Following a legend is never easy. Some coaches handle it better than others. Count among them retired Virginia Tech legendary coach Frank Beamer and his successor, Justin Fuente.
An egregious example of how not to do it involved North Carolina basketball at the turn of the century. Matt Doherty, the Tar Heels’ coach for three seasons from 2000 to 2003, moved the offices of the legendary Dean Smith and his successor, longtime Smith assistant Bill Guthridge, to a windowless basement office of the arena named for Smith.
When Roy Williams returned home in 2003 to succeed Doherty, he moved his mentor’s offices back upstairs among the basketball suites.
In another sport and at another school, Fuente stepped into a potentially sticky situation succeeding Beamer in the ACC. Fuente, an outsider who arrived from Memphis, used the Roy Williams model.
He made it clear to Beamer and his former players that the old coach was welcome around the team anytime. Beamer, true to his nature, has limited his exposure to provide Fuente his space to establish himself.
“Looking from the outside, the transition is the best I’ve seen in quite some time when somebody has had to follow a legend,” said Duke football coach David Cutcliffe, whose Blue Devils (3-5, 0-4 ACC Coastal) face the Hokies on Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The smooth transition has contributed to Virginia Tech climbing to No. 19 in the national rankings and leading the ACC Coastal with a 6-1 overall record and 4-1 conference mark.
“I think when you’re replacing a legend that can be … problematic and intimidating,” Cutcliffe said at his weekly media session. “But you’ve got to know Frank Beamer. Frank Beamer would have nothing but good intentions. It’s never been about Frank Beamer. It’s been about Virginia Tech as long as I’ve known him.”
Another move Fuente made was to retain defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Beamer’s right-hand man, who has been acclaimed for his own coaching ability.
“Bud Foster is about Virginia Tech and about the players,” Cutcliffe added. “As long as coaches keep egos out of the way, you generally can have a smooth transition, regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes egos are little strong. Those men up there, including coach Fuente, have all done that.”
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Painfully for North Carolina State, one of the Boston College players leading the Eagles to a 21-14 win over the Wolfpack is from Fayetteville (N.C.) Pine Forest, which is about an hour’s drive south of Raleigh.
B.C. junior defensive end Harold Landry was named Co-ACC Player of the Week. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder recorded his team-leading ninth sack and fifth forced fumble. The Eagles converted the turnover into a field goal.
Boston College assistant coach Al Washington was onto Landry early before he developed into the No. 7 player in North Carolina in the Class of 2014, according to Rivals.com rankings.
“Everyone once in a while you’re able to go in and get involved with a really good athlete and hang on, and that’s the beautiful thing about football,” BC head coach Steve Addazio said.
THE MONKEY OFF THEIR BACKS
Addazio expects his team to play with less pressure having snapped a 14-game ACC losing streak dating to the 2014 season.
“The validation of the win – kids, they need the smell, taste, feel, touch of winning,” Addazio said. “Winning is what it’s all about, and to see the smiles on their face was fantastic. I think it will go a long way in coming down the home stretch here as we continue to develop each week.”
It might not show this week, though. Boston College plays host to Louisville (7-1, 5-1 ACC Atlantic) Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
Louisville, led by Heisman Trophy-favorite quarterback Lamar Jackson, leads the nation in total offense (603.3 yards per game), but Boston College’s defense ranks seventh in total defense (298.5 yards).
DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT TESTED
North Carolina’s run defense has been the Tar Heels’ weak link this year. They rank 95th in the nation, allowing 202.8 yards per game.
North Carolina has shown improvement in wins the last two weeks, limiting Miami to 139 yards rushing and Virginia to 110. They’ll be tested this week by Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, which exploded for 341 yards rushing last week in a 38-35 win over Duke.
Senior quarterback Justin Thomas was the ACC Offensive Player of the Week with 17 carries for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
North Carolina (6-1, 4-1 ACC Coastal) can’t afford another loss in the race for the division title. Virginia Tech defeated the Tar Heels to hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“As a coaching staff, we were able to see improvement each and every week that we’ve been out there,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “I think now we’re getting to the point in the season where are guys are really comfortable.”
ROSE BOWL RECOGNIZED IN DURHAM
Duke honors the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Rose Bowl when the Blue Devils meet Virginia Tech on Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium, the only stadium other than the Rose Bowl to host the Granddaddy of Them All as the oldest of the New Year’s Day bowl games.
The 1942 Rose Bowl was moved to Durham from Pasadena following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The government banned large gatherings on the West Coast.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and Art Chase, the assistant athletic director/external affairs, gave the players a history lesson on Sunday.
“The significance of this is 75 years ago our country was attacked,” Cutcliffe said.
“That Rose Bowl is symbolic of Durham’s spirit and our great community and willingness to take on that task. It’s a celebration of the game itself, the military, the tradition and history of this country and certainly of our university and Oregon State. I think that’s important for our people and our players to understand why we’re honoring the 75th anniversary.”
Oregon State traveled by train from Corvallis and upset the Blue Devils, 20-16, before 56,000 fans. Duke was invited to face Oregon State in the Rose Bowl a week before the Pearl Harbor attack. When the West Coast ban was announced, Duke Coach Wallace Wade offered what was then known as Duke Stadium to host the game.
Duke’s players will wear Battleship Grey matte helmets with black facemasks and decal logo of the 88th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army that was known as the Blue Devils during World War II. The players also will wear a commemorative patch recognizing the 75th anniversary.
Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter @shanny4055