Luke DeCock

ACC’s promotion of Bryan Kersey affirms officiating status quo

Virginia coach Tony Bennett listens to official Bryan Kersey during the first half against North Carolina on March 12 in the ACC tournament Championship at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett listens to official Bryan Kersey during the first half against North Carolina on March 12 in the ACC tournament Championship at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The decision to promote Bryan Kersey from the pool of current ACC basketball officials to become their coordinator does not necessarily mean the idea of a larger, regional officiating cooperative has been tabled.

It does, however, leave the ACC with a pretty big hole to fill in its officiating ranks.

The ACC announced Tuesday that Kersey, 53, will leave the court to join the conference office, a move that can be read as an endorsement of the league’s current standard of officiating, which anyone who watched the NCAA tournament will appreciate is quite high these days. The ACC accounted for three of the 10 officials selected to work the Final Four in Houston, and Kersey was one of two ACC officials in Indianapolis a year earlier.

By staying within the family instead of bringing in an outsider – as was the case when Raleigh resident and Big East/SEC official John Clougherty took the job in 2005 – the ACC essentially is affirming the status quo, asking Kersey to build on the foundation Clougherty left behind when he retired after the ACC tournament.

“It was not a prerequisite,” said Paul Brazeau, the ACC’s senior associate commissioner for basketball, “but Bryan emerged as the right person at the right time.”

A good-natured conciliator as an official – particularly good at soothing irritated coaches – Kersey’s style will serve him well in his new role as he has to placate not only coaches but athletics directors, who aren’t subject to technical fouls and whose wiles have tripped up an officiating supervisor or two over the years.

The son of longtime American Basketball Association/NBA referee Jess Kersey and a native of Newport News, Va., Kersey went into the insurance business in that area specifically to leave his schedule free for officiating. He worked his first ACC game at the precocious age of 26 and would go on to be selected for 21 ACC tournaments and 20 NCAA tournaments, advancing to the second weekend nine times.

The biggest negative with Kersey’s promotion is the hole it leaves atop the ACC’s officiating pyramid. Kersey worked the ACC championship game in March, the seventh of his career, along with Roger Ayers and Mike Eades. That trio was clearly the ACC’s best, with Brian Dorsey, the third ACC official at the Final Four along with Ayers and Eades, a nominal fourth.

“Bryan is one of the best officials in the country,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “He has a great vision for how the game should be called. I think it’s a great hire for the ACC.”

No one worked more ACC games this season than Kersey’s 25, with Ayers at 22, and Eades, Dorsey and Jamie Luckie at 21. Finding new blood capable of working at this level is always a huge part of the ACC supervisor’s job; for Kersey, it’s even more important since job No. 1 is replacing himself. As a well-liked member of the officiating fraternity, Kersey might have some success persuading other veteran officials to move over to the ACC, but identifying and grooming young officials is a priority as a big chunk of the ACC’s core group ages out.

Kersey also will be tasked with maneuvering the ACC through what appears to be inevitable changes to the officiating structure nationally as power conferences explore aligning and combining their officiating staffs. The ACC already assigns officials for the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association, both of which act as feeders for the ACC, but a partnership with the Big East or SEC might not be far off.

“What the model for officiating will look like five years from now, maybe none of us have that vision,” Brazeau said. “It’s wise to stay nimble, to stay current, to use technology and efficiencies that can help the game.”

That’s nothing new for Kersey, who started in the ACC when an official might see a VHS tape every couple of weeks and successfully transitioned into the new generation of iPads and immediate feedback, remaining one of the nation’s best officials along the way. His toughest task in his new role will be finding more who can do the job as well as he did.

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

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