Blame Sidney Lowe. He's been an easy target lately, so why not start there.
Lowe sold Ryan Harrow on a fun, fast-paced offense. It was a desire Lowe expressed even as the season approached in early November.
"I want them to run," Lowe said. "That's what we've been trying to get to. That's what the personnel decisions, recruiting guys, that's what we're looking to do. Ryan, CJ, Lorenzo – that's when they are at their best. When they can get out and run."'
When reality didn't match the sales pitch, Harrow's relationship with his coach began to sour. When Lowe proved incapable of turning his star-studded recruiting class into wins on the court, the pressure on the team mounted and further strained an already rocky situation with his point guard.
If Lowe delivered what he was selling – wins and a fast-paced, exciting system – Tuesday afternoon could have been avoided. By the time Mark Gottfried arrived as the head coach, Harrow had all but made up his mind to leave. Look at his body language at the introductory press conference - Harrow already had one foot out the door.
Blame Ryan Harrow.
Harrow never learned that part of being a big-time athlete is growing a thick skin. He never learned that maybe he should avoid Twitter, Facebook and Internet message boards; that these are not the places to seek validation for your own self-worth.
Last February, before he even stepped on the court, he wrote an open letter to fans where he lamented "I hate going to the forums reading [negative] things." So he knew before he ever got to NC State what was coming, but he never learned to handle it properly.
He arrived on NC State campus and expected to be the starter, but he didn't win the job at first. His erratic shooting and poor defense meant he had to split minutes between himself and senior Javi Gonzalez. It wasn't what he had signed up for, splitting minutes and being criticized, and Harrow didn't react positively.
Harrow was an imperfect player on a losing team who expected to be treated like the star of a winner. He could have retrenched, worked harder and tried to prove all his doubters wrong, but he didn't choose that route. Instead he let the problems with Lowe, with the fans, fester to the point where transferring seemed the only option.
If Harrow had been mentally tougher, maybe the coaching change and the losses wouldn't have soured him to the option of staying at NC State.
Blame ourselves... the media and the fanbase.
We did this to him. We propped him up as the hope of NC State basketball before he played a single minute. We spent two years telling Harrow that he was the missing piece. We loaded up 20 years of frustration on his tiny frame and expected him to carry it with a smile and a crossover dribble.
We set expectations so unreasonably high that there was no way he could ever live up to them. Then, when the losses began piling up and all the hope we had put into 18-year-old kids proved a little premature – we gave up.
We stopped caring. We stopped encouraging. All the losing manifested itself in a negative energy that hung over every home game. In late January, Harrow went so far as to post, "I thought I joined a great family but the true colors are coming out."
If we could have gotten behind the team despite all the problems, maybe Harrow's eye wouldn't have wandered. Maybe we were the problem.
Blame Sidney. Blame Ryan. Blame ourselves.