BROOKLYN, NY – Things haven’t been easy for NC State this year. After entering the season expected to finish 6th in a loaded ACC, the Wolfpack stumbled to a 4-14 finish in conference play and 15-17 overall record. By mid February head coach Mark Gottfried had already been given the ax by the university – turning the rest of the year into a formality. But despite the mid-season firing, coach and team had high hopes for making the best of it.
That all ended Tuesday with a solemn press conference after Gottfried’s now former team lost to Clemson, 75-61 in the first round of the New York Life ACC Tournament.
“It’s sad for me. I came to NC State hoping to be here for the rest of my career. That was my goal. So I’m sad.”
Gottfried’s career in Raleigh wasn’t all bad. He went to the NCAA Tournament in his first 4 seasons, making it to the Sweet 16 in two of those, but after back to back years without an appearance and a 50-point UNC beat down, the writing was on the wall.
Now the hard part begins. Although prestigious, the ACC is no cake walk and the expectations for a Wolfpack program in close proximity to college hoops powerhouses UNC and Duke are high. Wolfpack teams are expected to a least be competitive and at most win a fair amount of games. Gottfried admitted that this is not a “normal” situation.
“NC State is a wonderful place. Different than every other job in this league. You look around all these banners, all these other schools, nobody else is compared daily the way our guys and our program is to North Carolina and Duke.
I think it says the fact that in six years, four tournaments, two Sweet 16s, two years missed the tournament, they’re hunting for a new coach. I’m not sure that’s happening at about 50% or 60% of the rest of the league, quite honestly. In that regard, I’ve said many times, tough neighborhood.”
Gottfried is right. It is a tough neighborhood. NC State fans, boosters, nor students want to be the ones living on a pristine street in the shabby house with an unkemp yard. It will be hard for State to find a coach willing and brave enough to take on this renovation, but once they do, the university must give him the appropriate time to fix things up.