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Matt Kupec:  Is There a “Right” Age to Hire a College Coach?

Matt Kupec: Is There a “Right” Age to Hire a College Coach?

by Matt Kupec

March 25, 2019

Southern Illinois University Director of Athletics Jerry Kill recently made a great hire by bringing former SIU basketball standout Bryan Mullen back to Carbondale as the Salukis new head basketball coach.  Coach Mullen has been a top assistant for the Loyola Chicago basketball program over the last four years and should return the Salukis back to the hierarchy of college basketball.

At thirty-two years old, Mullen becomes one of the youngest head coaches in Division I basketball.  In addition to Coach Mullen, the SIU football coach Nick Hill is just 33 years old.  Combined these two head coaches total just 65 years in age!

Is this unusual to have such young coaches or is this consistent with trends in the coaching field?

Immediately I thought about my alma mater UNC with 67 year-old football coach Mack Brown, and 68 year-old basketball coach Roy Williams.  Heck, the two SIU coaches together are younger than EITHER Coach Brown and Coach Williams!!  But also remember that Coach Brown was 34 years old when hired as Appalachian State University’s football coach.  Coach Williams was 42 years old when Kansas made the former UNC assistant its head basketball coach.  Neither of the Hall of Fame coaches started head coaching careers at UNC but both have had remarkable success in Chapel Hill

But even at UNC, young coaches have been hired in the past.  Bill Dooley, who was my UNC college coach in the late 1970’s, was hired in 1967 at the tender age of 33 years old.  The basketball coach at the time was “ancient” 37 year- old Dean Smith who had been hired six years earlier at the even younger age of 30 years old.  So, UNC has had mix of young and old over its history.

So, is it the trend to hire young coaches?   In this blog post, we have started our research by looking at the current crop of football and basketball coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Subsequent posts will provide analysis of all the other major conferences. Of note is that the ACC has last legendary seasoned coaches Rick Pitino (66), Mark Richt (60), Paul Johnson (61), and Bobby Petrino (58) in the last year.

Here’s what we found:

  • Age of ACC Football and Basketball Coaches
Atlantic Coast Conference:  Ages of Football & Basketball Head Coaches
School Football Age Basketball Age Combined
Duke David Cutcliffe 64 Mike Krzyzewski 72 68.0
North Carolina Mack Brown 67 Roy Williams 68 67.5
Syracuse Din Barber 57 Jim Boeheim 74 65.5
Notre Dame Brian Kelly 57 Mike Brey 60 58.5
Miami Manny Diaz 45 Jim Larranaga 69 57.0
Boston College Steve Addazio 59 Jim Christian 54 56.5
Florida St. Willie Taggart 42 Leonard Hamilton 70 56.0
Wake Forest Dave Clawson 51 Danny Manning 52 51.5
Virginia Bronco Mendenhall 53 Tony Bennett 49 51.0
Clemson Dabo Swinney 49 Brad Brownell 50 49.5
Pittsburgh Pat Narduzzi 53 Jeff Capel 44 48.5
Louisville Scott Satterfield 45 Chris Mack 49 47.0
NC State Dave Doeren 47 Kevin Keatts 46 46.5
Georgia Tech Geoff Collins 47 Josh Pastner 41 44.0
Virginia Tech Justin Fuente 41 Buzz Williams 46 43.5
Average 51.8 56.3 54.1
  • A Look at the Coaches by Descending Age
Age Range Name Age School Sport
> 70 years Jim Boeheim 74 Syracuse Basketball
Mike Krzyzewski 72 Duke Basketball
Leonard Hamilton 70 Florida St. Basketball
Between 60-69  Years Old Jim Larranaga 69 Miami Basketball
Roy Williams 68 North Carolina Basketball
Mack Brown 67 North Carolina Football
David Cutcliffe 64 Duke Football
Mike Brey 60 Notre Dame Basketball
Between 50-59  Years Old Steve Addazio 59 Boston College Football
Din Barber 57 Syracuse Football
Brian Kelly 57 Notre Dame Football
Jim Christian 54 Boston College Basketball
Bronco Mendenhall 53 Virginia Football
Pat Narduzzi 53 Pittsburgh Football
Danny Manning 52 Wake Forest Basketball
Dave Clawson 51 Wake Forest Football
Brad Brownell 50 Clemson Basketball
< 50 years old Dabo Swinney 49 Clemson Football
Tony Bennett 49 Virginia Basketball
Chris Mack 49 Louisville Basketball
Dave Doeren 47 NC State Football
Geoff Collins 47 Georgia Tech Football
Kevin Keatts 46 NC State Basketball
Buzz Williams 46 Virginia Tech Basketball
Manny Diaz 45 Miami Football
Scott Satterfield 45 Louisville Football
Jeff Capel 44 Pittsburgh Basketball
Willie Taggart 42 Florida St. Football
Justin Fuente 41 Virginia Tech Football
Josh Pastner 41 Georgia Tech Basketball


  • There really isn’t a “right” age that works for when Directors of Athletics are making head coaching decisions. Some of the coaching legends like were hired at very young ages.  Mike Krzyzewski was 33 years old when he started at Duke and Jim Boeheim was 32 years old when he was tapped to replace Roy Danforth as head coach at Syracuse.
  • The five oldest head coaches in the ACC are all basketball coaches – Boehim at Syracuse, Krzyzewski at Duke, Hamilton at Florida St., Larranaga at Miami and Williams at UNC. Mack Brown of UNC is the oldest football coach at 67 years old.
  • Thirteen of the thirty (43%) ACC coaches are between 40 and 40 years old.
  • There are no current ACC head coaches younger than forty years old.
Matt Kupec:  My First Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament

Matt Kupec: My First Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament

by Matt Kupec

March 10, 2019

I attended the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time this past weekend.  I was there to watch the Southern Illinois Saluki’s compete for the MVC Championship in hopes of coming away with three consecutive wins and the prize of a berth into the NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship.

