NC State coach Mark Gottfried is set to be replaced at the end of the season, according to multiple reports.
WTVD in Raleigh reported Monday night that the decision was made on Gottfried’s future after NC State’s 88-58 loss at Wake Forest, the Wolfpack’s fifth straight. Instead of firing Gottfried immediately, the report indicated he would remain until the end of the season while the search for a new coach begins.
Gottfried told our Matt Norlander, after his team’s 30-point loss at Wake Forest on Saturday, that he had not been spoken to by anyone at NC State about the status of his job, and that he planned on being the team’s coach for a long time.
All of this two days before NC State welcomes its biggest rival, North Carolina, into PNC Arena on Wednesday night.
Gottfried addressed reporters Tuesday and asked for the group to respect his team: “I know you have a job to do, to ask questions, and I’ve got a job to do,” he said, and only took questions referring directly to the upcoming contest and nothing on “rumor or innuendo.”
“Right now, our focus and my focus with our team is getting it ready to play against North Carolina and at the same time, I still believe in our team,” Gottfried said. “I believe we’ve shown at times how good we can be and my hope is we can turn this around and figure out how to get into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in sixth years. That’s where I am; that’s where I am personally.”
Heightened interest in Gottfried’s status has paired with the national spotlight of playing North Carolina, and suddenly multiple outlets are jumping on the WTVD report. Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News reported that the search for Gottfried’s replacement has already begun with “at least one such contact initiated on Tuesday.”
NC State senior associate athletic director Fred Demarest has disputed these reports, telling the Sporting News the school has not reached out to coaches and saying Monday night that any reporting of the school targeting Dayton coach Archie Miller (a potential candidate, per WTVD) or any other coach was “irresponsible.”
“Mark Gottfried remains our head coach, and we are all focused on our next opponent,” Demarest wrote. “To suggest we have reached out to any other coach is both incorrect and blatantly irresponsible.”
Wolfpack players have said this week that reports of Gottfried’s eventual ouster was not a distraction to game preparation, but the atmosphere around the program should make for a fascinating edition of the in-state rivalry on Wednesday night.
North Carolina pummeled NC State earlier this season in Chapel Hill, 107-56. That loss, which Gottfried called a disaster, was the worst defeat ever in ACC play and set the stage for one of the worst defensive seasons, statistically, in program history. Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. is a likely a top-five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, but since beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium his offense hasn’t been enough to carry this team to another ACC victory, damaging NCAA Tournament chances.
All of the NC State drama will come full circle on Wednesday night with North Carolina in town and a wide range of possible outcomes. The Tar Heels have been off since losing a close rivalry game at Duke last Thursday. This is one of the few remaining regular-season games where the current ACC title contenders are going to be heavy favorites. Gottfried and the Wolfpack may have their backs against the wall, but the Tar Heels have an equally thin margin for error.