ACC Year in Review: Coach K's farewell wasn't the only story in 2022. It only seemed like it
It’s customary about this time of year to compile a list counting down the top 10 stories from the past 12 months.
But in the ACC during 2022, 1 storyline dwarfed all the rest. And it can be summed up with a single letter.
As in Coach K.
Mike Krzyzewski always has found a way to dominate the headlines during his 42 seasons at Duke. But this past year, the winningest coach in college basketball was even more omnipresent than ever as he led the Blue Devils for the final time before handing the program over to heir apparent Jon Scheyer.
The farewell tour came to a crescendo during March and April with 2 epic battles against rival North Carolina, the latter coming at the Final Four in New Orleans.
While it would be possible to fill the entire top 10 for 2022 with stories related to Coach K and the unceremonious sendoff he was given by the Tar Heels and their 1st-year coach Hubert Davis, that likely wouldn’t sit well with readers partial to ACC teams besides Duke and UNC.
So here’s a look back at 2022, acknowledging some of the other things that happened around the conference:
10. Brohm’s homecoming at Louisville
Jeff Brohm turned down an opportunity to coach his alma mater during 2018, saying the timing wasn’t right.
This time he couldn’t say no.
Just 3 days after former coach Scott Satterfield bolted to Cincinnati, Brohm answered the call to return home to Louisville. He received a reported 6-year, $35 million contract to take over the program he led as a quarterback in 1989-93.
#Louisville got its wish with the return of former star quarterback Jeff Brohm as its football coach. How comes the hard part: For the Cardinals' prodigal son to fulfill the promise and deliver the goods … https://t.co/rNDDhtE00d
— BFriedACC (@BFriedACC) December 9, 2022
Brohm has compiled a 66-44 record at Western Kentucky and Purdue, where he led the Boilermakers to the Big Ten West title this season. His hiring was popular among Louisville fans who had grown increasingly disenchanted with Satterfield since his flirtation with South Carolina during 2020.
Satterfield’s departure, however, wasn’t without its intrigue. It came less than 2 weeks before his old team was scheduled to face his new team in Boston at the Fenway Bowl. Satterfield kept his distance from both teams’ preparations for the game, which Louisville won 24-7.
9. Wolfpack women cry foul
The NC State women’s basketball team received a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed after winning its 3rd straight ACC championship. But the Wolfpack didn’t get any favors from the selection committee.
Instead of rewarding coach Wes Moore’s team for its body of work, the committee – chaired by Duke athletics director Nina King – chose to give a decided advantage to lower-seeded UConn by sending State to a regional in nearby Bridgeport, Conn.
Forced to play a virtual road game in a hostile environment against the most dominant program in its sport, the Wolfpack did what it could to overcome the obstacle by rallying from a double-figure deficit and battling through 2 overtimes before losing 91-87 and falling a game short of the Final Four.
8. Hokies make history in Brooklyn
Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team recovered from a 2-7 ACC start by winning 9 of its final 11 league games but still arrived at Barclays Center seeded 7th needing a deep run to sneak into the NCAA Tournament field.
Coach Mike Young’s Hokies did better than that. Led by Everett Case Award winner Hunter Cattoor and Keve Aluma, both of whom came to Blacksburg from Wofford with Young, they won the whole thing.
After surviving Clemson in overtime in their opening game, they upset the top 3 seeds on consecutive days – including a convincing 82-67 win against Duke – to earn the first ACC tournament title in school history and the conference’s automatic bid.
In the process, they became the lowest-seeded team to take home the championship trophy.
7. Shelton goes out on top
The term GOAT is thrown around far too often these days. But when it comes to the greatest of all-time in the sport of field hockey, no coach comes close to North Carolina’s Karen Shelton.
Shelton led her Tar Heels to an undefeated season in 2022. Then after beating Northwestern 2-1 on Nov. 20 for the program’s NCAA-record 10th national championship, she announced her retirement after 42 seasons with the Tar Heels.
The winning goal in the title game was scored by Erin Matson with just 1:19 remaining. Matson can lay claim to the GOAT title in her own right. A 5-time All-American, Matson finished her career with an ACC-record 137 goals in 101 games.
Shelton finishes her career as the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history with a 745-172-9 record.
6. Bye bye ACC/Big Ten Challenge
The challenge was a creation of ESPN and has served as an entertaining transition from football to basketball for 23 years. But with the network losing the Big Ten football and basketball contract to CBS, Fox, NBC and FS1, the arrangement had to end.
It will be replaced by similar men’s and women’s basketball challenges between the ACC and SEC, both of which still are affiliated with ESPN.
