ACC Basketball: Gottfried says what Pack fans want to hear
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH — Mark Gottfried said all the things North Carolina State fans wanted to hear: He plans to contend for a national championship, be a fixture in the NCAA tournament and go toe-to-toe with the Wolfpack’s highly ranked rivals.
Now he’s got to deliver.
“Every job in America has different challenges, obstacles, those things that make the job difficult,” North Carolina’s new men’s basketball coach said Tuesday. “I’m not backing down from anybody here, period. We want to win.”
Gottfried, 47, looked right at home, sporting a red N.C. State tie and lapel pin on his gray suit during his introduction. But he knows there’s a lot of work to do at a program that struggled in five seasons under Sidney Lowe. High on that list is avoiding repeatedly disappointing finishes in the Atlantic Coast Conference and beating Duke and North Carolina a little more often.
Athletic director Debbie Yow said Gottfried will receive a five-year contract with a guarantee of $1.2 million annually, a deal that includes an automatic two-year extension if he leads N.C. State back to the NCAA tournament in either of the next two seasons.
Gottfried has a career coaching record of 278-155 in 14 seasons at Murray State and Alabama. He took seven teams to the NCAA tournament, including a run of five straight at Alabama from 2002-06 that also featured an appearance in the Phoenix Regional final in 2004. He also led the Crimson Tide to its first-ever No. 1 ranking during the 2002-03 season.
“That ain’t enough for me,” Gottfried said, turning to face the current Wolfpack players attending the news conference. “I’m here today because I want to play for a championship. That’s got to be your goal. You come to work every day, you come to practice, you better come with that in mind because that’s what we want to do.”
The hiring comes exactly three weeks after Lowe resigned from the program he led to a national championship as a player in 1983. He had an 86-78 overall record, but went just 25-55 in ACC play. He never finished higher than ninth in the league and managed a 3-16 record against Duke and North Carolina.
Gottfried was in his 11th season as head coach at Alabama when he resigned in January 2009 amid criticism of the team’s performance and the departure of star guard Ronald Steele. He had worked as a college basketball analyst for ESPN since leaving Alabama.
His new players didn’t know much about him yet.
“I mean, as much as people want to say you commit to a school, you really commit to the coaches,” sophomore Scott Wood said. “It’s definitely difficult, but at the same time Debbie Yow says that’s what’s best for the organization and we’re going to move forward.”
Gottfried’s hiring comes a day after the school learned that VCU coach Shaka Smart — who had led the Rams to a surprising Final Four run — would remain there after receiving a new eight-year contract. Later Monday, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall — another name linked to the opening — announced on his radio show that he would remain with the Shockers.
The search earlier missed on apparent top target of Arizona’s Sean Miller, the former Xavier head coach who also worked as an assistant to Sendek with the Wolfpack for five seasons. His father, John, said his son had declined to be interviewed.
Yow would not reveal who she had interviewed, but said Maryland coach Gary Williams attempted to negatively intervene in the process. Yow, the former Maryland athletic director, responded to a reporter’s question to Gottfried about whether she had a reputation as being difficult to work with.
“I don’t have a reputation across all men’s basketball of being difficult to work with,” she said. “I have a reputation of not getting along with Gary Williams, who has tried to sabotage the search. Come on, we all know that. OK, so whatever. It’s not a reputation. It’s Gary Williams out there doing his thing. Whatever.”
Doug Dull, a team spokesman at Maryland, did not immediately return a call. But Williams did release a statement to the Baltimore Sun saying he hasn’t talked to anyone, coach or athletic director, connected to the N.C. State search.
“I don’t have any interest in the N.C. State search, since I’m coaching at Maryland and working hard to run our program,” Williams said.
As for the hiring of Gottfried, Yow said it came together in a matter of days. She said initially she didn’t believe he would want to leave his TV job to return to the sidelines. Yow said had interviewed three other candidates in person and spoke with others by phone.
“He develops talent, he values graduation … and he motivates them to achieve,” she said. “He has a fiery attitude and a can-do spirit. And that’s exactly what State needs at this time in our program.”
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