ACC Tournament Observations: Bzdelik and Johnson Hot Seats Remain ToastyPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 12th, 2014
ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.
For the first time in its storied history, the ACC Tournament is a five-day event. Of course that was a necessary evil of expanding the conference to 15 schools, but Wednesday afternoon’s action represented the dawn of a new era in tournament history. In the afternoon session, two coaches positioned on the proverbial hot seat led their teams with mixed results. Twelfth-seeded Wake Forest shot a season-high 61 percent on its way to a 81-69 win over #13-seed Notre Dame; while in the second game of the day, #15-seed Virginia Tech hung close but fell 57-53 to #10-seed Miami.
Knowing that interest for the opening round games was not going to be very high, the ACC decided not to include Wednesday’s games as part of its ACC Tournament ticket package. With most traveling fans reluctant to come to Greensboro that early, the ACC office also knew that attendance would be low. The league therefore decided to curtain off the Coliseum’s upper level for today’s games, like when UNC-Greensboro plays its home games in the building. The result is a more intimate-feeling arena, but the real goal is to avoid the embarrassment of exposing all the empty seats in the vast upper level of the Greensboro Coliseum. Estimating crowd size is an inexact science but there appeared to be around 6,000 to 8,000 fans in attendance for the afternoon games.
The on-going saga of Jeff Bzdelik‘s future as Wake Forest’s head basketball coach continues for at least another day. With so little remaining support among the Deacons’ fan base, even a nice ACC Tournament run this week may not save his job. At the very least, Wednesday’s win over the Irish ensured that Wake Forest will finish with a non-losing record for the first time in Bzdelik’s tenure. In the postgame press conference, he acknowledged that the job requires winning games, but in a recurring Bzdelik theme over the last few years, he stated, “There can’t be a trade-off between winning and integrity.” ESPN‘s Andy Katz talked about the coaching situation at Wake in his March 7 blog, and although it sounds like a decision may be coming soon, remember that school athletic director Ron Wellman is a little busy right now. Wellman is the Chair of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee this season and those duties will require his full attention throughout the entirety of March Madness, not just this week during the team selection process. Next up for Bzdelik’s Deacons is a Thursday afternoon meeting with #5-seed Pittsburgh. The two teams played once during the regular season, with the Panthers winning at home back in January, 80-65.
Virginia Tech is the other ACC school that looks like it has a situation where a coaching change could be imminent. Veteran ACC writer David Teel discussed James Johnson‘s employment status in this recent article, and although Johnson is in a different situation than Bzdelik, he is also unlikely to return next year. Johnson had no previous head coaching experience when he was hired to replace Seth Greenberg before the 2012-13 season, and the man that hired him retired earlier this year, so the new athletic director, Whit Babcock, has no such loyalty to Johnson. Add that to the fact that Virginia Tech has finished dead last in the ACC in both years with Johnson at the helm, tallying a total of six conference wins over that span, and it would appear that a change will be made very soon. After Wednesday’s game, Johnson said this about Babcock: “He has been evaluating the program since he’s taken over the job and I’m sure we’ll sit down and talk and continue to evaluate the program and me and where we go from here.”
The truth is that each of these schools that may be changing coaches may be doing so at a good time. While both assuredly need better talent to challenge the upper half of this conference, both have young squads that would give the new coach something positive to work with (assuming no mass defections). Even though Steve Donahue may not yet be on the hot seat in Chestnut Hill, Boston College is in a similar situation with its current roster. So if the Eagles’ administration is not totally confident in the long-term success of Donahue, it may also be time to make a change there as well. Stay tuned on these rumblings throughout the week from Greensboro.