When you have worked in one place for as long as Bob Harris has, you can offer a bit of perspective. In light of the conference realignment, I sat down with him and talked about the new-look ACC as well as how Duke basketball (and Coach K) have influenced the conference through the years.
People compare the 15-team ACC to the old 16-team Big East Conference. Bob said the leagues differ in their depth.
“I think this ACC from 1-15 is better than the [old] Big East from 1-16,” he said. “You had the haves, you had some have-nots, and some in the middle that could go either way. We don’t have a lot of have-nots in the ACC.
He said the new teams (Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame for everything but football—a whole different story) will have to adjust to a new style of play.
“I think the ACC has always played a more exciting brand of basketball,” he said.
Then he laughed when I asked if he liked the Big East football-on-hardwood physicality. His answer was simple: “Nope.”
“Naturally I’m prejudiced,” he said. “I’ve been watching the ACC for 50-something years.”
He remembered how Coach K changed how ACC basketball was played when he started in 1980.
“Man-to-man defense all the time,” he said and paused. “Not some of the time. All the time. [Previous coach] Bill Foster played a 2-3 matchup zone for the most part. Other teams played zones, matchups, and they’d throw in a little man-to-man every now and then or junk, like the box and one, things like that. But nobody ever said we’re playing man-to-man and you’re going to try to beat us. But he did. Pretty good record too.”
He chuckled after the last sentence. Now, most teams in the ACC play man-to-man all the time. In a twist of the past, incoming Syracuse only plays a 2-3 zone.
“That’ll be interesting, very interesting,” he said. “It’ll take a while, but I think we’ve got some pretty good tacticians in the league. I think they can figure it out.”