ACC Tournament History In Brief

David Glenn

Why do so many make such a big fuss over the ACC Tournament returning to Greensboro?

Well, the league’s 67-year-old, crown-jewel event has been held at the Greensboro Colise­um 27 times, far more than at any other venue, and—through decades of objections from many out-of-state schools and fans—a huge majority of North Carolinians like it that way.

Many coaches do, too.

“I love Greensboro,” Duke coach Mike Krzy­zewski said. “It’s where I grew up (as a coach). A lot of amazing memories, wins, amazing wins, tough losses, great games.

“When I think of Greensboro, I think of the ACC and the magnificence of our conference. It’s a showcase. Other venues have been good. I’m not sure any venue showcases our basketball for the ACC as well as Greens­boro, because everyone who’s there and the city itself, they embrace it.”

Six of Coach K’s record 15 ACC championships, including his first in 1986, have been claimed in Greensboro.

“It’s really like history. They get it (in Greens­boro). They get it. It’s not just current,” Coach K said. “There will be a lot of talking about, ‘Remember in 1970. Remember in ’86.’ I remember ’86. I can remember beating Bobby Cremins’ (Georgia Tech) team, an amazing game, and hugging Johnny (Dawkins), and that was our first ACC Tournament championship, and we’ve won a number of them since then.”

Cremins, a New York native who led Geor­­gia Tech to all three of its ACC championships, participated in the ACC Tournament as a player for South Carolina (a league member from 1953-71) and coached in 19 more with the Yellow Jackets, from 1982-2000.

While Cremins calls Greensboro the ACC Tournament’s “home,” he said he also remembers the intense debates at league meetings almost four decades ago, when many coaches, athletic directors and fans from schools located outside North Carolina called for change.

The first 13 ACC Tournaments were held on NC State’s home court at the time, Rey­nolds Coliseum in Raleigh. The next nine were held in Greensboro, where the ACC always has had its headquarters, or Charlotte. So that made 22 in a row on North Carolina soil.

Eventually, the ACC Tournament did visit the Capital Centre (first time in 1976) in Land­over, Md., and the Omni (first time in 1983) in Atlanta.

Still, through 2000, of the first 47 ACC Tournaments, 41 (about 87 percent) were held in North Carolina, home to Duke, NC State, UNC and Wake Forest.

“It came to be viewed as a matter of fairness and respect,” Cremins said. “There was a lot of talk about the four North Carolina schools having a home-court advantage, and of course those schools were winning most of the time, too, and that caused a lot of resentment.

“More recently, especially with conference expansion, and now a 15-team league, I think it started to make even more sense to move the tournament around more, and they’ve done that.

“Personally, I love the revolving door. As a New York guy, I enjoyed seeing it in Brook­lyn a couple years ago. As a Georgia Tech guy, I like seeing it in Atlanta from time to time. I think a lot of others feel that way, too, for their own reasons.

“I’m glad it’s still in Greensboro, that’s home, but I’m glad they’re moving it around more, too.”

Indeed, from 2001-20, there was an unprecedented rotation, with North Carolina hosting 12 times but out-of-state venues hosting eight: the Georgia Dome (2001, 2009) in Atlanta, the MCI Center in Washington (2005), the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa (2007), Philips Arena in Atlanta (2012), the Verizon Center in Washington (2016), and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (2017-18).

The rotation will continue. After Char­lotte last year and Greensboro this year, the event will move to Capital One Arena in Wash­ing­ton in 2021, then it will revisit the Barclays Center in 2022.

“Most people want the ACC Tournament in a place that’s convenient to them. We understand and respect that, and obviously it makes for different opinions,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “We’re blessed with basketball fan bases who love the game, know the game and help us make this event successful wherever we go. This rotation is working well.”

This next sentence reflects such an off-the-charts, bordering-on-unbelievable reality that we’ll print it twice.

Only ONE of the 66 ACC championship games was played without a North Carolina team being a part of it.

Only ONE of the 66 ACC championship games was played without a North Carolina team being a part of it.

It happened in 1990. In Charlotte, Georgia Tech beat Virginia for the ACC title. Every other championship game in league history in­volved Duke, NC State, UNC and/or Wake Forest.

This may sound strange, since the Tar Heels finished last in the ACC, the Demon Deacons were mostly miserable for a full decade, and the Wolfpack haven’t captured the ACC title since 1987, but the Big Four schools remain 1 through 4 in ACC championships.

Here’s the complete list of multi-time winners: Duke (21), UNC (18), NC State (10), Wake Forest (four) and Georgia Tech/Maryland/Vir­ginia (three). Florida State (2012), Miami (2013), Notre Dame (2015) and South Caro­lina (1971) each have captured a single ACC championship. Florida State was awarded the 2020 championship when the tournament was cancelled after two rounds this year.

Put differently, the Big Four schools in North Carolina together have claimed 53 of the 66 ACC championships to this point, or more than 80 percent.

Some of the details are absolutely ridiculous, especially as they reflect the historical dominance of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.

Krzyzewski (15) and North Carolina legend Dean Smith (13), for example, personally have more ACC championships than any school not named Duke or UNC. If you combined the ACC titles of 12 current conference members (all but Duke, Carolina and NCSU), Coach K still would have more league titles by a solid margin (15-13).

Finally, if you think realignment, expansion or other factors put an end to such historic domination by the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels, think again.

Excerpted from story