- ESPN Films explores the history of ACC basketball through its annual tournament
- 10-part, 10-hour series to debut each Monday through March 7
- Largest original programming initiative to date for ACC Network
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 most storied, significant and successful conference in the history of men’s college basketball. Episode 1 of the 10-part, 10-hour documentary debuts on Monday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET, following the Pitt at Virginia Tech game on ACCN at 7 p.m. Episode 2 immediately follows at 10 p.m. Two episodes will air each Monday night at 9 and 10 p.m. through March 7.
This multi-part documentary, first announced in March of 2019, marks the largest original programming initiative to date since ACC Network launched in August of 2019.
Executive produced by Emmy Award winners Jonathan Hock and John Dahl, the series takes a deep dive into the extraordinary history of ACC men’s basketball by exploring the transformative tournament that started in 1954. In an era when the NCAA Tournament awarded just 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 since, from David Thompson, Ralph Sampson, Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan to Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano and Roy Williams, the ACC has showcased many of the game’s all-time greats and has influenced innovations like the shot clock and three-point line.
Through exclusive footage and interviews with more than 160 players, coaches and media members who have been a part of the ACC Tournament since its beginnings, the series explores the inception, transformation and impact of the tournament on entire eras of the game. Along the way, viewers will experience its drama and be reminded why it 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 the 30 for 30 Survive and Advance and later The Class That Saved Coach K, I was already a true believer in ACC basketball as the essence of the college game,” said Hock. “But telling the story of the ACC Tournament from its very beginning was a journey of discovery for me and the whole production team, with every unopened film can revealing another treasure, and every interview bringing to life priceless stories. There’s no greater conference tournament in sports, and it’s all in here.”
“It’s a thrill and a privilege to tell this story,” said Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer for ESPN Original Content and Special Projects. “Growing up mostly in Maryland and North Carolina, my love of basketball really began with the ACC. It meant so much to me, and there was nothing quite like the ACC Tournament. The intensity of those few days of basketball every March, combined with the elite quality of players and coaches, made it a must-see event.”
Added director Larry Weitzman, a four-time Emmy Award winner, “While diving into ACC history, one of the things that was so fascinating was how much of a family story it is. The 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 have created ACC lore, and the stories and the passion just poured out. The challenge wasn’t finding enough fascinating material. The struggle was which amazing stories we would have to leave out.”
To capture the attention of fans from the premiere through the final episode, the marketing campaign, The Fabulist, stars Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody. She takes viewers through time and history of ACC men’s basketball as the storyteller, highlighting the players, coaches and tales from the sprawling docuseries. Over five spots, Rapsody leads fans through the stories and episodes, paired with music of the era, supporting each night of the documentary event.
Advance press screeners, additional information, including film clips and director statements and bios, are available upon request.
Episode descriptions are listed below.
Episode 1 (1954 – 1957)
When an Indiana native named Everett Case arrives in Raleigh in the mid-1940s to become the basketball coach at North Carolina State, his vision spearheads not just the rise of the sport at his school and in the region, but the start of an athletic conference that will change college basketball forever.
Episode 2 (1958 – 1968)
While Everett Case is the ACC’s original driving force, he’s not the only icon on Tobacco Road to establish a legacy for all time 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 emerge to challenge the early success of Case. It all precedes a final poignant moment of triumph for him in 1965 at the only home the tournament ever knew up to then.
Episode 3 (1966 – 1972)
After a rough start, North Carolina’s Dean Smith comes to be known for both dominance and dignity, playing a central role in desegregating the ACC with the recruitment of Charlie Scott. Scott is UNC’s first African-American scholarship player and the star on some of Smith’s greatest teams in the late 1960s.
Episode 4 (1973 – 1974)
While the conference tournament is captivating many by the early 1970s, it can be just as frustrating and even heartbreaking for great teams that don’t win it, and thus miss out on a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. An intense and high-impact rivalry develops between Maryland and North Carolina State, capped by the finale of the 1974 ACC Tournament in arguably the greatest college basketball game ever – and a battle that helps shape the future of the sport.
