Up until today, N.C. State had been seemingly spurned from all corners of the college basketball coaching universe. The Wolfpack -- trying to fill its vacant men's basketball head coaching position -- were turned down by major conference coaches like Arizona's Sean Miller and mid-major coaches like VCU's Shaka Smart and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall. The last two disses, in particular, forced AD Debbie Yow to issue this statement yesterday:
"The conversations have been candid. We have not tried to sugarcoat the challenge of rebuilding our basketball program. Our absence for 5 consecutive years from the NCAA Tournament was noted by each coach as evidence that the program is in poor shape and will require a special effort to rebuild.
Finding a coach with the fight and fire to do this job has been a challenge. That said, we will find an excellent college coach who shares the vision of what State Basketball can become and is up for the challenge."
Reading through the tea leaves, State fans figured this was bad, bad news. But did they expect it to be this bad?
"Former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried has accepted the position of head men's basketball coach at NC State University. Experienced in rebuilding a men's program, Gottfried competed in one of the nation's toughest basketball conferences, the Southeastern Conference."
Matt Gottfried, you may recall, resigned his post with Alabama halfway through the 2009 season. He did get the Crimson Tide to five NCAA Tournaments but was criticized for his team's poor play during his last two years in Tuscaloosa. You may also know him from ESPN, where he's an analyst, or from his time at Alabama, when he called up Wake Forest's Tony Woods, trying to get him to switch his commitment the day after Skip Prosser died.
The strangest part of this story is that N.C. State Athletic Director Debbie Yow has accused Maryland coach Gary Williams of "sabotaging" her coaching search, in what appears to be a rationalization of a sub-standard hire. Anyway, Yow and Williams have never liked each other to begin and may even downright hate one another. At the very least, this should spice up future Maryland-N.C. State contests, so there's that.
I know the below could come back to haunt me, but forgive me if I'm not impressed by the hire. Like, at all. I'm not impressed with the hire or the way Yow handled the coaching search.
Yow went after a bunch of different major conference coaches (Sean Miller, Billy Donovan), moved on to the upstart mid-majors (Shaka, Marshall) and, having whiffed on all of them, decided to hire an old childhood friend who has been out of coaching for 2+ years. If you really wanted to hire a coaching leftover, I know of one who was coaching a year ago and looking for work.
Based on resume and reputation alone, I'd say Boston College dodged a major bullet with this hire.
Is there a bigger sleeping giant in the ACC than the N.C. State men's hoops program? State has a huge alumni base, a top-notch facility in the RBC Center, not one but two National Championship banners to show off to recruits and plays in the most rabid college basketball area of the country. When Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams decide to hang them up -- leaving a substantial power vacuum at the top of the ACC -- N.C. State comes to mind as a program that has the potential to jump into that top spot in the conference. I just can't see that happening on Gottfried's watch.
For now, color me unimpressed, and wake me when State decides to prioritize fielding a winning men's college basketball.