CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of the interesting by-products of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s expansion to a 15-team basketball league was the league seemed to corner the market on active Hall of Fame coaches.
The league will add one to its roster this year with the arrival of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and a fourth next year in Louisville coach Rick Pitino when the Cardinals join the ACC. Pitino was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last month.
They will join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams in a select group as the ACC’s active Hall of Famers, combining for seven national titles.
“That’s cool. That’s great,’’ said Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils were picked as the preseason favorite to win the league, garnering 50 first-place votes in a media poll conducted at the ACC’s Operation Basketball. “Got a lot of old coaches — a lot of guys who are going to retire soon. I think it’s a good thing. Probably the [ACC coaches] who aren’t in the Hall of Fame may be better than the guys who are in the Hall of Fame, so there’s a lot of respect for that.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey believed it would serve as the ACC’s calling card.
“That’s really powerful,’’ said Brey, a former Duke assistant under Krzyzewski who will be making a return to Tobacco Road this season. “For our league to have Mike, Jim, Rick and Roy, that may be the most powerful thing this league can fly on its banner right now, along with a lot of programs who are building and have momentum and are trending up.
“When you have those four guys, starting next year, even with the three of them this year,’’ Brey added, “that’s quite an endorsement for being the best conference and being the deepest conference.’’
Boeheim, who spent 34 years in the Big East, said recruiting good players was pivotal to a coaches’ success.
“The most important thing is that you have good teams,’’ said Boeheim, whose best player, senior forward C.J. Fair, was selected as the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year. “That’s what’s important. The Big East came out of nowhere not because of me, John Thompson, or Louie [Carnesecca]. It came out of nowhere because of Patrick Ewing, Pearl Washington and Chris Mullin. It’s a players’ league and I think this league can get great players.’’
Happy to move
Ten years ago, Boeheim admitted he was not happy about conference expansion because it meant the erosion of the Big East when Miami, Virginia Tech and, later, Boston College, left for the ACC. Boeheim was the biggest (and loudest) critic of the ACC when the league ransacked the Big East’s membership.
Now, with Syracuse set to embark on it first ACC basketball campaign, Boeheim seems to have changed his tune.
“It’s really not a difficult transition because the old Big East is not there, it wasn’t there,’’ Boeheim said. “People don’t realize the league had changed so dramatically over the years, with people going in and out and back and forth.
“There are seven teams in this league that played in the Big East and there weren’t seven teams in the Big East that were in it in from the beginning,’’ Boeheim pointed out. “I mean, there’s a certain degree of nostalgia of not being in that league because that’s where you were for 34 years, but this is a better league.’’
Boeheim said Syracuse had sold more season tickets this year than in the previous 20 and that Syracuse’s conference game vs. Duke Feb. 1 at the Carrier Dome had already been sold out, marking the first time a home game had ever been sold out this early in the season.
“You’re closer to the teams in this league than you would’ve been had you stayed in that other league and I think it’s just absolutely the right time,’’ Boeheim said. “The only thing our fans will miss is the Big East tournament. That’s the only thing they’ll miss.”
Loss for Irish
Brey revealed he tried to persuade Alex Dragicevich, who transferred to BC and will be eligible to play after sitting out last season, to stay at Notre Dame. “I never thought I’d lose him to another conference team at the time,’’ Brey said. “I tried to talk him into redshirting because I thought he really needed a year [to season].
“Really, the way it’s unfolded, that year has really helped him, but I didn’t want to lose him.’’
Dragicevich, a 6-foot-8-inch junior forward from Glenbrook, Ill., averaged 6.6 points and 20.9 minutes and made 10 starts as a Notre Dame sophomore in 2011-12. “Pat Connaughton really came on the scene and his minutes kind of changed,’’ Brey said of Dragicevich. “But he’s really happy and he’s going to be a heck of a player and now we repeat him. They’re our repeat opponent. You never thought you were going to release him to someone we’re going to play twice.’’
The Eagles travel to South Bend, Ind., to face the Irish Feb. 1 then return home to host Notre Dame at Conte Forum Feb. 16.
“I know in our business sometimes people are denied releases, but I don’t agree with that,’’ Brey said. “He’s happy now at Boston College and I’m happy for him.’’