Keatts: "I Became A Fan"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media after Sunday's press conference.

Opening Statement:
One thing we can talk about is, I told you this, this is a great place to get a degree, Raleigh is an unbelievable city. You talk about tradition, you talk about recruiting kids, you want to know tradition, they want to know style of play, they want to know what conferences they're going to play in- and obviously we play in the best conferences in the country.

Do you hope to sign anybody by the end of the recruiting season?
I don't know. The reason why I don't know is because we're going to recruit the best players that may be available. That being said, if I don't think those guys fit into what we do, then we're going to play with our existing team, and obviously start on the younger guys.

You obviously have four wings and a post, but that was probably more dictated by, you know, playing in the CAA. What do you kind of envision with those players at NC State?
Well, that's a great question.

My deal is, I would love to have more of a traditional four-man. Obviously for rebound purposes and everything else. I will tell you this: I will not abandon the fact that we can play with four guards. If you look at the game against Virginia, which was so crazy, we made those guys adjust to us. They certainly ended up going a little bit small.

I would start off more traditional, obviously. But we'll have four guards if we need it.

When you were at Hargrave, I'm sure you had your own style, your own way of doing things. What did you learn at Louisville that you added to what you had learned at Hargrave?
That's a great question.

When I was at Hargrave Military Academy, I learned a lot. For a lot of people, they don't understand what Hargrave is. Hargrave is an unbelievable prep school. What I learned was, it was the first opportunity for me to call timeouts, and it was the first opportunity for me to form a practice schedule... it was the opportunity, actually, for me to make mistakes.

I had the opportunity to go work for Coach Pitino, at Louisville, and when you look at what we did at UNCW, you'll see a little bit of ten years as a head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, mixed in a little bit of what Louisville's done.

You'll see the same thing, here. I love the guys that we got in the program. Obviously, we've got some challenges, and we've got to fill some holes. But when you look at these guys, the first thing I'll do with them is to try to get them in the best shape of their life.

We always have prided ourself on being the best conditioned team in the country. That's one of the things I want to bring to NC State.

Seven years ago, you said you were never going to go back to college. Then Louisville came. And now look at the ride that you've been on since. Is it amazing to think back when you ...
You know, and I don't know how you remember that, but I'll tell you this. When I started off at Hargrave, most of you guys, some of you guys will remember, there's a guy about two hours down the road from Hargrave... name Fletcher Arritt. Traditional, unbelievable person. He's done a great job, developed a lot of men, great Christian guy, great family.

I really wanted to be Fletcher Arritt. I didn't want to leave. I said, man I got a great job at Hargrave, I'm 45 minutes from my parents, and then opportunities knocked- getting a chance to go to Louisville, which is great because think about this: it's a select group of guys and coaches who have the opportunity to win a national championship.

I'm one of those guys, and then Wilmington came up and it only gets better, because this is a National Championship program. It's an unbelievable opportunity for me- something that I don't take for granted. I'm going to work everyday like I'm on ... This is my last day to work, and if I don't do good, then I have a chance to get fired, and that's the way I want to build this program.

How do you get the players to buy into that? I was talking to them, and they said, you know, it's just been kind of a weird time for them, obviously transitioning to a new coach, and ... With new people coming in, they have to get re-adjusted to everything, too.
I think it's important with the players that you build a relationship with them.

For me, it's always been about family and knowing that you care about those guys. I'm going to be the first person in the office, and last to leave. I'm going to be the first person to the court. I told those guys that no matter what you're going through throughout the day, it's important that once you walk in between those lines that you focus on and you just think about NC State basketball. That's what we really talk about.

I meant it when I said it: I think this is a good bunch of guys, but I'm not so sure that they didn't always play for the name on the back of the jersey. If we can get everybody to play together and play for NC State, then certainly we'll go a long ways.

Have you been able to talk to Thomas Allen and did you talk to him about David West?
I talked to Thomas Allen, and I had a great conversation with him. I didn't talk about David West. He's already signed, so I didn't have to throw my David West at him right away.

You're talking to not only skill level of the ACC, but the contrasting styles. You mentioned Virginia. That's a team NC State had a lot of problems over the years.
I think in order to compete in this conference, you gotta do something different, or something unique. When you think about Virginia, they have something that's unique. When you think about Syracuse, you know that you're going to play against a 2-3 zone.

I want people to think when you play against NC State, I want them to think that they're going to have to play 40 minutes against pressure the whole time. I think you gotta be special. Got some tremendous coaches in this league, as everybody know, got some tremendous programs in this league.

I have a lot of respect for every coach and every program, but we'll be a little different from most.

You mentioned being an NC State fan. Were there certain instances that led to that?
It wasn't ... Because at the time, I wasn't a Virginia fan. Virginia Tech was an Atlantic 10 or the Big East. The closest other school to me was NC State, and I became a fan.

How did your time at Hargrave, in terms of re-tooling the roster, help transition to you being a college coach?
When I was at Hargrave, and I left Hargrave the first time to go to Marshall, and then came back for eight years, and then obviously went on to Louisville. It's crazy, and this may sound funny, it was a little easier for me to recruit.

I say that because when you're at a Division I program, you have juniors, freshmen, sophomores, seniors, and you only lose three or four guys a year. At Hargrave Military Academy, I had to bring in 15 guys per year, and I had to recruit 15 All Americans that I thought would be able to play at the highest level.

Through all of that, I was able to get some unbelievable contacts through AAU coaches, and high school coaches, and meet everybody in the country that were involved with kids. That's really helped me out.

What were a couple of the toughest questions you got from Debbie during the interview process?
I think my vision- which is not a tough question. The vision of where you see the program, and what you think about the program, and what your expectations are. I told them my vision is, obviously, build the program, not build a great team. I don't want this to be a situation where we win one year, and the next two or three years we don't win, and then we win.

I think it's important to lay the foundation and try to build a program. We've got to be patient... obviously we've got some challenges. I'm not naive to understand that this team only won four games in the ACC last year.

We've got to gradually build it. I hope everybody will be patient with that. I hope in a few years you'll see that we built a National Championship program.

Being in a one-bid league, what did you learn about pressure?
Oh my goodness. Goodness, on Monday when we played the championship game, we were about to play the championship game, it was the toughest day of my life when I was at UNCW, because I'm thinking to myself, "We're 28-5. And if I don't win this game tonight, I'm going to probably go to the NIT."

So it's tough. Now that I'm on the other side, everybody's going to say, "What's your thoughts now about taking on mid-major schools and less high-major schools?" Now I'm going to flip on you guys... no, I'm not.

I think the committee has to take a look at possibly rewarding some mid-major teams that have a good year. I wish it was mandated that if you won your regular season, and you're a mid-major program, you have the opportunity to go and represent your conference at a NCAA, because that's the best team that you could put out there.

With that in mind, you talked a lot at UNCW this year about RPI and playing quality teams. Any chance that now that you're here, there's an NC State-UNCW game at some point?
Yeah, it's a very good chance, but I can tell you now, it will not be at Trask Coliseum, just so you know.

Being in Reynolds, and here at NC State, what stands out to you about this campus and this place?
It's beautiful. It's a great place to recruit too, when you think about- I was talking to the chancellor, I think we're up to 34,000 students, it's an unbelievable place here. The facilities are top notch, and it's still growing. I'm impressed with the city of Raleigh and how it's grown over the years.

Our guys, I told them, I said, "Don't take this stuff for granted. You've got some of the best facilities in college basketball... start playing like that."

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