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February 17, 2017

The only surprise in the firing of Mike Mark Gottfried from NC State was the timing. With only a few weeks left in the season, NC State made Gottfried’s lame duck status official.

The list of names possible for NC State range from the obvious: Archie Miller. To the jump before pushed: Tom Crean. To the absurd: Greg Marshall or Chris Mack. To other alum: Vinny Del Negro. To random natives of North Carolina: Kelvin Sampson.

The early word is that Archie Miller is not interested in NC State. Like his brother, the alma mater is in the past. Miller, the younger, seems to be taking the Shaka Smart approach. Stay where things are comfortable, fairly compensated, and can continue success. Hold out for when the best paying and highest ceiling job that fits comes open in a few years (*cough* Ohio State *cough*).

Even though the firing was no surprise. And given the difference between the talent recruited and results, that everyone thought Gottfried was doing poorly — especially the last couple years. There is now the backlash to NC States and their fans.

Gottfried may have gotten to 4 Tourneys in 6 years and 2 Sweet 16s. But NC State barely made it on two of those despite the talent. The bottom fell out quickly — again, despite the plethora of talent — last year was 5-13 in the ACC. This year won’t even be that good.

As much as “only the NCAA Tournament matters,” is the standard. Then what happens when you miss it. Badly. Two straight years. Then what else is there? The way he’s recruited, it gives little hope for improvement when the recruiting classes have been getting better but the results are worse.

Still, it’s time to make Gottfried the victim of the NC State’s inflated sense of it self.

Even in an article that ostensibly is saying this is a great opportunity for NC State right now does it in such a backhanded slap manner.

N.C. State has an opportunity here that is unique to its woeful history of coaching hires. Through more than three decades it has been the least of the three high-level programs in the Research Triangle. That will not be altered in the near future. However, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski just turned 70, and North Carolina’s Roy Williams will be 67 in August. It would be lovely if they both coach forever. That remains highly unlikely.

We do not know how many seasons remain for either, but can surmise that the next N.C. State coach should have an opportunity to be coaching through the transition at one or both schools. If the university gets this one right, that coach could have a program in place that becomes more prominent should either of the others fumble its process.

That is a selling point for the Wolfpack. It is not their only one. There is not a large collection of schools with championships won under multiple coaches. It can be done at State, but only if State gets the right guy.

That’s a lovely conclusion to the piece. Now, here’s how it started:

The fine people at N.C. State are not alone in their inability to hire a basketball coach who can either: A) Advance deep in the NCAA Tournament; B) Inspire popularity among the fan base; C) Depart the position without some degree of failure or acrimony. Given all that’s been accomplished in the program’s history, though, the stakes are greater than with most.

It’s always something at State. Les Robinson lost so much they nicknamed the ACC Tournament play-in game in his honor. Herb Sendek didn’t beat North Carolina and/or Duke with the required frequency. Jim Valvano’s program got busted by the NCAA. Mark Gottfried’s teams played with a smidgeon of defensive commitment.

Sporting News always has defined the beginning of college basketball’s modern era as the 1985 expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 64 teams. State has not had a single coach in that period leave for a better job or retirement. The administration ought to look back at this history and consider George Costanza’s “opposite” approach.

I mean, why even try, right? If you have to fire a coach, just give up, man.

The desire to paint NC State as impatient, delusional and a career killer is a little absurd I mean, it isn’t necessarily untrue, but in this case it feels like going off the deep end.

This is Mark freaking Gottfried we are talking about. A guy who can recruit like crazy, but who’s coaching style is best described as: roll the ball on the court and see what happens.

I ask because what it appears you’re after is high-level success consistently, and here’s what I think: Only a Hall of Fame caliber coach — somebody like a Tony Bennett, who creates a strong culture and flourishes in that culture  — could possibly provide high-level success consistently at a place like NC State in a league like the current version of the ACC. You have to be a truly special coaching talent to win big consistently at NC State (without blatantly cheating) in this era of college basketball. And the fact that NC State fans are happy with nothing less, combined with the reality that the athletic director isn’t expected to be around much longer, makes it unlikely that a truly special, and established, coaching talent will be the next hire.

I mean, maybe.

I’m not here to speak or type in absolutes.

