Rothstein: Next NC State coach better be careful what he wishes for

William Howard/Icon Sportswire

By nature, we want what we can’t have in life.

If there’s a nicer car, we want to drive it.

If there’s a bigger house, we want to live in it.

And if you’re a college basketball program like North Carolina State, you want to be mentioned in the same breath as Duke and North Carolina.

That’s simply not realistic and nobody knows that better today than Mark Gottfried.

The Wolfpack fired their head coach on Thursday afternoon, but agreed to let him coach the remainder of the season.

Where does NC State turn now?

That’s to be determined, but the next person who assumes the main chair in Raleigh better be careful what he wishes for.

The Wolfpack have won two national titles in their program history, but anyone expecting NC State to be comparable to the two schools on Tobacco Road on an annual basis isn’t being close to realistic.

Ask Gottfried and also ask Herb Sendek.

Here are the facts: NC State hasn’t won a game since its dramatic Jan. 23rd victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and have shown little signs of fight during a six-game losing streak where four losses have come by 24 points or more.

But it’s important to remind people that less than 24 months ago, Gottfried had the Wolfpack in the Sweet 16 after knocking off top-seeded Villanova in the Round of 32.

The upset was a seminal moment for the head coach, who at that point clinched his second trip to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend in four years, and during that span, the Wolfpack heard their name called four straight times on Selection Sunday.

So by percentage, Gottfried will leave North Carolina State with four NCAA Tournament appearances in six years to go with two trips to the Sweet 16.

That’s not bad if you consider the fact that this job is a peg below Duke and North Carolina and there’s a slew of power-five conferences that would sign up for that type of four-year run right now.

And Sendek?

The mild-mannered head coach coached in Raleigh for 10 years and led NC State to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2002-06, highlighted by a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2005.

How was his tenure celebrated?

People were so ready to for a new chapter in Raleigh that Sendek left for Arizona State and headed to the desert for a better life and a fan base that was more rational and realistic.

Between Gottfried and Sendek was Sidney Lowe, a former Wolfpack star who simply didn’t win enough games during his five-year tenure.

So the main question now becomes, why would anyone with a solid situation in college basketball want to take a job where two of the last three coaches — who have had success — have been shown the door or quietly been asked to leave?

Archie Miller is an alum, but he’s quickly becoming at Dayton what Shaka Smart was at VCU before he left for Texas.

Mick Cronin? The Wolfpack offered the Cincinnati head coach their vacancy in 2011, but he opted to stay at his alma mater and home city in hopes of making his program what it is today. At 23-3 overall and an annual salary in excess of $2 million dollars, it’s highly unlikely that he leaves the Queen City for the Triangle.

You can go down the list, but the more this is dissected, leaving a quality setup to take the vacancy at NC State makes about as much sense as trying to break back into Alcatraz after you’ve already escaped.

Do the Wolfpack have money?

Without question.

Do they have unbelievable resources, including an off-the-charts practice facility and private arrangements for recruiting?


But with that also comes the pressure of knowing that being unemployed after one or two down years is a real possibility.

Less than 24 months ago, Mark Gottfried was coaching in the Sweet 16.

What should that mean for the next coach at NC State?

He better be careful what he wishes for.

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.



  1. Mary Kate

    Feb 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Also, for those who are not as close to States program, make note that Gott’s firing may not all be related to his job as a coach. Plenty of questions about his behavior off the court as well.

  2. Robert Golden

    Feb 18, 2017 at 10:44 am

    In the few games I’ve watched of Dayton, I don’t exactly get the hype. He’s had some success in a smaller conference and a nice tourney run. That’s the extent of what 90% of the people at NC State see. After a small school makes a sweet sixteen, people will fall in love with him.

    That’s not an analytical approach. That’s chasing the shiny object.

  3. Rothstein is a lazy journalist

    Feb 17, 2017 at 5:15 am

    This is just lazy journalism. What is Sendek doing now? He’s not coaching at Arizona State for their ” realistic ” fan base is he? He was at his absolute ceiling at NC state with all the resources. He’d coast through a early season schedule of Patsy teams. The other ACC coaches had his weave and heave offense figured out, and recruitment was falling off. As for Gott, yes he had some early success, but the program had become a revolving door of players and assistant coaches and was getting blown out. Next year would get even worse. In what world does Rothstein think a coach should get to keep his job with these results?

