"I'm realistic to know that our expectations aren't very high, obviously right now," he said. "I go to the grocery store and I have Joe Guy in the grocery store who says, 'hang in there Coach... it's going to kind of be a long year for you.' I hear it everywhere I go."
Why? Well, look at what NC State lost.
First-team All-ACC senior forward Richard Howell. Second-team All-ACC junior point guard Lorenzo Brown. Third-team All-ACC junior forward C.J. Leslie. Senior wing Scott Wood, arguably the league's top perimeter shooter and the Wolfpack's all-time leading three-point shooter. Freshman Rodney Purvis, who played in all 35 games, averaging 25.5 minutes a night, has transferred.
"If I had to walk in my mind through the league and who has what coming back, we're going to be at the bottom, probably, to start with," said Gottfried. "But, maybe we're a team that can surprise some people. Our program is certainly in transition, but we are excited about where we can get to one day."
In his first two seasons, Mark Gottfried has led NC State to 48 wins and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Even with the roster changes, his goals won't change.
"For me, I hope to find a way to get into the NCAA Tournament every single year," he said. "Some years that may be a lot more difficult than others."
The Wolfpack's schedule won't be a reason for being on the NCAA Tournament bubble, should they be in the discussion, next March.
Along with the challenging ACC slate, the Wolfpack will play nonconference games against Cincinnati, Tennessee, Missouri, Northwestern, Florida Gulf Coast, Detroit, and Long Beach State, among others.
"We've put together a very, very aggressive, competitive non-conference schedule," said Gottfried. "I've had a lot of my coaching [buddies] that I've talked to about with my schedule with who we've lost... they've kind of looked at me like I was nuts.
"If we're fortunate enough to get good, I want to be in a position to be in the tournament. I don't want my schedule hold us back. It's also going to make us better.
"We better grow up fast. These young guys are going to get thrown in the fire quickly. It's going to help prepare us for the best basketball conference in the country come January. So, we better get ready."
Still, there is a sense of enthusiasm from Gottfried. He has a roster full of young talent and upperclassmen who seem eager to learn.
"You have these new guys that we're excited about. I understand we have a long ways to go to be competitive, but we're excited about it."