After a three week search, N.C. State named ESPN broadcaster Mark Gottfried as their new basketball coach on Monday. Gottfried has some solid basketball chops, playing at Oral Roberts and Alabama, then as an assistant on UCLA's 1995 national championship team, before head coaching stints at Murray State and Alabama. He was coach of the Crimson Tide for 10 years but resigned midway through his 11th season.
Gottfried and State athletic director Debbie Yow have a relationship going back almost 30 years, from when Yow was the head women's coach at Oral Roberts and Gottfried was a freshman basketball player. Gottfried received a buyout when he was let go at Alabama; the reduction clause if Gottfried got another job is expiring, and he seemed eager to jump back in the game as he was in the mix for the recently-filled position at Utah.
As can frequently be expected with coaching searches in West Raleigh, this one was full of the bizarre and hilarious. After whiffing on their first two obvious targets, Texas' Rick Barnes and Arizona's Sean Miller, reports began to fly about how coaches were turning down the job. Eager to avoid a repeat of 2006 when State's rejections were very public, State issued a press release politicians could be proud of that made it seem like State was the one doing the rejecting. (Also known as the "You can't break up with me because I broke up with you" defense)
Yow and the Pack apparently went all-in on the flavor of the month, VCU's Shaka Smart. While VCU and State bickered over whether or not Smart was actually "offered" the job and what constitutes an "offer", Yow issued a bizarre e-mail - during the national championship game on Monday night - essentially saying the search was back to square one. Then, 20 hours later, Gottfried was introduced as head coach.
Gottfried is a solid, if uninspiring, hire for State. He has BCS coaching experience, went to the NCAAs seven times in 11 seasons, led a team to the Elite Eight, and even had Alabama ranked #1 in the country at one point (a point Yow kept making in the introductory presser. Bama was #1 for two weeks in 2002). He is a veteran coach, while still relatively young at only 47 years old.
On the other hand, Gottfried didn't leave Alabama under the best of circumstances. He "resigned" mid-season in 2009 and has been out of coaching for over 2 1/2 years. His 10-year record (not counting the partial season) in Tuscaloosa is Sendekian: 198-125 overall, 82-80 SEC, 5-5 NCAA record, one trip past the 2nd round, 3 NIT bids.
Gottfried was clearly a hire of convenience. Yow had absolutely no one in the pipeline after Shaka and Gottfried wanted back into coaching. Yow had a job opening, Gottfried wanted a job, they're old friends, figure it out. He should definitely be an Xs and Os improvement over Sidney Lowe, but State fans wanted that plus a passion for the Wolfpack. They definitely did not get that in this hire. If Gottfried gets State back on track, though, his shaky hiring will likely be forgotten.
The fireworks at the introductory press conference, however, came not from Gottfried but from Yow and her pointed call out of her old nemesis Gary Williams of Maryland, whom she accused of trying to "sabotage" the State coaching search. Yow and Williams famously clashed when she was the AD at Maryland and there were rumblings that Williams had been bad-mouthing Yow to potential candidates. As is often the case with our poor lupine brethren, they cannot get out of their own way sometimes and the Yow/Williams issue will at a minimum share the stage, if not overshadow, their new hire.
Nevertheless, there is new blood in Raleigh. Whether or not Gottfried wakes the echoes at State remains to be seen. No word if Sid left his red blazer on the coat hanger in the office.