  4. Wolfpacker

    Feb 16, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    I think Rothstein is intentionally missing the point here. He knows enough about our program to know the truth, but here we have more “State fans are irrational” garbage.

    The problem with Gottfried is not his overall record. The problem is the trend line. If his record were flipped we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Our fan base is now fairly used to losing, and we certainly would not have done to Doherty what UNC did or do to Pete Gillen what Duke did. What our fans want is consistent success and the feeling that we could win a conference title or have a deep NCAA run. Since Gottfried has been coach at NC State, 4 teams not named Duke or UNC have earned conference titles. Gottfried’s teams had some success in his first seasons, but even those teams were inconsistent, played poor defense, lost head scratchers, and were perpetual bubble teams with poor seeding in both the conference and NCAA tournaments.

    He probably could have continued this same trend through his contract because the fans believed there was always the possibility of pulling a rabbit out of a hat every year. His last two seasons, however, have been absolute disasters and the cupboard is almost bare recruit wise after this year. This tells the fan base that he would not have been able to sustain success, given that he is now getting blown to pieces at home with a team full of 4 and 5 star recruits.

    Considering the investments our school has made in basketball and our basketball tradition, it isn’t too much to ask to compete with the best of our conference year in year out rather than be lumped in with the likes of Boston College.

    • David

      Feb 19, 2017 at 9:15 am

      The fanbase issue can be answered by what the fanbase demands. What other school fanbase in the nation would demand that T-shirts be printed for winning a regular season game? And actually purchase said T-shirts? Only to demand that the coach that won the T-shirt game be fired two weeks later?

  5. Brian

    Feb 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    This article misses the whole point about Gottfried. Ed (above) comments nicely about the tradition at State and that we were THE college basketball power house in the South. NC State started the ACC tournament for Pete’s sake.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask that wil all the resources and basketball talent that surrounds us that we can recruit, coach, gameplan, and execute on the court and be in the mix in the ACC most seasons (a la Louisville, Fla St, Syracuse, Miami, etc.). For all the talk about Gottfried’s recruiting, we have ONE commit for next year and Dennis Smith is a one and done.

    I’m sorry, I just don’t accept this writer’s promise that we are doomed and will never be able to match our Tobacco Road competition, so why bother? I don’t accept this at all! Anyone who does not want to win should not be coaching or be a journalist who covers sports!

    Imagine going to work for GM and saying, well, “we will never be as good as Ford. Let’s just get the sales we can and not worry about it!”

    Back to Gottfried. Our kids have no hustle and don’t seem to care on the court, except Smith. You can’t coach talent, but you can coach fundamentals and hustle.

  6. Ed Cisneros

    Feb 16, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    I don’t often comment, but this article is really harsh on the Wolfpack. We may have not have won as recently as Duke and UNC, but to say we don’t belong in the same breath is outright ignorant and insulting.

    State has won 2 national champions before 1983, while Duke and UNC have won a combined 2 back in ’83.
    We had the best college basketball player in David Thompson.
    We had one of the most complete and dominating teams in 1974, beating UCLA’s Wooden legendary streak.
    We had the most legendary NCAA run in 1983, coining the word March madness.
    We were the first to construct an indoor arena in the 50’s, bringing College basketball to Tabacco road.
    We were the first to cut down the nets, starting a college tradition still being practice today by every coach.

    We are the reason UNC and Duke invested so much money in college basketball, becoming the teams they are today.
    You can bash us, insult us, and ignore our achievements, but you can’t change history, and we won’t forget where we belong.

    So our next coach should be careful what to wish for, be he also should never forget what NC state represents, even if most contemporary reporters have.

    • Mary Kate

      Feb 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      I couldn’t have said better myself! Thank you for reminding everyone of where we belong and why the ACC is the ACC! NC State was the program to beat for decades and there is simply no reason why we can not recruite and compete with any program in the country. Dream job for the “right” coach that believes that college basketball is not ruled by Duke or UNC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top