It’s tough to make an argument against any of the six members of the inaugural ACC Hall of Fame class. David Thompson, Ralph Sampson, Dean Smith, Christian Laettner, Mike Krzyzewski and Everett Case all had legendary careers and helped make the conference what it is today.
The real debate starts when we look at who missed the cut, and by how much.
In order to join the Hall, players and coaches needed at least 75 percent of the vote from the selection committee.
Our committee cast its net far and wide. Players from every current and former ACC school received votes, and a total of 118 different people received votes.
With the ACC’s long tradition of excellence, including 13 national championship teams, there were plenty of great players and coaches who could have joined our half dozen.
Players who won 22 National Player of the Year Awards were left out of the inaugural class, as were coaches who won 11 Coach of the Year honors.
The biggest snubs, and hottest debate, came over the players that just missed joining the class.
Three players came up one vote shy of the 75 percent threshold—Michael Jordan, Phil Ford and Tim Duncan. Ford was National Player of the Year in 1978. Jordan won the award in back-to-back years, and Duncan also won it in 1997.
Jordan clearly was the toughest call, and some voters began the debate as they cast their ballots.
“OK, now I’ll defend this,” Stephen Schramm wrote after voting for Jordan. “I know it’s going to be trendy not to put him here. And I get it to a degree because his post-college career was SOOOOO great. But look at what he did while at UNC? NCAA champ, two-time first team All-American, consensus NPOY as a junior. There are guys who had better college resumes (Thompson, Laettner) who will deservedly get on this list before him. But there aren’t many. You don’t have to go down too far before you’re just throwing guys on there in front of MJ just to be contrarian. Don’t punish the GOAT for being the GOAT.”
Duncan’s superb NBA career also likely cost him votes for the same reason.
There was also a clear concern among voters to make sure not to favor any program over another. There were plenty of Tar Heels qualified to join Dean Smith in the Hall class, perhaps too many. Jordan, Ford, Tyler Hansbrough (63.6 percent) and Lennie Rosenbluth (54.5 percent) all could have been elected to the Hall of Fame, and no one would have raised an argument. But the large number of qualified players split the panel’s votes.
Including Krzyzewski and Laettner as Duke’s representatives meant that Johnny Dawkins, Grant Hill, Danny Ferry (all 36.4 percent) and Bobby Hurley (31.8 percent) had to be left out of the first class, in most voters’ minds.
Maryland’s decision to leave the ACC a few years ago likely hurt the campaign of Len Bias (59.1 percent).
Father Time also hurt the chances of greats from the early ACC era, such as Rosenbluth, Art Heyman (40.9 percent), Larry Miller (36.4), Frank McGuire (22.7), Bones McKinney (27.3) and, perhaps the biggest snub outside of the three near misses: Dickie Hemric. The Wake Forest legend played his last game in 1955. Sixty two years later, Hemric is still the ACC’s all-time rebounding leader, and no one has come within 200 rebounds of him.
Just looking at the people who missed the cutoff by more than 50 percentage points, it’s possible to construct a fairly impressive Hall of Fame class, including coaches Jim Valvano, Bobby Cremins and Gary Williams, and players Kenny Anderson, Sam Perkins, Rodney Rogers and Dennis Scott.
Looking only at people who received fewer than 10 percent of the vote, we have Julius Hodge, Terry Holland, Tom McMillen, Joe Smith, Bryant Stith, Gene Banks and Chris Corchiani.
Finally, it’s possible to envision that, someday, the ACC Hall of Fame will welcome Rasheed Wallace, Tom Gugliotta, Travis Best, Marcus Paige, Tommy Amaker, Jahlil Okafor, Walt Williams, Ed Cota, Steve Blake and Raymond Felton. None of them received votes in the inaugural balloting.