The Tournament: A History of ACC Men’s Basketball Firsts Tonight on the ACC Network

  • ESPN Films explores ACC basketball history through its annual tournament
  • 10-part, 10-hour series starting every Monday until March 7
  • The largest original programming initiative to date for ACC Network

FROM ESPN — From ESPN Films in partnership with ACC Network (ACCN) comes The Tournament: A History of ACC Men’s Basketball Presented by New York Life – the story of arguably the biggest, biggest and most successful conference in the history of men’s college basketball. Episode 1 of the 10-part, 10-hour documentary debuts Monday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET, following the Pitt game at Virginia Tech on ACCN at 7 p.m. Episode 2 immediately follows at 10 p.m. Two episodes will air each Monday evening. at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. until March 7.

This multi-part documentary, first announced in March 2019, marks the largest original programming initiative to date since the ACC Network launched in August 2019.

Produced by Emmy winners Jonathan Hock and John Dahl, the series delves into the extraordinary history of ACC men’s basketball by exploring the transformative tournament that began in 1954. At a time when the NCAA Tournament only awarded Only one berth per conference, the ACC became the only one to determine its champion with a tournament that followed regular season play. In the years that followed, from David Thompson, Ralph Sampson, Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan to Dean Smith, Mike KrzyzewskiJim Valvano and Roy Williams, the ACC featured many big names in the game and influenced innovations such as the shot clock and the three-point line.

Through exclusive footage and interviews with more than 160 players, coaches and members of the media who have been part of the ACC tournament since its inception, the series explores the tournament’s creation, transformation and impact on entire eras of the game. Along the way, viewers will experience his drama and remember why he continues to be such an important part of college basketball. Actor and Duke alumnus Jack Coleman serves as the series’ narrator.

“After having the opportunity to work on 30 for 30 Survive and Advance and later on The Class That Saved Coach K, I was already a true believer in ACC basketball as the essence of the college game,” said Hock said. “But telling the story of the ACC Tournament from its very beginning has been a journey of discovery for me and the entire production team, with each unopened film potentially revealing another treasure, and each interview bringing priceless stories to life. there’s no bigger conference tournament in sports, and it’s all in that.”

“It’s a thrill and a privilege to tell this story,” said Dahl, ESPN’s vice president and executive producer of original content and special projects. “Growing up mostly in Maryland and North Carolina, my love of basketball really started with the ACC. It meant so much to me, and there was nothing quite like the ACC tournament. The intensity of these few days of basketball each March, combined with the elite quality of the players and coaches, has made it an unmissable event.”

Four-time Emmy Award-winning director Larry Weitzman added, “In delving into the history of the ACC, one of the most fascinating things was how much of a family affair it is. players and coaches all know each other intimately. The intensity of the competition feels like sibling rivalry. All we had to do was sit down with the wonderful characters who created the ACC lore, and the stories and the passion poured in. The challenge was not finding enough compelling material. The struggle was which of the amazing stories we should leave out.”

The Fabulist
To capture fans’ attention from the premiere to the finale, the marketing campaign, The Fabulist, features Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody. She takes viewers through the time and history of ACC men’s basketball as a storyteller, spotlighting the players, coaches and stories of the sprawling docuseries. Across five spots, Rapsody guides fans through the stories and episodes, paired with the music of the era, supporting each night of the documentary event.

Advanced press screens, additional information including film clips, statements and director biographies are available upon request.

Episode descriptions are listed below.

Episode 1 (1954 – 1957) – premieres February 7 at 9 p.m.
When an Indiana native named Everett Case arrived in Raleigh in the mid-1940s to become North Carolina’s state basketball coach, his vision not only spearheaded the rise sport in his school and in the region, but also the start of a sports conference. it will forever change college basketball.

Episode 2 (1958 – 1968) – premieres February 7 at 10 p.m.
While Everett Case was the original driving force behind the ACC, he’s not the only icon on Tobacco Road to establish a forever legacy in the conference’s early years. From North Carolina’s Frank McGuire to Wake Forest’s Bones McKinney and Vic Bubas at Duke, new coaches are emerging to challenge Case’s early success. It all preceded a poignant final moment of triumph for him in 1965 at the only home the tournament had ever known until then.

Episode 3 (1966 – 1972) – premieres February 14 at 9 p.m.
After a rocky start, North Carolina’s Dean Smith is known for both his dominance and his dignity, playing a pivotal role in desegregating the ACC with the recruiting of Charlie Scott. Scott was UNC’s first African-American scholar and the star of some of Smith’s biggest teams in the late 1960s.

Episode 4 (1973 – 1974) – premieres February 14 at 10 p.m.
While the conference tournament captivated many in the early 1970s, it can be just as frustrating and even heartbreaking for the big teams that don’t win it and thus miss out on a chance to play in the NCAA tournament. An intense, high-impact rivalry develops between Maryland and North Carolina State, crowned by the 1974 ACC Tournament Finals in arguably the greatest college basketball game of all time – and a battle that helps shape the future of sport.

Episode 5 (1975 – 1980) – premieres February 21 at 9 p.m.
During the mid to late 1970s, the ACC continued to be the greatest showcase of talent and drama in all of college basketball. Dean Smith’s North Carolina teams may be conference class, but rivals are also flourishing, including a 1976 Virginia team led by Wally Walker, and a resurgent Duke program with a 1978 championship followed. of a controversial title two years later.

Episode 6 (1981 – 1983) – premieres February 21 at 10 p.m.
As the ACC thrives on its groundbreaking tournament and the power of television, 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson enters the conference as one of the most heralded recruits in college basketball history. The Virginia center won the National Player of the Year three times, but never won the ACC Tournament. Meanwhile, Dean Smith won two more conference titles and a national championship in 1982 with freshman guard Michael Jordan. The following year, a colorful and charismatic coach named Jim Valvano rode the momentum of an unlikely ACC title into one of the most memorable NCAA runs of all time.

Episode 7 (1984 – 1989) – premieres February 28 at 9 p.m.
As the 1980s continued, familiar and new faces defined the ACC. After previous ACC tournament heartache, Maryland’s Lefty Driesell and Georgia Tech’s Bobby Cremins are both seeking redemption. All in, Mike Krzyzewski survives early calls for his work, ratchets up the pressure on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, and resurrects Duke as a perennial title contender.

Episode 8 (1990 – 1997) – premieres February 29 at 10 p.m.
At Duke, Coach K brings together one of the most iconic teams in ACC history with Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley. Wake Forest is looking for a return to glory led by Randolph Childress and Tim Duncan, and Dean Smith’s extraordinary career comes to a memorable end with a 1997 title.

Episode 9 (1998 – 2008) – premieres March 7 at 9 p.m.
Entering a new century, Duke is more dominant than ever, winning an unprecedented five consecutive ACC Tournament titles and seven in eight years with a star-studded core of Shane Battier, Jay Williams and JJ Redick. Meanwhile, Roy Williams rejuvenates the Carolina program his mentor Dean Smith once made standard, and Clemson’s pursuit of an elusive ACC championship continues.

Episode 10 (2009 – 2020) – premieres March 7 at 10 p.m.
The changing college sports landscape brings the conference to 15 member institutions, with Florida State, Miami, and Notre Dame each winning their first ACC championships. Virginia’s Tony Bennett and phenom Duke Zion Williamson each bring new excitement before the unimaginable happens.


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