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ACC Roundup - The State Coaching Search Edition

A lot of people think State has no options. That’s not true. State could make some bad choices in the process, but there are plenty of options.

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NC State v Saint Louis
While State is overhauling the program, they might consider modernizing the mascot too.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With the end of the Gottfried era at NC State, Debbie Yow has to move quickly to hire a coach. Firing season is coming soon – State is just the first major job to open – and the last three searches have ended up with a vastly unpopular coach, a beloved figure who had never coached in college, and a guy who was fired from his last job, at Alabama, in January 2009.

That’s progress of a sort but not the kind anyone wants.

So where does this all leave State?

Well it depends on your perspective.

State fans have big hopes of course, just as Wake fans did (Wake got lucky with Danny Manning to be honest).

On the one hand there’s this school of thought: “I wouldn't touch that job.”

This guy echoes that sentiment. So does this guy.

But not everybody is so gloomy. Mike DeCourcey sees it as an opportunity to get things right.

So what’s the truth?

Well the truth is somewhere in between.

The truth is that there are guys out there who are unafraid of the challenge and who would relish the job - and do well.

But certainly it is demanding.

Stop and consider this for a second, though: what if Yow went out and hired some guy with a 9-17 record at a military school with a name no one could spell?

Well State had a chance to do that back in the day. Things worked out okay - Jim Valvano took the job and became a legend - but it’s a good what-if.

And it’s a good way to make a point. Coach K had no guarantees at Duke. The cognoscenti knew of course. His mentor Bob Knight predicted great things. Valvano coached against him when he was at Iona and Coach K was at Army. He knew.

In one of his first years at Duke, the years of struggle, when UNC was just killing Duke, a Carolina manager told Dean Smith that he must not be very good.

“You wait,” Smith told her. “He’s going to be great.”

Along the same lines, no one knew that Brad Stevens was going to be great when he was a Butler assistant. When Tom Izzo got the Michigan State job, our reaction was: “who?”

Which is kind of the same reaction Coach K got too. The Chronicle headline: “This is not a joke.”

So it depends.

State has some strikes against it. A lot of guys have struggled to compete against Duke and UNC (give Gottfried credit for not being scared of the Tobacco Road Godzillas).

And Debbie Yow has a reputation of being a coaching Terminator.

In the case of Gottfried, we think she gets a pass.

Clearly last year was difficult and not his fault. This year though is troubling.

We’ve seen or heard the following things reported: 1) Dennis Smith taking himself out of a game; 2) Beejay Anya left at home after an issue at practice; 3) Anya daring a fan to meet him after a game; 4) a player telling an assistant coach to “f**k off” during a huddle when he was asked to pay attention; 5) two opponents saying you could count on State’s players to quit and 6) State fans booing Gottfried.

Add to that a looming exodus (Smith is a lottery pick and forward Abdul-Malik Abu wants to go pro. Other players are apparently considering transferring) and minimal recruiting prospects and you can see her hand is sort of forced. She didn’t have to act immediately but she had little choice. What else can you do when fans and players are openly showing contempt for the staff?

Aside from her cantankerous reputation, Yow is also due to retire in the near future, which means that whoever she hires will have a new boss soon. That’s not easy. That’s what drove Roy Williams from a job he cherished at Kansas - he and his former boss were very good friends. He didn’t care for his replacement and went back to UNC.

So what can State do?

Well they have a few basic options and one great ace to play: there are only so many power conference jobs to go around. You might not like Yow, or have other concerns, but an ACC job is still a great opportunity. Everything, other than the pressure, is better.

And we should say this, too: State’s tradition is glorious. State basketball is supposed to be fast-paced and electrifying. It’s one reason why Valvano succeeded and Sendek ultimately failed. V always swung for the fences. By contrast, Sendek had the soul of an accountant, always figuring out the calculus need for an NCAA bid but lacking the passion to dream or risk big. Add his dull offense and it’s no wonder State fans were disgusted. They’re thrill junkies! Of course they hated it.

State cannot have a dull style. It just doesn’t play well in Raleigh. Never has.

As for options: they can swing for the fences and go for a highly successful, well-established coach. We never understood why Gregg Marshall didn’t get more ACC interest when he was at Winthrop but assume it had to do with either concerns about his ethics or a somewhat abrasive personality (and we hasten to add we don’t know of any concerns about his ethics. That doesn’t mean there weren’t rumors or professional back stabbing a la Gary Williams, who did his best to damage Yow’s last search).

