O'Brien Brings the Same Goal

Tom O'Brien couldn't be more different from his predecessor, but he isn't shying away from making national championships the goal for NC State football.

There were no red shoes or custom Oakley's on display.

The closest thing to flashy attire NC State's newest football coach sported as he was officially introduced Saturday afternoon at the Murphy Center was a bright-red Wolfpack tie.

Meet Tom O'Brien, the Anti-Amato.

"The one thing Lee [Fowler] asked me to do was wear a red jacket," O'Brien said. "I said I'll do a lot, but I just don't look good in a red jacket. I'll just wear this red tie."

O'Brien, a 58-year-old Naval Academy graduate, reeks of discipline - the most glaring missing ingredient for the past few years under his predecessor. Athletics Director Lee Fowler found a no nonsense coach that would bring his experiences at the Academy and as a US Marine Corps officer to the football field.

He found the polar opposite of Amato.

"We'll be sound fundamentally on offense, we'll be sound fundamentally on defense and on special teams," O'Brien said.

It's safe to say next year's team will be fundamentally sound. O'Brien kept the jokes to a minimum as he stressed academic excellence along with winning in his first public appearance as coach of NC State. A far cry from the joke-laden event that was Amato's introduction.

But there was one similarity between O'Brien and Amato during Saturday's introductory press conference, both weren't afraid to talk about national championships.

"The goal is always to win a national championship no matter where you're at," O'Brien said. "We'll always work towards the goal of being a national champion. Anything less would be cheating everybody here."

Wolfpack fans have heard this spiel before. Seven years ago, Amato waxed poetic about bringing national championships to NC State. But for whatever reason, even after a dismal 3-9 season, this time around the championship talk seemed like less of a pipe dream.

Maybe it was the surroundings. The newest NC State football coach spoke from the top of the Murphy Center, overlooking the product of years of renovations to Carter-Finley Stadium. It certainly looks like a stadium that could house a championship contender.

Or maybe it was because it was coming from a guy who knows how to win games. Six straight bowl wins, eight or more wins during the last six years and a share of the Big East title two years ago gives O'Brien more than just a little credibility.

"I knew coming into this job from my previous years here about Pack pride, the pride all of you guys have in this university," O'Brien said. "I guarantee you will be proud of this football team we put on the field."

For O'Brien's part, he's coming to place that will put him at the top of the local sports world every fall. In the best of times in Boston, he might crack No. 5 on the sports hierarchy, behind teams like the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. He goes from a pro town to a college town, one that will bring a passion he hasn't seen in his days in Massachusetts.

"The excitement that fateful night I was here in September was as good as any place I've ever been," O'Brien said.

He got to see that passion first hand when Daniel Evans threw a last-second heave-ho pass into the corner of the endzone to beat his Boston College team. Now he gets to live it, for better or worse.


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