ACC Basketball: Who's right for Wolfpack?
By J.P. Giglio
Raleigh News and Observer
RALEIGH — Before taking his second different team in four years to the Final Four, Kentucky coach John Calipari described the North Carolina State job as “terrific.”
“Someone will go in there and do a really good job,” said Calipari, who has been to the Final Four with Memphis (in 2008) and now the Wildcats and was one of four coaches to publicly spurn the Wolfpack in the spring of 2006.
Two weeks after Sidney Lowe resigned, the question remains: Who is that “someone”?
The answer is unlikely to come before the end of the Final Four on Monday, which could indicate that N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow has an interest in a coach whose team is still in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.
Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, whose team will play for the NIT title on Thursday in New York, and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart are believed to be among Yow’s targets.
Yow is scheduled to go to Houston for the Final Four, where Smart’s VCU team will play Butler. Houston is also the site of the annual coaches’ convention — a walking, talking version of monster.com for basketball coaches.
While rumors of big-name candidates (Florida’s Billy Donovan and Texas’ Rick Barnes) get volleyed across the Internet by anxious Wolfpack fans, Yow has been silent since the news conference to announce Lowe’s departure on March 15.
Since Lowe’s resignation, Georgia Tech (Brian Gregory for Paul Hewitt), Tennessee (Cuonzo Martin for Bruce Pearl) and Arkansas (Mike Anderson for John Pelphrey) have filled their vacancies. The jobs at Missouri (where Anderson left) and Oklahoma (where former Duke guard Jeff Capel was fired) remain open.
Five years ago, N.C. State, under former AD Lee Fowler, pursued Barnes, Calipari, John Beilein and Steve Lavin in the search for Herb Sendek’s replacement.
All four were offered the job and turned it down.
That protracted process, which concluded after almost five weeks with Lowe leaving the NBA for his alma mater, is one reason Yow might be having difficulty expediting this search, ESPN analyst Dave Telep said.
“The N.C. State job was devalued the last time a search was conducted,” said Telep, ESPN’s top recruiting analyst who lives in Wake Forest, N.C. “It was a charade in terms of the length of time and how public everything was.”
Telep said the program, which won national titles in 1974 and 1983 and has 10 ACC titles, needs to be “rebranded.”
“This job can stand on its own,” Telep said.
In his brief comments before Kentucky knocked off Ohio State and UNC last week in the East Regional, Calipari cited State’s proximity to UNC and Duke as a selling point.
“I liked the situation there because it gave you a chance to get on the same footing with the Dukes and North Carolinas — like, ‘Let’s go, let’s have it,’ “ Calipari said.
But not every coach views the situation, with the specter of annual dates with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, as a positive.
“They are the two big bullies on the neighborhood that you’re always going to be compared to,” Telep said.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said State’s proximity to UNC and Duke doesn’t have to be a deterrent.
“I think it’s a good job,” said Bilas, a former Duke player and assistant coach. “It’s a good conference, the program has a good history and they have nice setup.”