Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim attends the ACC press conference Monday. / Debby Wong, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK - The image was slightly jarring - to reporters, to fans watching along on TV and even to Notre Dame coach Mike Brey: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim standing in front of the ACC logo as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"That's one that everyone's going to have a hard time digesting," Brey said, laughing. "I'll give him credit because he's come a long way. I know he wasn't very happy â?¦ now, he's back, baby. That's the one (image) everyone's got to get used to, no question."
Boeheim himself might be the only one unfazed by his new affiliation, which became official Monday. Along with Pittsburgh in all sports and Notre Dame in everything but football, Syracuse is now a member of the ACC.
"It's been so long coming, I think we're already used to it," Boeheim said. "We've been adjusting for this. To go in with so many familiar schools really helps me from a psychological standpoint. It's not some crazy, new teams we've got to get used to.
"It's much more familiar now than it would have been, say, 10 years ago."
Boeheim and Brey joined Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer and Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher, as well as a slew of ACC officials, to commemorate the official start of the new-look league Monday afternoon at NASDAQ in Times Square.
Notably but perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the day's celebrations focused on basketball. Adding perennial NCAA tournament teams to a conference already considered among the nation's best will certainly make the sport a topic of conversation.
"We've got such a great tradition and history in basketball," ACC commissioner John Swofford said, adding he hopes the league will improve across all sports. "I think it's fair to say we pay a lot of attention to that sport."
That's fairly rare in this climate, considering how many college athletic realignment moves over the past few years were caused by football and its revenue stream.
"When this expansion went forward from the ACC, and they started to put it together, they went with a basketball point of view, to strengthen their basketball," Brey said. "The previous move â?? Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami â?? was very much a football move. This was clearly, 'We've got to get basketball better.'
"It is refreshing to see that in the midst of all the football stuff. The basketball world â?¦ is really anticipating what this league is going to look like."
Last season, seven teams that are now under the ACC umbrella made the NCAA tournament last season. Louisville, the defending national champion, is set to join the league next year. The strength of the top teams and the depth of the rest prompted Boeheim to predict the possibility of nine or 10 ACC teams making the NCAA tournament in coming years.
"You get nine of 10 teams in the tournament because your league is good, not because you're good," he said. "Your league has to be good, that's the key. The better your league is, the better the chance your team has to have success. I think that's a goal we'll reach."
Brey agreed, but allowed that it may not happen immediately.
"The one thing the Big East had was it was getting half the league in consistently," Brey said. "That's how you have to start."
Potential is a word that gets thrown around a lot in sports, but in this case, it seems reasonable and appropriate to use, when discussing a conference that not only has powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, but also the likes of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville â?? teams that have combined for 16 Sweet 16 appearances in the last decade.
"I don't think there's ever been a league with the potential basketball-wise that the ACC has right now going forward," Boeheim said. "It's an unbelievable basketball conference."
Auerbach, a national college basketball reporter for USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter @NicoleAuerbach.
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