Mule': The ripple effect

LSU ousting Duke from the NCAAs was a high-water mark in Tiger basketball. Who knew the ripple effects?

The victory opened the way for LSU to make its way to the Final Four, its first in 20 years. It also raised a few eyebrows in Raleigh, N.C.

 

"I don't think at the time that anybody there was sitting around thinking about how wonderful it would be to have John Brady at North Carolina State,'' said a prominent N.C. State alum, requesting anonymity, who knows Brady and some of the key figures in the Wolf Pack search for a new coach. "But,'' he added, "I do think that game made quite an impression.''

 

One that came to mind a few days later when N.C. State coach Herb Sendek resigned to go to Arizona State.

 

The Wolf Pack was after bigger game, like Texas' Rick Barnes and Memphis' John Calipari, at first. But after they both rebuffed N.C. State – after each got a fatter contract – someone remembered Brady, a man in the headlines of late, going further than either of the top choices.

 

Brady may or may not ever entertain an offer from N.C. State. He says he hasn't talked to anyone about it, nor has his agent. We'll see, eventually.

 

Still, he got some thinking . . .  "In that one game,'' the alum pointed out, "John showed he can compete with a program like Duke. He wasn't scared of Duke's reputation. Being able to coach competitively against Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams (at the University of North Carolina) is obviously of major importance to N.C. State. We want to be in the championship mix of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

 

 "Also, his team eventually ended up in the Final Four. For us, that's a major credential on Brady's resume'.''

 

The Wolf Pack hasn't been to the last waltz of the Big Dance in almost a quarter-century, since 1983 when N.C. State stunned Houston – and the college basketball world – with a final gasp dunk to win the national championship.

 

Ironically, Sendek, as unpopular with ‘Pack fans as Brady is with certain segments of the LSU base, gave N.C. State its greatest run, winning 191 of 323 games the last 10 years, and making the NCAA Tournament each of the last five seasons, tying Jim Valvano who coached that '83 team.

 

So, what's the attraction with Brady, whose teams had a couple of very disappointing one-and-done tournaments just a few years ago?  

 

"We haven't made the Final Four,'' the alum said almost wistfully.

 

On Tobacco Road, the Atlantic Coast Conference, where basketball has the same kind of emotional hold that football does in the SEC, making a round-ball mark is important – particularly when you're surrounded, as N.C. State is, by year-in and year-out powers like the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. It's important to those fans to show they also belong, and ‘Pack fans haven't been able to do that in a while.

 

Yet, here's a guy in Brady, coaching at a school that doesn't seem to care much about its basketball, whose teams have the best record in the SEC the last two years, and whose team ended up a game short of the biggest stage in the sport.

 

He must have something.  

 

Of course, Brady's teams, on the other side of the coin, have rarely come close to filling the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and he apparently suffers from the same sort of malady Sendek did: a sometimes sour disposition.

 

"No, Brady's doesn't do standup comedy or anything,'' the alum noted, "but I think some of the fans confuse tongue-in-cheek comments with seriousness. Also sometimes silly questions or comments don't deserve better responses.

 

"I think the only problem John Brady ever had was in comparison at LSU. It's a place that won a national championship in football recently, a raft of titles in baseball, a bunch in track, and its women's basketball team seems to always be in contention.

 

"It's a tough place to stand out. But I think most basketball people think he does a pretty good job.''                                  

 

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Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@bellsouth.net


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