Well, we're disappointed. I'm really proud of our guys. I thought they continued to play hard and battle. I thought today probably their rebounding, offensive rebounding, I thought at key times, probably hurt us. I thought our turnovers in the first half hurt us. Probably dug a hole in the game just with how we played offensively in the first half, turning the ball over.
Then we also had some opportunities where we had some pretty good looks today and couldn't make them. Sometimes you just got to make some shots, too, when you got great looks.
Dennis never really got going. I thought Clemson did a good job of kind of packing it in there on him, taking away some driving opportunities for him.
But overall, you know, I'm proud of our guys. They kept battling, kept playing hard, just came up short today.
Coach, can you just explain the emotions of your last time with NC State.
Well, it's sad for me. I came to NC State hoping to be here for the rest of my career. That was my goal. So I'm sad.
I look at Malik, a lot of these young guys on this team. I wish I was the guy that was going to get to coach them next year. I think there's a lot of potential.
I'm proud of our guys. I thought they kept playing hard. But it hurts. You move on in life. Things happen.
But proud of our accomplishments. We've had a ton of them. Obviously this past year and this year have been hard. But I got all kind of thoughts. I got everything running through my mind.
Deep down, just disappointed.
You said the word 'proud' a lot there. Do you have one moment that you're going to think about when you think back to this season?
No, I don't think there's one moment. I think it's been well-documented, all the amazing accomplishments that have happened at NC State.
When I took the job, I don't know that anybody anticipated us going to the NCAA tournament in our first year. Then turn around, do it for three more straight years, two Sweet 16s. I can go on and on. Beating No. 1 teams in the country, all those kind of things.
So for me there's a lot of things I think very highly about. I loved coaching our guys. We got caught this year. We were really young. We're playing against a really good conference, league, that just kind of the way it falls have a lot of veteran teams. You start going team by team by team, you see a lot of veteran players.
Herein lies where we sit right now. So that's a little bit hard for me.
Mark, obviously you had a lot of hopes and expectations on Dennis, his season, what you could do. Was there ever a point where you could sense it wasn't coming together with him and the team in terms of the wins? Was there a point where you sensed things started going wrong a little bit?
No, I never really looked at it like that, to be honest. I look at our team. Malik and I were just sitting back there talking about a guy like Lennard Freeman for us, veteran guy, would have been a senior, had his second surgery last summer. Truthfully our team, you look at them, probably a veteran post player away. A lot of pressure on Omer and Ted. Malik, just like today, he's out there playing like a seasoned ACC player should play.
We're just shorthanded a little bit. So I never looked at it in that regard, like it's not coming together. You're always looking to that next game.
Unfortunately, for Dennis, just kind of the way it fell this year, there's a lot of inexperience around him. That's hard. He's inexperienced. You've got inexperience everywhere. That made it really hard on him as the quarterback of a team to play with so many young faces.
Coach, you walked off the floor with Dennis, hand around his waist, saying something to him. What were you telling him? Also, what do you think the legacy he might be leaving behind at NC State will be?
I think what Dennis and I talk about are private.
All the time with him, I'm really proud of him. I think he's handled a tough situation as well as you can handle. I think they all have, no question about it. Tons of expectations put on Dennis to be savior of the program. He's got great things that are going to happen for him in his life. He's going to learn this year. It's going to be a great learning opportunity for him.
He's just going to stay positive. He'll get better and better and better, and life will move on for him.
Coach, I wanted to ask you, there's been a lot of talk about the NC State job being a very hard job, a good job. Some people say it's not a good job. We saw Coach Brownell say how hard it is to play in the ACC. Is NC State a good job for a coach, or is it a hard or bad job for a coach?
I don't know that I would really directly answer your question.
Here's what you got. It's a great place. NC State is a wonderful place. Different than every other job in this league. You look around all these banners, all these other schools, nobody else is compared daily the way our guys and our program is to North Carolina and Duke. They're just not.
I think it says the fact that in six years, four tournaments, two Sweet 16s, two years missed the tournament, they're hunting for a new coach. I'm not sure that's happening at about 50% or 60% of the rest of the league, quite honestly. In that regard, I've said it many times, tough neighborhood.
The other part about it is for us, just like when we recruited Malik, or Dennis, or T.J. Warren, or Ingram, or Bam at Kentucky, Grayson Allen, or all those guys, we went after the best players, got some, like this guy. We did. But missed on some, too. The expectation at our place is a little different than maybe it is at some other schools.
It's a great place. It's a tough situation because of some of those things. But I wouldn't trade my experience here for anything in the world. Would not trade it. Loved every second of it.