VOGELSBERG: One Week Later

A week has passed since NC State concluded a whirlwind coaching search. A week for the slings and arrows aimed at Wolfpack hoops to reach the target or whistle past it.

A week for pundits to take aim at new coach Mark Gottfried and athletics director Debbie Yow, before retreating into their shells to impatiently wait out the months that remain between now and Midnight Madness.

A week that has allowed State fans to catch their collective breaths, bristle at the national media criticism levied at their beloved school, and learn as much as they can about Gottfried and the staff he's putting together. And a week that has lent perspective to the misunderstood and mischaracterized coaching search that has just concluded at NC State.

Here are the facts as we know them: Sidney Lowe, after posting an overall record of 86-78 and 25-55 in ACC play in five years, resigned as leader of the Pack on March 15. On April 5, Gottfried was hired, ending a 20-day search that began the day the "First Four" of the NCAA Tournament began and wrapped up the day after UConn was crowned the national champion.

Here are the perceptions that have flooded through, over and around Raleigh in the meantime: State was harsher on Herb Sendek than it was on Lowe... never mind that after five years, the records were nearly identical (Sendek was 86-74 overall, 26-54 in league action in his first five), yet Sendek got another five seasons.

The Pack set its sights too high on coaches such as Rick Barnes and Sean Miller … or too low on coaches like Shaka Smart and Greg Marshall. State was hamstrung by an "irrational" fanbase... or maybe by an A.D. deemed too hard to work for. The Pack took too long to hire a coach... or maybe just hired the wrong one.

"Lack of information of the unstable nation fuel uncertainty" is a quote I can't claim; it was offered up by Chosun Ilbo. I'm not sure who Ilbo pulled for on Tobacco Road, whether he preferred zone defense to man or even what his thoughts were on the distance of the three- point line.

What I do know is that he unknowingly hit on a key issue that impacted the national assessment of State's coaching search: that in the absence of leaks, during a search that was conducted so quietly, a media that is largely lazy was left to speculate, offers up opinions as facts and generally put up the façade that they knew what was happening behind closed doors at NC State.

The reality is that most coaching searches don't go quickly, most searches don't land the first offer... and most searches aren't remembered a month after they're over.

Granted, Yow did her part to make this particular search a bit more memorable. The day before the hire was announced, she signed off on a letter to the fans that used language that shifted fan feelings from optimism to panic. While communicating to the fanbase in the absence of real news was a good idea, perhaps the execution was lacking.

And after repeated questions about her "reputation" during Gottfried's introductory press conference, Yow induced a round of cringes by accusing Maryland coach Gary Williams of sabotaging the NC State coaching search. Those comments made her an easy target for Williams-friendly scribes, who conveniently left out the coach's strained relationships with others, woeful academic record in College Park, questionable respect of "personhood" on his sideline and troubling off-the-court murmurs. Throw in his refusal to build relationships with area high school and AAU coaches, which led to a comprehensive, multi-part series in the Washington Post, and one can perhaps see a more well-rounded picture of the relationship.

Neither the letter nor the calling out of Williams had a middle ground: you either appreciated that Yow was sticking up for herself when no one else would or you questioned how professional either tactic was and whether she would have changed some of her wording in retrospect.

Yet I get the sense that Yow doesn't deal in do-overs, in hindsight, in second guesses. She said what she did, stood by it and moved on. Perhaps the root of her controversial stature is founded in her stated brand and mission of "Wolfpack Unlimited," and that idea that it might not jibe with a portion of the media's mandate that NC State "know their place," for lack of a better turn of phrase.

This column isn't for assessing the merits of Mark Gottfried as the rightful heir as leader of Wolfpack basketball; until he coaches a game, that's all up for debate. And it isn't for grading the success or efficiency of the coaching search; one person's due diligence is another person's search gone wayward. On both counts, ask me in 24 months.

After all, nothing that Yow and Gottfried do in the next few months can change or offset the impact the last month has had on the perception of NC State basketball. However, maybe it's fair to attempt to gauge the search and the hire in a larger context, in a broader perspective.

In every corner of the country, you have examples of collegiate athletics gone way wrong. There are billionaires propping up programs, coaches lying to the NCAA on multiple occasions, lead recruiters in bed with agents and demented fans actually poisoning their arch-rival's landmarks. You have an AAU circuit that is slowly but surely destroying the fabric of college basketball, as the absence of an early signing period is steadily chipping away at the lives and ethics of countless college and high school football coaches. And a plethora of recruiting services are kicking at the lines that separate revenue from influence.

And amidst this environment of college athletics, a school gets chastised and its job gets minimized for a fanbase and an athletic director that care too much, that want to win too badly?

One week later, that's the one question that no one seems to have an answer for.


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