Ranking the coaching jobs: ACC

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
11:00
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It's Coaches Week on ESPN.com and today we're going conference by conference to rank the best and worst coaching jobs, as voted on by 14 of our writers and television analysts.

A few important notes: This is not an attempt to rank the programs or their histories. A school's tradition was taken into account of course, but more emphasis was given to recent years and how hard or easy it is for a new coach to win there. Current recruits don't remember much beyond, what, 2008?

When voting, our 14 panelists were asked to take into consideration facilities, expectation level, athletic budget, wins and losses, recruiting base, fan support/pressure and all of the other factors that go into determining the "best" jobs in the ever-crazy profession of college basketball coaching.

In short: If you were an agent and every single job was open in a particular conference, where would you direct your client? Where would you tell him to avoid if there are better options?

There's no right or wrong answer of course. These rankings are very much up for debate and we're sure you'll do so in the comments section. But at the very least, this polling of 14 people clued into the inner workings of college basketball offers a glimpse into how the coaching position at your favorite school is perceived on the national scene.

Full breakdowns of the rest of the Big Six conferences can be found here: Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

(Editor's Note: Realignment makes the college landscape a confusing one these days, but for the purposes of this poll, panelists were asked to vote based on what each conference would look like for the 2012-13 season.)

1. North Carolina: When you’re the head coach at North Carolina, you don’t recruit, you pick. The Tar Heels have remained atop the game’s elite with plentiful resources, one of the nation’s strongest fan bases, top-5 attendance and a brand that continues to grow through continued postseason success. It’s a rare year when the Heels don’t contend for the national title. Says a lot about the post Roy Williams currently occupies.

2. Duke: Mike Krzyzewski has turned the Blue Devils into a powerhouse over the past 30 years. The fruits of his labor? Duke, a private school that’s gone blow-for-blow with rival North Carolina for decades, has appeared in 11 Final Fours under Coach K. The Cameron Crazies wreak havoc on the opposition with their fiery, invasive support for their favorite squad. And as one of the nation’s giants, elite players pray for a chance to compete for the Devils. Plus there’s a $5 million salary for your troubles.

3. Maryland: As head coach at Maryland, Mark Turgeon has access to one of the most fertile recruiting regions in the country. The Beltway is stocked with talent. And the area’s top program is always in a position to draw those players. The Terrapins finished 14th nationally in the NCAA’s most recent report for annual attendance. Yes, Gary Williams exited following a successful stint that didn’t end well. But the resources, support and potential prospects always position Maryland’s staff for ACC contention and national relevance each year.

4. NC State: Let’s start with the bad. Every elite player that NC State’s head coach covets -- especially those within the Carolinas -- is probably interested in UNC and Duke, too. It’s always tough competing against a pair of titans right in your backyard. But North Carolina State has positioned itself for more success going forward. Next season, the Wolfpack could run the ACC with C.J. Leslie returning and Rodney Purvis joining the squad. With a professional arena to play in and the talent in place, it’s a great time to be head coach of the Pack.

5. Virginia: Owning the state will be a tougher task with VCU’s ongoing surge and pending move to the Atlantic 10. But Tony Bennett still managed to snatch the 20th-ranked recruiting class in the country this season. The Cavaliers are holding their own despite the multiple competitors for talent within its own state. John Paul Jones Arena is a beautiful facility, but Virginia’s attendance numbers haven't been great since it opened it 2006. Still, a solid job for an energetic and patient coach.

6. Florida State: This is a football school. Basketball will always be second at Florida State. And that’s a perception that every recruit and current player must acknowledge. They play their home games at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, a venue that’s been frequented by Broadway shows, monster truck events and concerts in the past. But a recently added practice facility gives the hoops program an exclusive home and attractive marble for prospects. The program has witnessed some of the largest attendance increases in the country in recent years, and last season’s rally to the top of the ACC standings proves that a coach can win there. Sustaining that success, however, is a much greater challenge.

7. Georgia Tech: There are so many pros and cons associated with being located in the heart of Atlanta, another proven hub for elite prospects. The team has appeared in one national title game and two Final Fours, but Paul Hewitt’s fall from 2004 national title game to his firing in 2011 highlighted some of the challenges with the program’s coaching gig. The athletic department’s indecisiveness about Hewitt’s fate suggested instability within the entire department. The program bled financially as attendance dropped -- not surprising in a metro area packed with pro teams -- and continues to seek a solid footing in the ACC. They’ve dropped ticket prices for their move to the new McCamish Pavilion next season in hopes of drawing more fans and additional revenue. This isn’t on many “dream job” lists.

8. Wake Forest: The forgotten tenant of Tobacco Road, Wake Forest faces a variety for challenges each season. The poaching of the region’s talent by North Carolina and Duke. High-level -- and often unrealistic expectations -- for a fan base that craves to compete against the Tar Heels and Blue Devils every year (see: NC State). Although the team has a strong history of success, it has struggled to continue that legacy since the death of Skip Prosser in 2007. Dino Gaudio started strong but finished poorly. Jeff Bzdelik will enter next season on the hot seat. But the Deacons did sign a top-25 recruiting class, a sign -- confirmed in the past -- that the program is still capable of drawing elite players.

9. Clemson: Oliver Purnell left Clemson to take a low-tier Big East job, despite three straight NCAA tournament appearances and a $1.6 million salary. What’s wrong with the Tigers’ gig? For starters, Littlejohn Coliseum seats 10,000 and they can’t fill it. You can recruit enough talent to compete but the top tier has proved to be elusive for the program’s leaders (just one Elite Eight appearance and 11 NCAA tourney bids total). Plus, Clemson basketball persists in the shadows of the school’s football program. Purnell and others hit walls during their time with the program. Tough spot for any coach.

10. Virginia Tech: A similar pool of issues for the Hokies. No. 2 compared to its successful football program. Struggles maintaining fan interest. A multitude of recruiting issues based on the regional competition. But Jim Weaver’s recent handling of Seth Greenberg’s firing dropped this gig on the ACC’s pecking order. The athletic director’s disorganized press conference and explanation put a stain on the program. James Johnson is a familiar face but definitely not the home run Weaver promised. The top candidates probably ran when he called.

11. Miami: The arena is on campus. It’s always warm, so weather is never an excuse. Yet, they won’t come. Average attendance for Hurricanes games during the 2010-11 season: 3,936 (capacity at BankUnited Center: 8,000). And if you’ve ever attended a non-FSU-Miami game, it feels like less. The program's six NCAA tournament bids are the fewest in the league. The school, a traditional power in football, has never found an identity in basketball, proof that the tropical air doesn’t guarantee an attractive position.

12. Boston College: It’s easy for the Eagles to lure top-ranked players ... in hockey. Basketball is a different story. The program’s leaders have had varied levels of success in recent years. From 2001-09, the program made seven NCAA tournament appearances, including the 2006 Sweet 16. But the Eagles have failed to put together a run that would move BC’s head-coaching post up this list. The Eagles averaged just 4,700 at the Conte Forum last season and it's hard for this program to gain any attention in a city wild about its pro sports. Not surprising that native son Nerlens Noel didn’t sport a Boston College hat on signing day. John Wooden would have trouble rebuilding BC. It’s a difficult position for any coach.

-- Team blurbs written by Myron Medcalf

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