Episode 5 (1975 – 1980)
In the mid-to-late 1970s, the ACC continues to be the greatest showcase of talent and drama in all of college basketball. Dean Smith’s North Carolina teams may be the class of the conference, but rivals also flourish, including a Virginia team in 1976 led by Wally Walker, and a Duke program that re-emerges with a championship run in 1978 followed by a controversial title two years later.
Episode 6 (1981 – 1983)
As the ACC thrives thanks to 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 earns national player of the year honors three times, but never wins the ACC Tournament. Meanwhile, Dean Smith earns two more conference titles, and a national championship in 1982 with freshman guard Michael Jordan. The next year, a colorful, charismatic coach named Jim Valvano rides the momentum of an unlikely ACC title to one of the most memorable NCAA runs ever.
Episode 7 (1984 – 1989)
As the 1980s continue, familiar and new faces alike define the ACC. After previous ACC Tournament heartbreaks, Maryland’s Lefty Driesell and Georgia Tech’s Bobby Cremins both seek redemption. All the while, Mike Krzyzewski survives early calls for his job, turns up the heat on the Duke-North Carolina rivalry and resurrects Duke into a perennial title contender.
Episode 8 (1990 – 1997)
At Duke, Coach K puts together one of the most iconic teams in ACC history with Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, and Bobby Hurley. Wake Forest seeks a return to glory led by Randolph Childress and Tim Duncan, and Dean Smith’s extraordinary career ends in memorable fashion with a title in 1997.
Episode 9 (1998 – 2008)
As a new century dawns, Duke is more dominant than ever, winning an unprecedented five straight ACC Tournament titles and seven in eight years with a core of stars headlined by Shane Battier, Jay Williams and JJ Redick. Meanwhile, Roy Williams rejuvenates the Carolina program that his mentor Dean Smith once made standard, and Clemson’s pursuit of an elusive ACC championship continues.
Episode 10 (2009 – 2020)
The changing college sports landscape brings the conference to 15 member institutions, with Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame each earning their first ACC championships. Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Duke phenom Zion Williamson each bring new excitement before the unimaginable happens.
The Tournament: A History of ACC Men’s Basketball Schedule of Episodes
|Mon, Feb. 7||9 p.m.||Episode 1 (1954-57)||ACCN|
|10 p.m.||Episode 2 (1958-68)||ACCN|
|Mon, Feb. 14||9 p.m.||Episode 3 (1966-72)||ACCN|
|10 p.m.||Episode 4 (1973-74)||ACCN|
|Mon, Feb. 21||9 p.m.||Episode 5 (1975-80)||ACCN|
|10 p.m.||Episode 6 (1981-83)||ACCN|
|Mon, Feb. 28||9 p.m.||Episode 7 (1984-89)||ACCN|
|10 p.m.||Episode 8 (1990-97)||ACCN|
|Mon, March 7||9 p.m.||Episode 9 (1998-2008)||ACCN|
|10 p.m.||Episode 10 (2009-2020)||ACCN|
About ACC Network
Owned and operated by ESPN in partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference, ACC Network (ACCN) and its digital platform ACCNX is a 24/7 national network dedicated to ACC sports that launched on August 22, 2019. ACCN televises more than 500 regular-season and tournament games from across the conference’s 27 sponsored sports plus a complement of news and information shows and original programming. Together, ACCN and its digital platform, ACCNX, combine to feature more than 1,500 ACC events each year. ESPN has been televising ACC content since 1979 and has exclusive rights to every conference-controlled game across all sports and championships.
Carriage agreements are in place with the following video providers: Comcast’s Xfinity, Cox, DIRECTV, DIRECTV STREAM, DISH Network, Frontier, fuboTV, Google Fiber, Hulu+ Live TV, Mediacom, Optimum, Sling TV, Spectrum TV, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios, YouTube TV, members of the NCTC, NRTC and Vivicast, among others. All ACCN games will also be available on the ESPN App to authenticated subscribers. Fans interested in learning more about ACCN can visit https://getaccn.com.