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Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the ACC


No league has changed its identity more in recent decades than the ACC.

What was once a regional league dominated by basketball powers, the ACC has looked to the outside to build a league that can match in football. Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech added to football prestige, and now Syracuse represents the ACC atop the basketball rankings.

In the last season, the program that has been able to succeed in both at a high level may be the most unlikely.

Duke’s success on the basketball court is expected under Mike Krzyzewski. Football, on the other hand, has been irrelevant for two decades. That’s changed under David Cutcliffe, who became the first Blue Devils coach to win 10 games in a season.

For the second consecutive season, Duke tops our coaching tandem ranking in the ACC.

In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa.

In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.

For the ACC, we are ranking the post-expansion lineup with Louisville taking the spot left by Maryland. We’ve also ranked Notre Dame, a full basketball member, in the ACC tandem rankings.

1. Duke
Football: David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski
On the basketball side, Duke has a Hall of Fame coach with four national championships, two Olympic gold medals and more than 900 wins. On the other side, the Blue Devils have a coach who has reached bowl games in back-to-back seasons with the ACC’s worst program. Krzyzewski is four years removed from his most recent national title, but as usual, he’s in contention for another one this season. Meanwhile, Cutcliffe led Duke to 10 wins and the ACC title game last season. One interesting parallel for these coaches: Both had health scares that sidelined them for a year (Krzyzewski’s back in 1995 and Cutcliffe’s heart in 2005), but both coaches are at the top of their games.

2. Louisville
Football: Bobby Petrino | Basketball: Rick Pitino
The Petrino/Pitino sound-alike duo is back in the Derby City. The first time around wasn’t so bad for Louisville. Petrino successfully guided the Cardinals into the Big East era with an Orange Bowl victory in his final season in 2006. Louisville is counting on Petrino to do the same as the Cards move into the ACC in 2014. Since 2009 alone, Pitino has led the basketball program to the 2013 national title, two Final Fours and three 30-win seasons. Certainly, it’s risky bringing Petrino — a career-long flight risk whose Arkansas tenure was bought down by ethical failings — back into the fold.

3. Florida State
Football: Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton
Not long ago, Florida State’s basketball program arguably was more successful that its football program, especially given the expectation level for both. In four seasons, Jimbo Fisher has returned FSU football to national prominence after a 14-0 season, the national championship and a Heisman Trophy. Hamilton’s basketball program may land in the NIT for the second consecutive season, but that shouldn’t overshadow his tenure. Hamilton is the first FSU basketball coach to lead the Seminoles to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, four consecutive 20-win seasons and an ACC Tournament title.

4. Notre Dame
Football: Brian Kelly | Basketball: Mike Brey
Notre Dame still has work to do in order to be among the national elite. Alabama exposed as much in the BCS championship game after the 2012 season. Still, a title game appearance is more than Kelly’s predecessors in South Bend. Dealt a curve ball with Everett Golson’s academic issues, Notre Dame still went 9-4 in 2013, Kelly’s eighth consecutive season with eight or more wins. Brey hasn’t been as fortunate this season with a key player, Jerian Grant, lost due to academics. Brey’s streak of seven consecutive 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament bids likely ends this season, but the track record suggests Brey’s program won’t be down for long.

5. North Carolina
Football: Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams
The coaches have more in common than a Chapel Hill zip code. Both would like their teams to operate at a fast pace, and neither has ever had a losing season as a head coach. Of course, Williams track record is more impressive with two national titles at North Carolina and a basketball Hall of Fame induction. Fedora’s 8-4 season in 2012 despite a bowl ban was impressive, but last season’s 7-6 performance, the third of Fedora’s career, was a let down.

6. Syracuse
Football: Scott Shafer | Basketball: Jim Boeheim
Few coaching tandems are more lopsided than the one that shares the Carrier Dome. After last season’s trip to the Final Four, Boeheim joked his program was due for one trip to the national semifinals each decade (he wasn’t wrong), but the Hall of Famer has a team capable of doing it again. In his first season in the ACC, Boeheim is building upon his win total with 25 consecutive wins to start 2013-14. The football coach, however, is why Syracuse’s tandem is ranked this low in the ACC. Shafer proved himself a perfectly capable coach in his first season, going 7-6 with a Texas Bowl victory.

7. Miami
Football: Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga
With the NCAA investigation related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal finished an another Penn State coaching search completed, Miami will look to continue its progress under Golden. The Hurricanes have increased their win total every season under Golden, but they remain a middling ACC program (10-6 the last two seasons).

8. Clemson
Football: Dabo Swinney | Basketball: Brad Brownell
Swinney’s homespun rah-rah personality and his offensive coordinator seem to have made the Clemson football coach underrated — as if motivation and assistant hires aren’t part of the job. Clemson under Swinney is one of eight programs to win 10 games in each of the last three seasons. Meanwhile, he’s led the Tigers to their first top-10 finish since 1990 and first ACC title since 1991. After two lackluster seasons, Brownell has Clemson basketball in contention for its second NCAA Tournament bid in his four-year tenure.

9. Pittsburgh
Football: Paul Chryst | Basketball: Jamie Dixon
Dixon’s consistency — in results and his approach — remain impressive. He’s never won fewer than 22 games and has missed the NCAA Tournament only once in 11 seasons, all without a ton of McDonald’s All-Americans. After two bowl games and a 13-13 record in two seasons, Chryst’s greatest contribution to Pitt has been putting program on stable footing after a revolving door of three head coaches in two seasons.

10. Virginia Tech
Football: Frank Beamer | Basketball: James Johnson
Beamer has built his alma mater into a national power even if the Hokies have gone 15-11 overall and 9-7 in the ACC the last two seasons. The good feelings, though, end after football season as Johnson has struggled to get the Hokies out of the ACC cellar.

11. Boston College
Football: Steve Addazio | Basketball: Steve Donahue
Addazio supervised one of college football’s surprise teams last season as Boston College went 7-6 and produced a Heisman finalist. Donahue supervised one of basketball season’s disappointing teams as the veteran Eagles were out of postseason contention by the end of June.

12. NC State
Football: Dave Doeren | Basketball: Mark Gottfried
Gottfried’s results have been a little better than those of Herb Sendek at the end of his tenure and far better than those from the Sidney Lowe era. Doeren went winless in the ACC in his first season, but he did lead Northern Illinois to an Orange Bowl appearance two years ago.

13. Georgia Tech
Football: Paul Johnson | Basketball: Brian Gregory
Since the 2009 ACC title, Johnson is 28-25 overall and 19-13 in the ACC. Gregory has seen improvement in the basketball program, but the Yellow Jackets are still merely NIT-worthy at best.

14. Virginia
Football: Mike London | Basketball: Tony Bennett
Bennett this season has Virginia doing things they haven’t done since Ralph Sampson played in Charlottesville. Meanwhile, London is 8-24 in ACC games in four seasons at Virginia.

15. Wake Forest
Football: Dave Clawson | Basketball: Jeff Bzdelik
Bzdelik has overcome a disastrous first season at Wake Forest in 2010-11 to build a more competitive program. An NCAA bid, however, remains a long way off. Clawson, who has head coaching stops at Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green, steps into some big shoes left by the affable Jim Grobe.

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