As athletics director Debbie Yow evaluates the program's leadership, here are five myths to debunk for the coming weeks.
For the last 20 years or so, State's been considered the redheaded stepchild of Tobacco Road basketball, used to being told by outsiders what can and cannot be expected of its program.
In the last month or so, that has led a litany of has-been and never-will media types, along with some respected reporters, to declare open season on the Pack.
They took on a wounded fanbase that has been sparring with the hometown newspaper, rivals, the media and basically all comers for a quarter of a century. They've minimized a job that isn't vacant, they've taken potshots at a struggling program, they've attempted to rewrite history for a school that has a storied past. All to poke the bear—or the wolf, in this case -- that is Wolfpack Nation, in hopes of getting ratings, hits and attention.
It worked. Sort of.
It certainly earned attention, with most of the mistruths, misconceptions and outright lies being lost in the chorus of raised voices and me-too journalism that forces lazy writers to piggyback on semi-stories. At least until the area's most knowledgeable and best sportswriter, Al Featherston, had heard enough and decided to head to Duke Basketball Report to set the record straight.
I can't add much, if anything, to what Al has already produced in his tremendous column. But I do have some thoughts on the matter, mostly cultivated over the course of covering Pack athletics in some form or fashion over the last decade or more. And I have to place this in the context of having all kinds of respect for Sidney Lowe, for what he did as a player at NC State and all of the contributions he's worked hard to make as a coach. He continues to lead the Wolfpack hoops program, so I'll couch much of this as a "what if" column.
Anyway, here are five myths that I've seen develop around the State program over the last few years, most of them largely unchallenged and most of them unsubstantiated in any way whatsoever. Here goes:
Myth #1: Herb Sendek Was Pushed Out
Pushed out. Fired. Forced to resign. Dismissed. Encouraged to leave. Replaced with a more attractive candidate.
All misinformed characterizations of how Sendek's era at NC State ended, at best; lies at worst. Enough already. You won't find any knowledgeable basketball observer who wouldn't agree that Sendek is a good coach; however, his personality and approach are likely better fits in the desert, where he is currently busy enough with his own hot seat.
You can bundle another, related fallacy under this one: that coaches around the nation somehow hold some type of grudge against NC State for how Sendek was treated. As laughable as it is off-base, this one couldn't be further from the truth.
There are only so many major-conference coaching positions available in this sport and in this land; you really think a coach worth his salt who is confident in his abilities would pass up one of those spots because of a media perception that someone named Herb got a raw deal in Raleigh?
Is anyone gullible enough to get hooked like a fish by that one?
Myth #2: No One Wanted the NC State Job in 2006
You have to love lazy, revisionist history. So I'll keep this one pretty short: Under athletics director Lee Fowler, State was involved with John Calipari, Rick Barnes, John Beilein and Steve Lavin, among others, with various degrees of interest or reciprocation. So to say that "no one" wanted the job is kind of, well, not smart.
You could argue -- compellingly, from my point of view -- that Fowler did a poor job of conducting the coaching search five years ago. But that is a separate and distinct issue from whether or not the job was viewed as attractive or desirous at that point in time.
In fact, quite to the contrary of what many media pundits think, I actually feel that folks would be pretty surprised at how many "name" coaches would be and are highly intrigued by the NC State job.
Myth #3: Wolfpack Fans Expect Too Much
Being vocal is never a bad thing. Look around the country at the programs that are calling out for a coaching change or more success. Heck, how about a closer example: How about UNC when Matt Doherty was embarrassing the school, program and legacy?
Were Tar Heel fans portrayed as bad fans for expecting different and more? What many miss is that years of being third fiddle and expecting the worst has actually created a generation of defeatist Wolfpack "fans" who have managed to combine rooting and mocking in a sad, tired, repetitive way.
The corollary to this fallacy is that Wolfpack fans will only settle for Duke- and UNC-level success. Not at all so; believe it or not, the vast majority of Pack backers understand that you need to crawl before you can walk.
The fanbase wants a top-25-caliber program that consistently earns postseason inclusion and is at least competitive with its neighbors; if that is somehow expecting too much, than there are about 91.7% of college basketball fans around the country who are going to be sorely disappointed to hear that.
And what is more rational? For a program with no history of success anywhere in their background to hope for national relevance? Or for a program with a storied past to hope for a return to glory? All fans have a right to hope for a place in the national pecking order, as unlikely as it may be; and maybe, just maybe, NC State fans have more of a right to expect that than most.
Are Wolfpack fans passionate about their basketball? Absolutely. Does it occasionally go overboard? Sure. Does it make the fanbase an easy target for folks looking to fill airtime or online space? Definitely.
But is it something that can be seen as a detriment to hiring a good coach? Of course not.
Myth #4: State Can't Compete with UNC and Duke
In what context? On the court? The Pack plays UNC twice a year, but usually only has one matchup with Duke. Factor in a possible ACC Tournament matchup, and let's just say that's five games against the Heels and Blue Devils per season. That leaves 30 or more contests against teams not wearing those particular shades of blue.
In recruiting? Do you know how many scholarship kids NC State has on the roster from the state of North Carolina? Two. How about UNC? Also two. Well, what about Duke? Two as well. The truth is that all three schools recruit on a national scale, so they aren't necessarily competing for the same players as often as folks would like to believe.
The reality is that, yes, matching what the programs are doing down the street in Chapel Hill and Durham would be great. But this perception that NC State can't be great because it is already "too crowded" on Tobacco Road is patently ridiculous.
There is always room for excellence, and it is never based on what other people are doing.
Myth #5: NC State Is Not An Attractive Job
The RBC Center.
A vibrant fanbase.
The Dail Practice Facility.
Two national championship banners in the rafters.
The OPPORTUNITY to compete against UNC and Duke, not necessarily the OBSTACLE.
One of the most highly thought of cities in America.
And say what you will about the ACC being overrated for the last decade or more (no argument here), it's still a highly respected basketball conference.
To say that the head basketball coach position at NC State doesn't have an awful lot of built-in advantages is sheer ignorance. Tobacco Road isn't for the faint of heart; nobody is disputing that. Heck, Herb Sendek learned that over his decade in Raleigh. But that doesn't preclude every good coach and personality; it only means that it takes a certain kind of coach and a certain kind of personality.
Every year when the NFL Draft approaches, one of the gurus makes the comment that it doesn't matter if 32 teams like you or not; it only matters if one does. The same goes for the coaching search. So what if, as the national media "experts" swear that the coaching community hasn't "forgiven" NC State for "firing" Herb Sendek.
Not only is that statement patently ridiculous on many levels, but who cares? All it takes is one coach—the RIGHT coach—to see beyond the fallacies surrounding the Wolfpack program and appreciate it for what it is: a great job in a great area at a great school in a strong conference.
New athletics director Debbie Yow understands that old sales credo of "Hope is not an option;" and is ready to sell all that State has to offer in an effort to ensure that the Pack is in good hands going forward.
So as the talk of ugly ducklings and comparisons to Khloe Kardashian persist, it's become quite apparent that there are too many faux "journalists" who don't spend quite enough time actually, you know, researching their subjects -- and spend a little too much time watching bad reality shows and misunderstanding children's fairy tales.