Luke DeCock

The 75th ACC basketball tournament in Raleigh? Let’s make it happen

Lennie Rosenbluth shoots over Wake Forest defenders in the 1957 ACC Tournament. A haze of cigarette and cigar smoke hangs in the air as was often the case in Reynolds before smoking was banned from the arena decades later.
Lennie Rosenbluth shoots over Wake Forest defenders in the 1957 ACC Tournament. A haze of cigarette and cigar smoke hangs in the air as was often the case in Reynolds before smoking was banned from the arena decades later. News & Observer file photo

This may just be one of those crazy ideas that bubbles up while trapped inside on a snow day – all work and no play makes Luke a dull boy – but we’re 10 years and a few weeks away from what could be the greatest ACC tournament in a long, long time.

Play the 2028 ACC tournament, the 75th, in Raleigh.

And not just at PNC Arena, which is the only ACC home arena even capable of hosting the event.

Play the three Tuesday games at renovated Reynolds Coliseum, where the ACC tournament was first played in 1954 and for the next 12 years.

Sign me up.

A league that has lost touch with its roots and history through rapid expansion needs a refresher course. Syracuse and Pittsburgh and their ilk need to know what the ACC is really about.

Nothing could do that better than a trip back to Reynolds as part of a Raleigh revival on the tournament’s diamond anniversary.

There will be obstacles, obvious and otherwise, internal and external. But 2028 is a long way away. It’s not even in the imminent bidding process for 2021 and a few years beyond, a complicated one already because of the ACC’s interest in finding a way into Madison Square Garden – the Big Ten is there this year, but had to compress its schedule to play a week early, before the Big East residency, not something the ACC wants to do – and the internal debate over whether Greensboro remains a viable regular host compared to more cosmopolitan destinations.

That leaves plenty of time to lay the groundwork, and that groundwork needs to start now, perhaps as soon as the upcoming winter meeting where future tournament sites (in the short term) will be discussed. Many of the would-be stakeholders here say, privately, that they’re on board with the concept. But momentum has to gather, and that’s going to take years.

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UNC’s Lennie Rosenbluth is surrounded by fans following the 1957 NCAA Championship. News & Observer file photo

The ACC tournament hasn’t been played on anyone’s home court since it left Reynolds, and that’s a good rule and an important ACC tradition. (Louisville made big noises, as Louisville does, about wanting to host the tournament when it entered the league and got laughed out of the room; given the school’s wanton and recidivist behavior since, it’s even less likely now than it was then.) A one-year waiver of that rule would be unprecedented, but not unreasonable given the circumstances.

Of all the ACC’s home arenas, only PNC is capable of hosting the ACC tournament to the same degree as Charlotte or Washington (and may be more capable than those venues in some ways, if not in others). It’s a pro-sports optimized, modern-day, large arena with all the suites and bells and whistles and backstage space and amenities needed to host an event like this. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game went off without a hitch, and that complicated-and-comprehensive transportation template would be easily reused, with even more hotels to choose from this time around.

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A boy hawks programs for the 1957 ACC Tournament while standing outside of Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh. 1957 News & Observer archive pho

Reynolds occupies as important a place in the conference’s history as room 230 at Sedgefield Country Club, and the ACC missed a trick when it let the 50th tournament pass without better acknowledging that in some way. The 2003 tournament was played in Greensboro, but there were only eight games played in that second-to-last nine-team tournament, and Reynolds was showing its age at the time, pre-renovation.

After considerable buffing and polishing, Reynolds is as shiny and vibrant as it has ever been, with all the modern conveniences. It is logistically and functionally capable of handling the moderate-at-best crowds that typically attend the Tuesday games at the tournament, and would almost certainly be full no matter who ends up playing in those games, and without discounting tickets or bringing in entertainment.

The ACC was built on a foundation of full houses at Reynolds. Let it be so once again, minus the cigarette smoke.

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An assistant coach lights up a cigar on the bench (right) as Clemson coach Press Maravich works his trademark towel during a game in the 1957 ACC Tournament in Reynolds Coliseum. News & Observer file photo

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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