It did make us wonder. Wichita is a basketball school and he’s done an astounding job...but is it big enough for him? Wouldn’t he at least consider an ACC post?

It’s possible to find a guy like that but not likely.

State could go after a rising star (we’ll detail this below). In a very short time, the ACC got introduced to Jim Valvano (from Iona), Coach K (from Army) and Bobby Cremins (from Appalachian State). Brad Stevens was a nobody. Tony Bennett had some interesting success at Washington State but he was a questionable hire to many when Virginia’s Craig LIttlepage moved him from Washington all the way to ‘Hooville.

Marshall was at Winthrop. Billy Donovan started at Marshall - a great atmosphere with insane fans, but not really a big-time school.

There are some brilliant young coaches out there who would accept the challenge in a heartbeat and relish it.

And there’s the left-field option. Yow tried that last time with Gottfried who, remember, had Alabama at #1 before things went sour in Tuscaloosa.

So without further ado, here are some guys we’d hope State contacts, starting with everyone’s favorite pick:

Here’sssss Archie!

If State could convince Archie Miller to coach at his alma mater it’d be hailed as a home-run hire. He’s a very highly regarded young coach. He’s the son and brother of highly successful coaches. You can feel sure he’ll succeed and he won’t back down to Duke or UNC.

On the the other hand, brother Sean passed on the chance to coach at his alma mater, Pitt. Arizona is a vastly better job (although it wasn’t until Lute Olson made it so. Before Olson, the joke at Arizona was that the quietest place to study on campus was McKale Center).

There are going to be a number of guys fired or willing to move soon and State could probably do okay there as well. Thad Matta might get canned at Ohio State; if he doesn’t, he would probably be ready to listen just to avoid it next year. He’s been a bit down but he’s a good recruiter and a solid game coach. State could do worse. Remember how well his Xavier team played against Duke in the NCAA? The guy can coach. It could be a Josh Pastner sort of play.

Tom Crean may be done at Indiana. His style would thrill State fans (though his erratic teams and odd quirks probably would not).

The ACC has turned to Cincinnati several times for coaches - Skip Prosser, Bob Staack, Pete Gillen and we feel like we’re forgetting someone else too.

Xavier has Chris Mack; Cincinnati has Mick Cronin. Either guy would do okay though we think Cronin is more impressive.

Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak is a tremendous coach and as a bonus, he fights crime on campus - a handy guy to have at State. We’d be thrilled with him if we were Pack fans. Utah is a wonderful basketball school, but as Rick Majors found out, it has some limitations. He might like being in the ACC.

She might at least give Providence’s Ed Cooley a call. It’s worth a shot.

ACC schools have rarely succeeded in hiring big-name coaches. UNC has done okay - they lured Frank McGuire and later Roy Williams - but Williams wasn't really a hard sell once his A.D. retired.

Otherwise it’s pretty rare. Lefty Driesell was a rising star at Maryland. Dean Smith was a McGuire assistant who played a terrible hand brilliantly. Vic Bubas was an unknown State assistant. So we’re not sure that’s even possible, least of all how State is perceived now. and we’re not even sure it’s the best move.

What State needs is a massive dose of energy and confidence and if they can’t get Miller, their best bets probably lie elsewhere and in coaches who aren’t very well known.

We would seriously look into UNC-W’s Kevin Keatts. A former Rick Pitino assistant, he made a deep impression on us when Duke played the Seahawks in the NCAA last year. He’s also at least somewhat familiar with recruiting in the Southeast now and can find his way to Page and Dudley and 71st.

Will Wade is certainly worth a look as well. He’s got four years under his belt, two at Chattanooga and two at VCU.

His record to date:

  • 18–15
  • 22–10
  • 25–11
  • 21–5 (so far)

That’s pretty solid. VCU has become a solid program but the ACC is at the highest level. Would he?

Rhode Island’s Danny Hurley. He has made his preference for the North/Northeast clear but it can’t hurt to ask. He’s already proven himself.

Jeff Capel. Tougher than it sounds or possible easier. Capel may be on target to succeed Coach K. He’s a tremendous recruiter and had great success at VCU and Oklahoma before things went bad.