But it seems doubtful. Which means NC State will likely end up shopping from a second tier of candidates, and here’s what one second-tier candidate told me Thursday: “I wouldn’t touch that job. If making four NCAA Tournaments [in six years] gets you fired midseason [in your sixth year], it’s not a good job to take if you already have a good job.”

That seems to be the consensus in the industry. If you have a good job, don’t mess with the NC State job. And that’s probably why NC State, last time around, ended up hiring a television analyst who’d been fired from Alabama two years earlier.

Again, this is a general trend. That’s kind of the way things are in college basketball right now. Good coaches in the A-10 or MVC are pulling seven figures. The discrepancy between what you get at a P5 program and at a high mid-major (or the Big East and AAC which live somewhere in between depending on the program) becomes smaller when you consider the length of time available on that contract if you make the jump, i.e., you better win big and do it fast.

And overall, coaches don’t leave Power 5 programs for other P5 programs with much frequency — unless they choose to jump before pushed.

Sure you have the occasional “Buzz Williams to VT” shocker. The kind of surprise that makes every fanbase assume that if a moribund, second-tier Power conference program can get someone like that, “Surely we can get…

(Man, this seems very familiar.)

But as I keep referring to my list from last year. Power move hires are very rare, and have generally involved coaches who were jumping before being pushed.

I have no idea why Washington still employs Lorenzo Romar, but I suspect it’s got something to do with the knowledge that Mark Few isn’t leaving Gonzaga, and other options are limited. So why not keep rolling the dice with the guy who annually recruits NBA lottery picks? (But that trick never works! This time for sure!)

Look, the SEC as a whole may care about football first, spring football second, football recruiting third and then, maybe men’s basketball. But they have money. Solid to spectacular facilities. Most have fertile recruiting areas. They tend to be patient with their basketball coaches — Fox is remains at Georgia, Jones at LSU, and my god, Andy Kennedy still putters along at Ole Miss. Yet, outside of Kentucky the SEC struggle to find guys to take the money when they do get around to making a change.

Every coaching change is rife with risk. Sure things are very, very few — and most people are lying when they say they knew it would work.  Dana Altman was something like the 4th or 5th choice at Oregon — and was seeking out of Creighton. Sean Miller was at lest 4th on Arizona’s list. But Arkansas went out and got their man in Mike Anderson. So did Indiana when it got Tom Crean. Once upon a time, Georgia Tech and Clemson hired the best mid-major coaches available from the Dayton-area to much acclaim. One is gone, the other is in question.





20 comments

Excellent stuff Chas.

Comment by PittofDreams 02.17.17 @ 11:40 am

Good article Chas. The question then becomes how to these same coaches view the Pitt job. Maybe not as favorable as the NC State job. Be careful what we ask for. Most of the top programs have well established coaches and top BB schools get the best recruits and I don’t expect that to change. For awhile Jamie was able to get more out of less. That faded fast the last few years. If you look at recruiting it is not possible for Pitt to get a top 20 recruiting class with the likes of the established coaches out there.

I keep hearing get an up and comer. Most of the hot coaches would not touch the Pitt program and on top of that there is no guarantee if they could even get a class in the 20s.

Comment by JP 02.17.17 @ 12:05 pm

“This is Mike freaking Gottfried we are talking about. A guy who can recruit like crazy, but who’s coaching style is best described as: roll the ball on the court and see what happens.”

Any similarity between Gottfried and an unnamed coach currently struggling in his first year with with a previously successful program is purely coincidental.

Comment by wbb 02.17.17 @ 12:29 pm

Pitt has a recent history of hiring fired NC State coaches….hmmmm

Comment by HbgFrank 02.17.17 @ 12:37 pm

BTW …. I would like to remind everyone that we are talking about MARK Gottfried …. Mike Gottfried, who coached Pitt FB in late 80s, is Mark’s uncle

Comment by wbb 02.17.17 @ 12:59 pm

“unless they choose to jump before pushed.”

So like Kevin Stallings. Can we give him to NCSt? and find a new coach? please?

Comment by Taylor 02.17.17 @ 2:45 pm

I sense in the statement “If you look at recruiting it is not possible for Pitt to get a top 20 recruiting class with the likes of the established coaches out there.” some implied caution around dealing with Kevin Stallings.

Unless something dramatically changes with year end recruit rankings, Pitt’s incoming class for next season will not be Top 20.

So, Chas alluded to Brian Gregory (available now). Gregory performed well at Dayton. It just never all came together at GT.

