From NC State's Kevin Keatts to Florida St's Leonard Hamilton, ACC is home to 9 Black head coaches

While fewer than 1 in 3 head coaches at the top level of men’s college basketball are Black, the Atlantic Coast Conference is something of anomaly
North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts wears the net following an Elite Eight college basketball game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. North Carolina State won 76-64. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts wears the net following an Elite Eight college basketball game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. North Carolina State won 76-64. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Kevin Keatts' path through the NCAA Tournament with North Carolina State included beating three teams with white head coaches, with another up next in the Final Four against Purdue's Matt Painter.

Marquette's Shaka Smart was the only fellow Black head coach he saw down the sideline along the way.

Winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament was another story: Keatts and the Wolfpack faced three Black coaches in five games: Louisville's Kenny Payne, Syracuse's Adrian Autry and North Carolina's Hubert Davis.

While fewer than 1 in 3 head coaches at the top level of men's college basketball are Black, the ACC has nine, including Florida State's Leonard Hamilton and Georgia Tech's Damon Stoudamire. There are just 17 at the other 65 Power Six schools, and Keatts wants to make the most of being in a head coaching job. He believes all eyes are on him and his colleagues who have been hired for the top jobs.

“I try to do everything right,” Keatts said. "I try to work my butt off, I try to be a positive role model because sometimes my success, which is unfortunate, is directly connected to the next hire that they may have.”

Hamilton, who is in his third head coaching job since his first at Oklahoma State in 1986, has always thought like that. The 75-year-old dean of coaches at the ACC has been at Florida State since 2002 and is glad he had mentors like John Thompson and George Raveling he could call early in his career. He said he enjoys seeing young assistants making more connections with agents and getting chances to show what they can do on a staff like he did at Austin Peay and Kentucky decades ago.

“Not that I walked around with a T-shirt saying, ‘I’m ready’ — it became obvious that those who were looking for a coach that I was an integral part of the success at the University of Kentucky,” Hamilton said. "And I think that’s what I see going on now. I’m seeing guys that have established themselves enough, and they’ve got the exposure that more guys, I think, are ready to take that jump and do a good job with it.”

Notre Dame's Micah Shrewsberry credits Mike Boynton getting hired by Oklahoma State in 2017 for setting a precedent that allowed him to get his first head job at Penn State four years later.

“That’s one of the major things is when there’s something that’s already happened, if there’s success, people tend to almost copycat a little bit,” Shrewsberry said. "If not for Mike Boynton’s situation, I might not have gotten that situation. I might not have gotten that job. I’m always appreciative of that, and now I’ve got to help other people by just having success.”

Keatts said some Black assistants aren't put in position to succeed, handed rebuilding jobs that are difficult to complete.

At least a full, four-year recruiting cycle is needed to make progress, Keatts believes. That is a longer runway than Louisville gave Payne before firing him after two seasons. Boynton got seven years at Oklahoma State but has also since been fired.

Hamilton in the ‘80s said he realized that all his dream jobs weren’t places that needed his help and he began instead looking for fixer-upper gigs, but he agreed with Keatts that sometimes first-time coaches aren't given enough time to turn a program around.

“Programs do not get to be in shape where they need a little fixing up overnight, but the people expect you to fix it overnight and that’s basically impossible,” Hamilton said. “Changing the culture and the philosophy and getting the right kids in who fit the way you want to play, sometimes that’s not a quick fix.”

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AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts reacts after cutting the net following an Elite Eight college basketball game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. North Carolina State won 76-64. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

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FILE - North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts calls out to his team during the first half of a college basketball game against Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA men's tournament Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Pittsburgh. N.C. State plays Purdue in a semifinal at the Final Four on Saturday, April 6, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt Freed, File)

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North Carolina State's DJ Burns Jr. (30) dumps confetti on head coach Kevin Keatts following an Elite Eight college basketball game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. North Carolina State won 76-64. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts, center right, hugs Mohamed Diarra following an Elite Eight college basketball game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. North Carolina State won 76-64. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts reacts after cutting the net following an Elite Eight college basketball game against Duke in the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, Sunday, March 31, 2024. North Carolina State won 76-64. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

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FILE - Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton watches his team during the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference second round NCAA college basketball tournament game against Virginia Tech, Wednesday, March 13, 2024, in Washington. Black coaches in the top six men's college basketball leagues are still facing a tough climb in going from assistant to the head job. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

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North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis reacts on the bench during the second half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game against Alabama in the NCAA tournament Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

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FILE - Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in the semifinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Washington. Black coaches in the top six men's college basketball leagues are still facing a tough climb in going from assistant to the head job. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

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Syracuse head coach Adrian Autry, left, and North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts, right, shaking hands at the end of their Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college basketball tournament game Wednesday, March 13, 2024, in Washington. North Carolina State won 83-65. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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