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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?

Absolutely.

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.





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