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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 combined together are younger than EITHER Coach Brown or Coach Williams!!  But also remember that Coach Brown was 32 years old when hired as Appalachian State University’s football coach.  Coach Williams was 38 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.