Carl Tacy has earned the nickname “Gentleman Carl” for his calm attitude and composure in 13 seasons as a basketball coach for Wake Forest.
But Tacy, who died Thursday at the age of 87, was more than a sweet soul.
“In my opinion, he never got the credit he deserved as a basketball coach,” said Dave Odom, who worked as an assistant for Tacy at Wake before becoming head coach of the school in 1989, in a statement released by the school Thursday. “He was a brave tactician, teacher and competitor who enjoyed the big games against the best of the ACC.”
Tacy began her tenure at Wake in 1972 at the height of ACC basketball when the conference included Dean Smith of North Carolina, Norm Sloan of NC State and Lefty Driesell of Maryland. The latter were two of the most flamboyant personalities on the sidelines.
Tacy was remarkable for his decorum of touch and for always having a competitive and well-trained team. His career spanned the 1980s, when Jim Valvano took over from NC State and Mike Krzyzewski made his debut at Duke.
In 13 seasons from 1972 to 1985, Tacy had a record of 222-149, led the Deacon Demons to the NCAA tournament four times and had five seasons of 20 wins.
In 1977 and again in 1984, the Deacs reached the eight finals of the NCAA tournament. His best players were Skip Brown, Rod Griffin and Muggsy Bogues and two of his best wins came in 1975 against David Thompson to end Wolfpack’s 34-game winning streak and one win at Chapel Hill in 1982 against Michael Jordan and the Tar Heels.
“Coach Tacy has built a solid program here and has done a great job of maximizing our talent,” said Ernie Nestor, Tacy’s assistant at Wake, in a statement to the school. “ACC at the time was a great league. It was the league of Ralph Sampson, Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Larry Nance and Buck Williams. Our children were good but did not have the level of recognition that these children had. Coach Tacy has prepared our teams to play at this level. He trained against extremely talented players and his teams behaved at a very high level. “
Tacy is survived by his wife Donnie, son Carl Tacy Jr. and daughters Beth Tacy Kelly and Carla Tacy.
He coached for 10 years at the high school level and compiled a 67-14 record in three years at the junior-college level in Ferrum. After a season as an assistant coach with Marshall, Tacy guided the Thundering Herd to a 23-4 mark and an NCAA appearance in 1972.
“Carl was a great coach and an even better person,” said former Gene Hooks of Wake Forest AD in a school release. “I trusted him completely because he always valued the integrity of Wake Forest and its student-athletes over everything else.”