Wetsell: State Fans Take Heart

PackPride has learned new details on the coaching search, and while this information is from an inside source, at this stage readers should only consider it as rumor.

There appear to be indications of the possibility that both Rick Barnes and John Calipari were actually happy in their current situations, and that Lee Fowler, did not, in fact, totally mess things up. Furthermore, and again this is only verified by one source, but possibly once each coach's school matched State's offer, neither coach had any reason to risk a change. Again, it is hard to release this information with any certainty, but we want you to know what is rumored potentially to be happening.

We've been doing some more poking around the past two nights, and learned some interesting tidbits relating to the coaching search. First, while we were hiding behind a pyramid of traffic cones alongside WTVD's Charlie Mickens and Joe Mazur at the RBC Center, we learned that not only does Lee Fowler drive a black Lincoln Navigator, but that John Calipari doesn't care, nor does he totally hate his athletic director at Memphis. Moreover, nor does he care that the RBC Center has luxury boxes, because his woeful Conference USA Memphis program happens to play in an even more luxurious arena that his players get to share with an on-site NBA team.

"John Calipari doesn't care, nor does he totally hate his athletic director at Memphis."

Following up on that lead, the subsequent chatter yesterday seemed to suggest that even if you have lots and lots of money, it is very, very hard to lure away a brand-name coach from a successful and established program. Again, right now, this is still largely conjecture.

Continuing that conjecture, NC State may have actually done very well to even get an audience from Barnes and Calipari, the latter whom they were even able to woo into scenic Raleigh, where Pack fans all just knew that Fowler and company would close the deal. Some people, mostly heretics, argued that Barnes had no reason to consider leaving Texas, since he had plenty of resources, plenty of success, and virtually none of the pressure that surrounds most other programs - in the state of North Carolina in the ACC. But State went after him, putting together a bunch of brand-name money and turning on all the Carolina charm in the world, and got him to seriously consider leaving his comfort zone.

It was the same story with Calipari. And if you want to do better than Barnes or Calipari, you better also check the feelers with Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, Billy Donovan, Roy Williams, or Mike Krzyzewski. Unfortunately, Pack Pride's inside sources have confirmed that these coaches were in fact, "not anything remotely approaching intrigued" by State's available coaching position. This despite the fact that three of them were clearly on thin ice back home after being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament this year by George Mason.

So, Pack fans can blame "Fowl-up" for "Fowling" to land either of the targeted marquee coaches, but before assuming that everyone should be begging to coach at a school with the support, facilities, and competitive environment (i.e., the proximity of Duke and UNC) NC State offers, we should consider the point of view of outsiders, or what many haters in the national media (i.e., the outsiders) have been arguing as Reality.

For one, and I know this is crazy, many people to the north and south of North Carolina, as well as those to the west of it, don't know who NC State is. This leads them to assume that NC State isn't a big-name program, and thus that it should not have a chance at a big-name coach. Now, Pack fans should concede that NC State is not a big-name program, but what others don't realize is that it should be, that it once was. It just happened to be about five years before the information revolution took off.

"Now it might be someone like Billy Gillispie or Frank Haith, or God forbid, someone from the Missouri Valley Conference."
But just like outsiders aren't seeing the whole story, the vision of Wolfpack fans is also a little skewed. That's what happens when you stare cross-eyed at your own nose for fifteen straight years trying to figure out why it's not prettier. State fans have every right to clamor for the, um, sixth- or seventh-best coach in America, but it is somewhat unreasonable to expect either of them.

I can think of only three big-name coaches who abandoned a big-name program for a new one in the past five years: Roy Williams, Bill Self, and Ben Howland (if you don't think Pitt being a big name is a stretch). Sure, Texas Tech hired Bob Knight, Louisville hired Rick Pitino, and, of course, Memphis hired John Calipari, but each just happened to be out of work at the time they were hired. For a great coach to up and leave his great team, there has to be a lot of upside at the place he is going. And guys, State's upside might be obvious to Wolfpack fans, but this isn't the NBA draft - without a little luck, no one is going to pick a school with great potential over a program that already has proven production.

So, the cold truth is that NC State will not be landing one of the handful of coaches in the country who could step onto campus and immediately be considered a threat to Ol' Roy or Coach Kuss. Now it might be someone like Billy Gillispie or Frank Haith, or God forbid, someone from the Missouri Valley Conference. But, I still kind of think you should be encouraged. NC State's athletics department has proven that it means business, that it is diligently working to hire in some instant respect. Heck, the fact that they are getting in the ear of guys like Barnes and Calipari has alone built up the Wolfapck's publicity across the country. These days, people know who NC State is. And hey, who knows, maybe even with a little mid-major up-and-comer magic, it will stay that way!

So, if things were merely tense before, now they just got really interesting. Which candidates NC State gets to listen and which ones they want to listen to is totally up in the air, and likely none of the fans will agree on anyone. Still, Fowler has demonstrated that he can drum up the big-name funds to woo a top-tier coach, and he has also shown that he can get top-tier coaches to listen (granted, that might have more to do with the drummed-up big-name funds).

Take heart State fans, you have a little more reason now to believe that Fowler will find a coach who can make NC State, and himself, into a big name.

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