Unfortunately, SIU came up short and lost a tight contest to the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on a last second bucket by UNI.  A very disappointing loss in a season that began with high hopes and ended in the resignation of Head Basketball Coach Barry Vinson.

I have attended many Atlantic Coast Conference Championships over the years when I was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for development & university relations.  I had seen many great games with Tar Heel victories and some disappointing losses as well.  During my twenty-one years at UNC, the Tar Heels won five ACC Tournament titles.

As I watching SIU compete Friday night, I began comparing the Missouri Valley Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments, thinking about the similarities and differences.  Here is my assessment:

  • More pressure on the MVC teams to win the tournament. The MVC has a storied and rich basketball history.   But as a mid-major conference, the MVC is often only offered one bid that goes to the winner of the tournament.  For sure, there have been years where multiple teams have been invited but this year only the winner of the MVC Tournament was going to be given a bid.  That equates to equal pressure on all 10 teams.  The ACC on the other hand will likely have eight teams that are assured of receiving Tournament bids even before the conference tournament begins and a ninth on the bubble.  The other six teams will need to win the Tournament to get an invite to the NCAA’s big dance.  While I understand the strength and depth of a major conference like the ACC that garners many invites, I like the MVC format where it so undecided for all teams and everybody goes into the tournament believing that they have a shot.
  • Stadium & Attendance. The MVC Tournament is held in the Enterprise Arena in downtown St. Louis.  It has been held there for many years and offers a good location for the 10 team MVC Conference.  The ACC Tournament is being held in the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte, NC this year.  Distance is a problem for Miami, Syracuse, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.  Both venues have a similar seating capacity although the Enterprise Arena had curtains that covered the upper section to hide the empty seats.  The ACC has no such problem.
  • Atmosphere.  One great similarity I noticed between the two conference tournaments was the excitement of the fan bases of all participating schools.  Conference basketball tournaments have become a major spectacle to bring fans to the host city for parties, receptions, and the basketball games.  They generate significant school pride and a way for alumni and friends to promote and show off their school pride and allegiance.
  • Overall Assessment. Both the Missouri Valley Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments are special events that bring great attention and excitement to member institution schools.  There are very few sporting activities like “March Madness” that captivate the attention of fans throughout the country.  These Conference Tournaments ramp up the excitement leading into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and every school in America – even those with poor records entering the Tournament – believe they have a chance to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament.  Whether at a major conference like the ACC or at a mid-major conference like the MVC, fans alike share the excitement and dream of a significant run into the NCAA finals.  Both the ACC and the MVC share those same similarities.

Lifelong athlete

Athletics have always been an important part of Matt Kupec’s life.  Born and raised in Syosset, NY on Long Island as the middle child of seven children of Bill and Helen Kupec, Matt enjoyed a prolific high school career as an outstanding student-athlete to become one of the most decorated high school athletes on Long Island.

About Matt

A three sport star – football, basketball and baseball – Matt Kupec earned many honors and awards including prep All-American in football where he led his Syosset HS football squad to an undefeated season and #1 ranking as the top High School team in New York. Matt was also awarded the highly coveted Thorp Award, given to the top player in Nassau County.

Matt Kupec was an all-county player in all three sports during his high school career.  Please remember that Nassau County has over 80 public and private high schools. As a basketball player, Matt was a sharpshooting point guard in basketball with a career high game of 34 points at a time when the three-point shot was yet instituted.  In baseball, he was a pitcher and shortstop. In Matt’s senior year in high baseball, he pitched three games during Syosset’s march to the Nassau County semi-finals – a one-hitter, a two-hitter, and a three-hitter. Matt struck out a combined 21 batters, gave us just 6 hits, and walked zero – yes zero – batters in those 21 innings.

With many full scholarship offers to choose from following his successful football career, Matt Kupec chose to accept a full scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because of its high academic standing and strong football program.  

At UNC, Matt was the starting quarterback for four years and led the Tar Heels to bowl games in three of the four seasons.  He was named Most Valuable Player in the Liberty and Gator Bowls becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to earn two bowl game MVP awards.  

Matt Kupec set nineteen season and career passing records while a UNC quarterback.  In fact, two of those records – most consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass and most wins as a starting quarterback – remain standing nearly forty years after his playing career.  Matt led the ACC in five passing categories his senior year including setting an ACC record for most touchdown passes in one season.

After a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks as a free-agent quarterback, Matt Kupec began a long career in higher education as a fundraising executive with stints at the University of Bridgeport, Hofstra University and twenty-one years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In these roles, Matt played was actively involved with the athletic administration staffs and coaches in raising money to support the athletic teams at these institutions.

Of the philanthropic gifts that Matt helped to raise for athletics, the most significant gift was the lead gift form Charles “Charlie” Loudermilk to fund the building of the Loudermilk Center for Excellence within Kenan Stadium on the University of North Carolina campus, a 150,000 square-foot facility that serves all of UNC’s nearly 800 student-athletes across 28 sports.

All of these experiences as an athlete and as a higher administrator supporting a wide variety of men’s and women’s athletic programs, have given Matt Kupec an insight and perspective to the athletic world that few have experienced.  

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