Gottfried with big plans for State
RALEIGH ó Mark Gottfried tried to toughen his North Carolina State players and get them running more during preseason. Heíll soon find out how well theyíve taken to the changes.
Gottfried coaches his first game Friday night when the Wolfpack hosts UNC-Asheville, marking his return to the sideline after spending the past two seasons as a TV analyst.
ěI could be sitting over on the other side over there eating popcorn and calling games for TV,î Gottfried said, ěso Iím fired up about it.î
Gottfried must spark a program that spent the past five years under Sidney Lowe watching the NCAA tournament from home and never living up to potential. Loweís teams went just 86-78 overall, 25-55 in Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season play and never finished higher than ninth in the league. N.C. State also lost 16 of 19 against nearby ACC rivals Duke and North Carolina.
Thatís why Gottfried has first focused on changing the attitude of the program, including forcing players to increase their competitiveness by matching them up in 1-on-1 drills that ended when a player scored or the other grabbed the defensive rebound.
ěWeíve had a couple (of practices) that I didnít like, but the majority, theyíve been pretty good,î Gottfried said. ěThey have competed hard against one another. Now we still have to get better at what weíre doing. … Thatís something we have to maintain throughout the whole year.î
Gottfried has had a good start so far. The Wolfpack had a fast start in recruiting and announced a three-man signing class Wednesday ranked No. 2 nationally by ESPN. N.C. State also scored 102 points in Mondayís exhibition win against Flagler, with sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown leading an offense that frequently got out in transition and played at a faster pace than Loweís squads. That also led to more open looks on the break for junior sharpshooter Scott Wood, who often found himself hounded by physical defenders in N.C. Stateís grind-it-out offense under Lowe.
Wood had 24 points and went 6-for-8 from 3-point range in the 41-point win.
ěI think weíve really tried to embrace it,î Wood said of the move to a faster pace. ěI think it fits into a lot of our playersí games. It just comes down to making good decisions.î
Things will get tougher against UNC Asheville, which returns four starters from a 20-win team that reached the NCAA tournament. Itís the first of four straight against opponents that made last yearís tournament ó Texas could be the fifth in the Legends Classic ó to open Gottfriedís tenure.
His players at least sound eager to get started with their new coach.
ěHe just makes you feel comfortable,î said Alex Johnson, a point guard who transferred in from Cal State-Bakersfield as a graduate student. ěHe knows thereís going to be mistakes throughout the game. He tells you about your mistake and he lets it go. I feel comfortable out there right now.î