NC State fired Mark Gottfried on Thursday, and nobody was surprised. Big picture, he’s a man who made four NCAA Tournaments in six years and advanced to the Sweet 16 twice, which isn’t bad. But he’s about to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. And his current team is among the nation’s biggest disappointments. And NC State fans -- and the administrators who are influenced by them -- aren’t here to tolerate that kind of stuff. Thus the trigger was pulled via press release in the afternoon.
So congrats, NC State fans.
You got what you wanted.
But also know this: You made it clear 11 years ago that Herb Sendek making five straight NCAA Tournaments wasn’t good enough -- proof being how you nudged him to Arizona State. And now you’ve also made it clear that Mark Gottfried going to four NCAA Tournaments in a six-year span that included two Sweet 16s isn’t good enough either. And the only coach you had in between those two coaches is Sidney Lowe, who never finished better than ninth in a 12-school ACC.
Which leads to two questions:
1) What are you after?
2) Are you sure you can get it?
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.
Either way, I’ll leave you with this ...
Mark Gottfried and Jim Larranaga got hired 17 days apart at NC State and Miami back in 2011. When this season is over, Gottfried will have made four NCAA Tournaments and two Sweet 16s. And he got fired two days after Valentine’s Day. Meantime, even if Larranaga makes the NCAA Tournament this season, his first six years at Miami will amount to three NCAA Tournament appearances and, more than likely, two Sweet 16s. And Larranaga has a contract through 2022 that nobody has even thought of buying out. He couldn’t be more comfortable in Coral Gables.
Two ACC jobs.
Two wildly different sets of expectations.
So keep that in mind as this coaching carousel starts spinning.
NC State isn’t happy with anything less than what it wants, and what it wants it hasn’t had in more than 25 years. But good luck. Perhaps this time will be different.
I doubt it.