Roy Williams is 60 years old. Mike Krzyzewski just turned 64.
With Sidney Lowe officially resigning from his post at the helm of the NC State basketball program, those are two numbers that athletic director Debbie Yow has to keep in the back of her mind.
For two decades now, Duke and North Carolina have towered over the Wolfpack basketball program. And while the current NC State program isn't in the same stratosphere as those two college basketball behemoths, the head men at Duke and North Carolina aren't getting any younger. In her press conference on Tuesday, Yow didn't hesitate to list competing with her two successful neighbors as one of the goals of the search.
"The first goal is to be competitive in the ACC, and if you are competitive in the ACC it will follow in the NCAA Tournament," Yow said. "It also follows that if we are competitive in the ACC there is a higher likelihood that we will be more competitive with UNC and with Duke over time."
NC State cannot make a hire that would rocket them past the two programs built by Williams and Krzyzewski with both those men still at the helm. It's simply not possible. The two Hall of Fame coaches are too good, and have built too strong of programs for that to happen.
But you can't hire a coach who is afraid of competing with Duke and Carolina either. In fact, if a coach voices concerns about it during the interview process Yow has a fairly straight-forward answer – thanks but no thanks.
"My pitch is thank you for your limited interest and we'll be moving on," Yow said. "The last thing I need is to try to convince some coach that this is doable. I want somebody with the vision, the passion, the ability – the chutzpah to tell me it's doable."
Unless these two coaches want to coach into their 70s, you have to assume that both will be stepping down in the next 5-10 years. Their departures will leave a hole in both those programs that will be difficult to fill.
Transitions are never easy, no matter the circumstances. Even basketball empires like Duke and Carolina will struggle to replaces their current legendary coaches – and neither has a clear successor in place at this point. Look no further than the turmoil surrounding the Indiana program since the departure of Bob Knight to see how quickly things can spiral downhill.
That's the challenge facing Yow as she looks for a new coach. She needs someone that immediately comes in and makes NC State a competitive program again, but she also needs someone that can build a program capable of taking advantage of the departures of Williams and Krzyzewski.
"I think ideally we would want a coach who could be here 10 years, 12 years, 15 years," Yow said.
This isn't to say that hiring a Rick Barnes or a Tubby Smith would be a bad move for the Wolfpack. The foremost concern is getting the program back on its feet, and both those coaches are more than capable of accomplishing that goal. But hiring either of them would possibly put the Pack in transition mode at the same time as Duke and North Carolina... trying to replace a retiring coach.
"We're going to look for someone who has what I call ‘the stuff.' They have the ability to turn a program, have the ability to win at a high level and that you see that in their career," Yow said. "Wherever they go, they win. This is an art, it's not a science. There are coaches that you could sit down anywhere and they would figure it out.
"That's the kind of person we're looking for."