It would be tough to pull him away from Duke, but it’s always been understood that he would like to be a head coach again. In Capel’s case though there’s a problem which will keep him relatively close to his hometown of Fayetteville, and that’s his father’s health.

Jeff Capel II is suffering from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and in our opinion, there’s virtually no chance that he takes a job very far from from Fayetteville any time soon.

It’s unlikely he would take the State job but certainly not unthinkable. After all, Vic Bubas made the same trip in reverse in 1960 - and was brilliant. State has to at least inquire.

There’s one other guy we hope gets serious consideration and that’s NC Central’s Andrew Moton.

He’s an inspirational story. He grew up in Raleigh, and not the high tech glittering capital Raleigh has come but Southeast Raleigh where life is infinitely grittier, tougher and on occasion dangerous.

It’s also close-knit and has an identity unlike the rest of the city. It’s almost like a small town within a town and Moton knows many, many people there.

Moton has made himself into a widely respected coach. He’s done really cool things as well like helping out single moms and their kids. He’s a thoroughly admirable man.

Aside from his obvious gifts as a coach, he could be a devastating recruiter in Raleigh which, increasingly, is producing great players. Just look back a few years:

  • Chris Wilcox
  • Shavlik Randolph
  • PJ Tucker
  • John Wall
  • Melvin Tabb
  • Dez Wells
  • Ryan Kelly
  • Rodney Purvis
  • Terry Henderson
  • Devonte Graham
  • Jerome Robinson
  • Ronshad Allen-Shabbaz

As a hometown hero, Moton would have an unreal recruiting advantage. He would be known and welcome all over town.

Raleigh is not Memphis or Baltimore, but you can build a lot around talent in that town. What if John Wall had stayed home? What if Moton knows his mother? What if State had gotten Graham and Robinson in addition to Henderson (who transferred home from West Virginia)?

It would be an unbelievably bold and exciting hire and frankly we’re not sure State is capable of the sort of vision. But we’d like to think so.

The other option is to think wildly outside the box, something out of left field, and we have two names in that regard, both fairly well known.

Back when State hired Valvano, the Pack seriously pursued DeMatha legend Morgan Wooten, who would have been great. He ultimately chose to stay at DeMatha.

But it was a smart play. Here’s another worth considering: Geno Auriemma.

He’s long since proven he’s a brilliant coach, having led UConn’s women’s program to unprecedented heights. Just this week UConn set a mark that will likely never be broken: a 100 game win streak.

What’s left for him to prove? What else can he possibly do?

Yow ought to consider selling him on this: you can’t do anything else at UConn, but we think you could go toe-to-toe with Duke and UNC. She should pitch him on the competitive opportunity and the chance to prove himself on the men’s side as well.

There’s nothing left to do at UConn but maintain. He’ll never do any better and he’ll always be judged by his past. It would bound to be tempting as a competitor.

And secondly, what if a guy built a program from scratch into a highly competitive program? One that could go to Duke, to Louisville, to San Diego State, to Arizona, to Kentucky, to compete credibly at all of those schools, to give Louisville a nine point game, to give Arizona a ten point game and to push Duke well into the second half?

What if this guy also, in the space of four years, had moved a program to D-1 and was winning nearly 63% of his games?

And what if we said that his fans, in that short time, are being compared to fans at Duke, Kentucky and Kansas - and said by some to be even better?

And if he had a long and outstanding NBA career?

There’s only one guy with that pedigree and only one school with that journey: former Phoenix Sun Thunder Dan Majerle and Grand Canyon University.

Duke fans have some awareness. The ‘Lopes have a rabid fan base, and yes, as good as anyone’s. Duke fans will tell you stories about the Screaming Girl who, on her own, matched Cameron for sheer volume. The Crazies eventually shouted her down, but in fairness, her voice lost some power as the game went on.

She was amazing.

Majerle has done an unbelievable job there and clearly is scared of no one. That’s exactly what State needs. The fact that he has an understanding of how Grand Canyon built its incredible fan base should also help.

Any of these names would do well and Miller is everyone’s choice #1. But we’d love it if State hired Moton or Majerle. Either guy would have the potential to build State into a monster.

*****

In another State note, legendary announcer C.A. Dillon Jr.has died at the age of 91. He announced every game State ever played at Reynolds except, possibly, for two. We’re not sure when they were played. He’s an important part of ACC history and will be greatly missed by State fans and others as well.

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