Well, it’s that time of year again…
The NC State Wolfpack announced the termination of head coach Mark Gottfried this Thursday, which probably has many of you confused because you’re pretty sure you saw him coaching in a Saturday loss against Notre Dame. The sixth-year head coach was let go with four games and a conference tournament left on the schedule, so will finish the season as a noble lame duck head coach we’ll all be rooting for to create pure chaos with an ACC tournament championship win.
With that news has come a coaching search that will start, but not likely end with Dayton head coach Archie Miller. Here’s why Archie and perhaps even more A-10 coaches should take a hard pass on that trap:
REASON NO.1: THIS QUOTE
“You want to be at a place that has resources that are near or at the top of their league, where you’re at the top of the food chain.” – VCU Head Coach Will Wade
Wade said that after signing a contract extension at VCU last season (with interest coming from his hometown team, Vanderbilt) and it applies to Miller and this NC State stuff as well. For starters, like Wade, Miller is at the top of the A-10 food chain. Being at the top of that food chain is also different than perhaps doing the same at an American East or Big South school. The Flyers put 13k fans in the seats consistently and almost all of their games are nationally televised. This isn’t dominating a conference that gets no attention, this is a league that consistently receives multiple bids to the NCAA tournament (even in a down year) and in Miller’s case, is a program that has danced as far as the Elite 8 under his guidance. Not only is NC State not at the top of the food chain in the ACC, but they’re nowhere close to being at the top of the food chain within 45 minutes of their own campus, checking in at a distant third behind Duke and North Carolina in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. They are the bastard son of Tobacco Road.
With the ACC recently adding the likes of Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame to the conference, getting anywhere close to the top of that food chain (and even harder, staying there) becomes an extreme uphill battle.
REASON NO.2: NC STATE’S HIRING AND FIRING RECENT HISTORY
Let’s do a quick review of NC State’s last three head coaches.
MARK GOTTFRIED – After five seasons with no NCAA tournament appearances, Mark Gottfried brought the Pack back to the dance, turning NC State into a Sweet 16 team in his first season just a year — which ended in a 3-point loss to eventual national runner-up, Kansas — after the Wolfpack finished 10th in the ACC with a 15-16 overall record. He’d follow that with two early exit NCAA tournament appearances (one in a 3-point second round loss to Saint Louis) and another Sweet 16 run in 2015 before hitting his first rough patch this past season. Think about that. After four NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s, Gottfried had apparently not earned a full two forgivable seasons before being fired. FUCK THAT!
-Gottfried was fired this year with the 33rd least experienced team in the country.
-NC State went a combined 21-5 in non-conference play these past two seasons and had zero sub-100 losses, meaning in essence, he was fired for not finishing in the top half of a brutal new ACC conference.
SIDNEY LOWE – Like Miller, Lowe was a former NC State guard. Unlike Miller, Lowe won a national championship in that role and became a long-time NBA player. That was apparently enough to earn him a little extra runway, coaching five NCAA tournament-less seasons at NC State before being shown the door.
HERB SENDEK – Miller’s coach during his playing years at State, Sendek rebuilt the program after the disappointing Les Robinson years. Under his guidance NC State went to four NIT tournaments, followed that up with a rough 2000-2001 season that saw no postseason action, then finished with five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances including a Sweet 16 season his second to last year at State. Apparently that little taste of success wasn’t enough for State fans and boosters, putting enough pressure on Sendek, enough heat under his seat, to see the coach jump for an available opportunity at Arizona State once he got it.
The two examples of Sendek and Gottfried in particular should offer a cautionary tale to any potential new head coach of the Wolfpack: You have to match Duke and Carolina’s success (or come damn close) or you are out.
REASON NO.3: WHY SETTLE?
Related to reason No.1, Archie has a very comfortable job at Dayton and if he wants to leave, can afford to wait for the can’t-say-no-to-this opportunity, like perhaps the one Shaka Smart left for in Texas (the richest athletic department in the country with their own ESPN channel). And Ohio State or even Indiana offer could be just around the corner and could ultimately prove to be the jobs that pulls Miller away from Dayton.
Archie is at the top of the hot coaches food chain and can continue to build on that at Dayton with an always improving Q-rating. He can use this coaching change publicity to further the rep of Dayton basketball as well.
Sure, maybe he gets bored before that and opts for a change of scenery — he’s been at Dayton six seasons, the same amount of time Smart spent at VCU before jumping. That, or maybe he’s just always dreamt of coaching his alma mater and ultimately decides to leave. But can you imagine the fun Sidney Lowe had when the program he helped lead to a national title as a player wanted to run him out of town as a coach (here’s a thread on wanting him gone following his second season as head coach of his alma mater)? That doesn’t mean that will be the case with Miller, but what a nightmare that would be.