled though because their last coach was terrible, and Hoos brass better hope it works because in the contract they made it rain. Buzz Williams went from an average Big East gig to a below-average ACC gig. That sliding lateral move was a bit of a head scratcher, at least until the contract details were made public. Now VT can’t afford to fire him, but that seems okay as Buzz has the fans in a lather.
Virginia Tech: Justin Fuente - Counterpart: Shaka Smart (Texas)
Shaka Smart was a hotter name for a longer time, but both guys spent time as the hot young thing. Smart, unlike most college basketball coaches, is more like a football coach on the sideline in that he’s always high fiving and slapping ass with his players. Smart is 39, Fuente is 40, and they both are taking over at programs that have sniffed national titles but never gotten over the hump.
Wake Forest: Dave Clawson - Counterpart: Danny Manning (Wake Forest)
Clawson and Manning have each had two seasons at Wake. Clawson is 6-18, while Manning is 24-39. Wake has one winning basketball season since 2010-11, while the football team last posted a plus record in 2008. There is a departmental race between the two to see which can get the Demon Deacons back to some sort of post-season experience. The winner gets to keep his job.