Inside ACC Operation Basketball: The Coaches' Perspective

Steve Phillips is on site at 2015 ACC Operation Basketball and will offer notes and quotes from the event throughout Wednesday’s session. This notebook highlights the coaches. (Click here for the players' notebook)

QUEEN CITY WRAP (4:30 p.m.)

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s 2015 edition of Operation Basketball concluded late Wednesday afternoon with the predicted order of finish for the coming season, along with the preseason All-ACC team, Players of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

There were few surprises as the top four of the preseason poll resembled most of the national rankings, with North Carolina picked as preseason favorite, Virginia at No. 2, defending national champion Duke at No. 3 and defending ACC champion Notre Dame at No. 4.

A pair of senior guards – North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon – tied in the voting for Preseason Player of the Year, and Duke’s Brandon Ingram was tabbed as ACC Preseason Freshman of the Year. The trio led the balloting for the Preseason All-ACC team.

Please see the following link for the complete release on the 2015-16 predicted order of finish and preseason honors: 

More than 220 media members attended this year’s Operation Basketball at Charlotte’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The regular season begins for all 15 ACC teams the weekend of Nov. 13-15. In addition to an 18-game regular-season conference schedule, the 63rd annual ACC Tournament will be held March 8-12 (Tuesday through Saturday) at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.


Clemson has enjoyed a winning fall sports season, and head coach Brad Brownell believes that has a positive effect on his basketball team.

“There's a tremendous amount of positive energy on our campus,” Brownell said. “Obviously, what (head football coach) Dabo (Swinney) and his guys are doing, I don't want to say it's remarkable because I think we all expected that this would be coming. They've had consistently good seasons, and we all hoped that this would become a year where they could possibly do something like this.

“Ironically, our soccer teams are both in the top 10 in the country. Men and women's soccer teams are both in the top 10 in the country right now and competing for ACC championships. So there's a lot of success at Clemson. Obviously because of all the success, there's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. We have some of the most passionate fans, I think, in the ACC and there's a lot of positive support. Hopefully we want to build on that and our players recognize this kind of success and have seen it in other sports and hopefully gives us a chance to know that we could do the same in basketball.”


North Carolina’s Justin Jackson began to hit his stride as a collegiate player last winter, midway through his first collegiate season, but injuries sidetracked the progress of freshman classmates Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. Head coach Roy Williams is excited at the possibility of seeing all three players at close to 100 percent as the new season approaches.

“it a really good class,” Williams  said. “Justin started almost every game, if not every game last year, with the exception of senior day, got better and better as better as the season went along. Joel Berry was out for a little while injured. Theo broke his foot in the Wake Forest game, sat out about six weeks and tried to come back, didn't do it, and then had surgery, I think, May 4th, didn't play a single pick-up game all year, all summer. The first time he played five on five after our season was over is when we officially started practice this year. I think next week he'll be completely released to do everything.”

Which, Williams said, features prominently into his coaching plans. Before his injury, Pinson made key contributions in games against eventual ACC champion Notre Dame and Louisville. Berry showed flashes of being a reliable outside shooter given the chance to play more and establish some consistency.

“All three of those guys are going to play a heck of a lot for us and be extremely important to us,” Williams said. “I think Justin can take another huge step. I think that Joel Berry can do the same thing. And Theo, even though he didn't get as much time as those two guys because of the injury, he's had some real moments at practice. If I can get him to play nearly as well as he talks, we'll be really good, because that young man can talk with the best of them, but it's a fun kind of thing. I'm enjoying him immensely, enjoying the heck out of him almost being healthy.”


Notre Dame put up 775 shots from 3-point range en route to claiming the 2015 ACC title. Don’t look for that mentality change, even with Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton (378 such shots between them) missing this year.

“I think we've really utilized that shot,” head coach Mike Brey said. “We've recruited guys that can put it in the hole. What did Morgan used to say, Dave and Bobby, good shooting covers a multitude of sins? We've certainly lived by that more than died by it. But we still have the arsenal of guys that can make shots, and that is always then led to great spacing because you have to come out and guard us. And I think that's why (6-foot-10) Zach Auguste shot 62 percent last year, because when he was ball screening, rolling, he was rolling down the middle of the lane and no one knows who to help off of.”

Notre Dame finished 32-6 last season, reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and came excruciatingly close to the Final Four. Brey was asked if anything less would be a disappointment in 2015-16.

“I don't know if I'd put 32 wins on it,” Breay said. “You know, the current group is highly motivated and has tasted a lot of good stuff, so they'd like to play further, and that's nothing that I laid out for them, which is great. (Demetrius) Jackson set that tone. Auguste has set that tone.”


ACC Commissioner John Swofford said earlier Wednesday that the idea of playing more than 18 regular-season conference games merits discussion. Count Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton as one head coach who is all in favor.

“There was a time when I was very much opposed to playing too many conference games because there seemed to have always been emphasis on who you play out of conference, but I must say now, the way things are going, I'm in favor,” Hamilton said. “ I believe I'm in favor of more conference games only because you've got to play tough games. And now with the quality of the opponents that we are facing in our league, I think it can't do anything but help because we're not playing anyone in our league that's not a competitive game or a recognized game.”

“I think there should be more emphasis placed on the fact that we do now, without a shadow of a doubt, have the No. 1 basketball conference ever assembled in the history of college basketball. Every night out you have a competitive game. If you look at the closeness of all the games that are being played, you will see that most of the games are decided within two or three possessions. And I mean, sometimes you have more closely contested games in the ACC than anywhere else in the country.”