Tom Crean was thought to be out nearly 3 years ago. I believe and his team is nearly out of bubble magic, but who knows this season? Crean would certainly fall into the jump before pushed scenario.

I know Ben Howland is in the relatively favorable SEC, but he isn’t exactly lighting it up down there. Ben claimed no interest in Pitt last year, but another year has passed at a football school in a college town.

BTW, up and comer Bryce Drew was clearly available last season and our brilliantly insightful AD took a pass, hired KS, and that ironically allowed Bryce to backfill at Vanderbilt. It’s a shame he won’t be here to once again rise above the noise. He’s also clearly not caring about the people who were in the wrong place in not understanding what a great hire KS was.

Comment by Barvo 02.17.17 @ 3:49 pm

stallings was cheap, available, and WANTED the job. that says it all.

Comment by goalie44 02.17.17 @ 4:41 pm

I would hate to see Crean in the ACC. In fact I would hate to see Crean….

Comment by Jackagain 02.17.17 @ 6:07 pm

Tells me our next AD will be cheap, available and in desperate need of a job. Thanks Pitt. You Phucking MORONS.

Comment by TX Panther 02.17.17 @ 7:07 pm

goalie – you sure he was cheap?

TX – No one has seen his pay yet. I’m guessing he was making at least $2M a year, maybe more. Not cheap.

Right now the investment is in football though.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 02.17.17 @ 7:51 pm

This is Mike Gottfried we’re talking about.

Yea right but he got NC State to 2 Sweet 16’s in the last 6 years. What did Pitt and Dixon do in those 6 years.

NADA.

And this is Mike freakin Gottfried were talking about who out recruited us for:

1)Lennard Freeman (spelling who cares)
2)The Big Center who played with Pet JR at DeMatha, who Pitt couldn’t land despite that in
3)Maverick Rowan

And NC State has beaten us 4 games in a row.

We haven’t beat the Wolfpack since Lamar Patterson’s senior year.

Yea that’s right….Mike freakin Gottfried

Comment by Emel 02.17.17 @ 8:26 pm

What does that say about Pitt ?

Comment by Emel 02.17.17 @ 8:28 pm

Actually it’s Mark Gottfried, but who cares about that right ….Chas !

Comment by Emel 02.17.17 @ 8:29 pm

Pretty hard to come up with a counter argument to that indictment Emel.

Then again, 66 total posts on three separate strings since the VT debacle probably is a good indication there is not a lot of positive energy left to try to defend what is happening down at the Pete.

Seriously, how can Barnes show his fat face at the Pitt Athletic Department after taking stock of what he himself presided over?

Just get out of town man.

Comment by Wally 02.17.17 @ 9:37 pm

Agree Wally,

But it isn’t Barnes, it wasn’t Cornhole.

It’s the freaking BoT who let this all go down.

Cornhole should have never been re-hired. And west coaster Barnes should have never been hired.

Comment by Emel 02.17.17 @ 10:51 pm

Yeah, the whole BoT review and understanding has made me less interested in Pitt sports. My wife had to remind me last night that I need to renew my FB tickets before 3/1 or we run the risk of losing our seats.

My question to her is “lose them to who?” A psu fan or a Pitt fan.

HCPN will be bringing the JR camp attendees to the Pete today against inconsistent FL State. Pitt BB team could very well get hot and beat FL State, but the interest is gone from me. I have loaded up my day with “other” things to do, where I used to try to fit my schedule to Pitt’s entertaining BB and FB games.

FOUR!

Comment by Erie Express 02.18.17 @ 7:44 am

Pitt a 5 pt dog at home. I’d take the bounceback Panthers.

Comment by alcofan 02.18.17 @ 12:24 pm

Revis in good shape,he’s got DelGreco defending him. He’s the attorney that saved Pitts season with Fields.

Comment by alcofan 02.18.17 @ 12:41 pm

As I have stated here before, I get the feeling that half out BoT are pedo fans. They have to be to be this incompetent. They seem to be able to run their own businesses well, but Pitt athletics is becoming a national joke.

I have also stated here before, lile goalie44, that I believe they hired Stallings because none else who could tie his own shoes wanted the job.

Alco, your bet is that 3 Pitt guys will be on fire shooting the ball. Let that sink in….

Comment by Jackagain 02.18.17 @ 1:07 pm

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