The announcement came to an end just before this season’s event, which the ACC won 8-6 with victories by Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia, Duke, Miami and Notre Dame. The victory improved the ACC’s record in the series to 13-8-3.
5. Tigers back on top
Clemson bounced back from a “down” season in 2021 by winning its 6th ACC football championship in the past 7 years. Dabo Swinney’s team overcame a rash of injuries on defense and an inconsistent offense to run the table in conference play.
The Tigers capped their title run Dec. 3 with a 39-10 rout of surprise Coastal Division winner UNC in Charlotte. Freshman Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik came on in relief of embattled starter DJ Uiagalelei to throw for 279 yards and a touchdown while also running for a score to earn ACC Championship Game MVP honors.
Clemson’s celebration was dampened, however, by a loss the previous week to rival South Carolina that ended its ACC-record 40-game home winning streak and cost the Tigers a possible spot in the College Football Playoff.
Cade Klubnik came off the bench to spark #Clemson to the #ACC championship Saturday. But what if Dabo had pulled the trigger and made the move last week? Might the Tigers be heading to the @CFBPlayoff now? https://t.co/ihwrFJOqcX
— BFriedACC (@BFriedACC) December 4, 2022
4. ACC’s Uptown shuffle
It was the worst-kept secret of the year. But on Sept. 20, the ACC finally made it official. After 70 years in Greensboro, where the league was founded during 1953, the conference announced its home office will be moving to Charlotte.
The new headquarters will be located in the heart of Uptown, inside the Bank of America Tower. The move was approved by unanimous consent of the ACC’s 15 members and is scheduled to take place sometime during 2023.
A primary factor in the change was location and the accessibility Charlotte provides because of its large, hub airport. Commissioner Jim Phillips called the decision to relocate “transformational” and said Charlotte “not only meets, but exceeds the needs of the ACC.”
3. Tragedy in Charlottesville
Virginia already was experiencing what best can be described, at least in the context of sports, as a difficult football season. Difficult, however, doesn’t come close to describing the real-life hardship that hit the Cavaliers on the night of Nov. 13.
Three of their own – junior receiver Lavel Davis, junior linebacker D’Sean Perry and junior receiver Devin Chandler – were shot and killed as they returned to campus from a class trip to Washington, D.C. Police say the suspect is a former Cavaliers football player.
It’s an unconscionable situation that shook the entire campus and led to the cancellation of the team’s final 2 games, including its annual rivalry contest against Virginia Tech.
2. Bittersweet farewell
The buildup for Coach K’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium was intense. It was a full season in the making and was magnified by the fact that it came against Duke’s hated rival UNC.
Tickets were going for upwards of $5,000 apiece on the secondary market and the list of celebrities who joined the Cameron Crazies in attendance was star-studded. It was a lineup that included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Jerry Seinfield and more than 100 of the Hall of Fame coach’s former players.
It was supposed to be a celebration of epic proportions. But someone forgot to tell that to the visiting Tar Heels. Rookie coach Hubert Davis’ team threw a damper on the festivities by shooting 59% from the floor and outscored the Blue Devils by 15 points after halftime to hand Krzyzewski and his team a 94-81 defeat.
As K walked onto the floor, hand in hand with Mickie, he waved his left hand to the Cameron Crazier and said one word: “Sorry” pic.twitter.com/VGwI88pvxd
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) March 6, 2022
1. Final (Four) farewell
Duke and UNC had participated in 36 Final Fours between them, but until last April they’d never faced off in a national semifinal or final. As if the hype surrounding Coach K’s impending retirement already wasn’t a circus, it reached an even more frenzied crescendo when the Tar Heels and Blue Devils reconvened in New Orleans 4 weeks later for a reprise of the Cameron finale.
With a similar result.
This time UNC sent Krzyzewski out for good by handing his Blue Devils an 81-77 setback. The winningest coach in college basketball history finished his career with a 1,202-368 record but fell a game short of playing for his 6th national championship. Afterward, he was more disappointed for his players than he was for himself.
“It’s not about me, especially right now,” he said. “I’ve said my entire career that I wanted my seasons to end where my team was either crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow. Because then you knew that they gave everything.”
Caleb Love scored 28 points to lead UNC. He sealed the result with a clutch 3-pointer and 3 late free throws to leave the Tar Heels, who advanced to the Final Four as a No. 8 seed, into the national championship game against Kansas. Their bid for a 7th title, however, also fell short when the Jayhawks rallied from a 16-point, 2nd-half deficit for a 72-69 victory.