Former NC State men’s basketball associate head coach and current Windy City Bulls assistant Bobby Lutz recently spoke with WFNZ’s The Fan in Charlotte about his time in Raleigh working for Mark Gottfried along with several other topics.
Do you still want to be a college head coach? Will you pursue that?
I don’t know. I am older now, I am 58 years old, and sometimes athletic directors and, more importantly, search firms like younger guys. My approach has always been to my job to the very best of my ability. I am not the best with politics and working search firms and all that. That is part of the business today that I am not very good at.
My focus is on being the best coach I can be and I am doing that. Last year I scouted every game for NC State. Here I have watched 120 games, we have got 19 more to go, and I have watched 45, 50 NBA games, so I have thrown myself into that.
I am at a great spot in my life now because, yeah every morning I wake up and I thank God I am coaching basketball. I definitely have the fire in the belly and I really know that I am the best I have ever been coaching.
Having gotten fired at Charlotte and the seven years since then, the experiences I have developed, so yeah. I don’t know which direction but I know I would love to be a head college coach again. I would be an assistant again. I wanted to go to a Final Four and at NC State I thought we could do that. I want to be a part of that.
The pro game is kind of intriguing as well, so I just feel blessed that I am still involved in the game and doing something that I quit law school to do back in 1980.
Were you surprised by what has happened at NC State?
I am. I am saddened for them and, obviously, the players and the fans. I thought, as I left I said I thought that team would be a lot of fun to be around and to be a part of coaching.
You never know. I am not there every day anymore so I don’t know why. Honestly, I have not watched them play so I don’t know what went on. I am surprised because I thought with the additions they had, Dennis Smith Jr. plus Terry Henderson being back, I thought they had chance to be a top-5 team in the ACC, top-6, somewhere in there, and honestly if you are in the top-6 you are in the top-25 or 30 teams in the country probably. I know it has been a tough year for them.
Do you personally look at it and think you could have helped that team?
Honestly, I try not to be a self-promoter. That is another reason, being 58, I am not as good at Twitter and promoting yourself and things like that, so, again, my approach has always been to do my job well and let other people talk about it, then deal with it.
I do know, as I said a little bit earlier, that I am the best coach I have ever been. At the end in Charlotte, we won 19 and had guys coming back. I am better now because I am refreshed. This six or seven years off, I have learned a lot.
I am confident that I can be a great head coach at any level. I genuinely believe that and I hope that people that know me know that it is not arrogance but just, I still relate unbelievably well to the players. My last year at NC State, the year before that was the Sweet 16 year, and if you look at the player evaluations I rank near the highest of anyone on the staff.
You know, I am older and I relate really well to the players. Yes, I am proud of what I accomplished. Mark was the head coach and he deserves the credit for four tournaments in five years and two Sweet 16s.
People forget where the program was when we came in there and how much he did accomplish but it just shows you how quickly it can turn, especially at the highest level.
So yeah, I know I can coach. I know I am not the candidate that they want but I know without a doubt that if I was a head coach at NC State the next five or six years would be very, very good years.
There is a narrative about NC State that coaches do not want the job. Do you think there is any truth to that?
I think there is some truth to that and some of that is probably fair and some of that is, you know, unfair. I look at it differently. It is a big challenge to coach.
Sean Miller told me when I was at Charlotte that people have no idea -- he has been all over the place but he was an assistant at NC State at one point -- he said people have no idea the unique challenge that it is to coach in the state of North Carolina if you are not at North Carolina or Duke. And he was talking about NC State but he was also talking about Charlotte because it filters down all the way. It is such a dominant force and he said there is nowhere like it in America. It is so unique.
I think you have to have the right guy who has the courage, has the proper respect for Duke and Carolina because you have to respect them but you can’t fear them.
But I understand now that with all the money that is out there, there is a lot of coaches that might not, even though it is the best league in the country, they may not want to do it. I just think you have to love a challenge.
The reason NC State fans like me is because I have a chip on my shoulder. Again, I never played college, I quit law school to coach high school JV boys and girls. I was a high school coach for four years and worked my way up to Pfeiffer. I have always had a chip on my shoulder plus I am a little guy. I feel like I have had to fight my way through everything and that’s how NC State is.
That’s the kind of coach they deserve, is a guy who understands and respects what’s going on but doesn’t really give a crap. We are going to go head-to-head and beat them.
You don’t really look for a coach for 20 years anymore, anywhere. The days of that are dying. It is a six-to-eight year deal, 10 at the most with very, very few exceptions so you need to find the guy that fits you to go out and win now and build your program, and understand that it is not going to be like Dean Smith did for North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski has done for Duke -- taking it to a level, it may drop a little but he has established it at a level that is unprecedented in Duke history.
[Former Duke head coach and NC State alum] Vic Bubas was really good, it fell and then Mike Krzyzewski built it. That’s rare. That is going to be more rare going forward as it is looking back.
You went up against some great coaches in Conference USA. How tough was that?
The only job I ever really wanted was Charlotte and it is still the only job I want. Obviously, I am not going to get it because the current administration is the one who fired me so it is not opening. [Current Charlotte head coach Mark] Price is a really good, classy guy and I wish him well.
That is the job I wanted and I wanted to live there and retire there. That doesn’t happen. That is our business.
There is no doubt that our record at Charlotte, I mean when we were in Charlotte we were going up against Louisville -- a winning record against [Denny] Crum and [Rick] Pitino, two Hall-of-Famers -- the best record against [Bob] Huggins of anybody in the league at that time, a winning record against Tom Crean, 5-3, a winning record against John Calipari, 3-2 -- not that I am keeping track or anything [laughing].
We won against -- at Charlotte, let’s be honest, there is not the same budgets and things that those people had. That is why I know I could be good at NC State. We were 1-1 against Boeheim in the league, both games in the Carrier Dome. They paid us money to come up there and we went 1-1 against them.
I know that it can be done and you just have got to have the right guy and the right staff and you do need at NC State to uniquely qualified to fully understand that and then has the reputation in the state. You are not going to beat North Carolina for every high school kid or even many of them, but you have got to do a little of what Skip Prosser did and that is you go out and you identify Chris Paul early and you get him to commit before you figure out how good he is. You take a chance on some guys and they may not all work out but you have got to be a great evaluator of talent and get on it early and you have got to have the ability, the coaches and AAU coaches and bring them in.
It can be done and hopefully they will find the right person.