It might have been unintentional, but N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow ensured the media won’t completely rip apart her hiring of new coach Mark Gottfried.
Not with her ripping Maryland coach Gary Williams during Tuesday’s press conference.
Yow, the former Maryland AD who feuded with Williams during her time there, was asked if her “difficult” reputation among college basketball coaches had made N.C. State’s coaching search more challenging than expected. Since Sidney Lowe’s resignation on March 15, at least four coaches have interviewed for the job, with others denying any interest. (VCU coach Shaka Smart was among them; he turned down $2 million.)
So what was the problem? You guessed it, Gary Williams.
“I don’t have a reputation across all men’s basketball of being difficult to work with. I have a reputation of not getting along with Gary Williams, who has tried to sabotage the search,” Yow said during Gottfried’s press conference. (Audio is here.)
Williams played it cool, issuing a statement that he didn’t have “any interest in the N.C. State search.”
If Yow’s goal was to pump up the Wolfpack fan base about Gottfried – a guy who’s been out of coaching for two years and was by no means the school’s main target to replace Lowe – she failed miserably. And that’s what she needed to do.
After all, it’s not like she hired a slam-dunk coach. Gottfried, 47, is better than Lowe, but that’s faint praise.
The former Alabama and Murray State coach is 278-155 in 11 seasons as a head coach. He’s been to seven NCAA tournaments in that span, including an Elite Eight in 2004. The Crimson Tide even reached the top of the AP poll back in 2002-03. But his final three seasons in Tuscaloosa resulted in an NIT, no postseason and a 12-7 record before he resigned.
Those kinds of results won’t be enough at N.C. State. The school is starved for an NCAA tournament – it hasn’t been since 2006 – and for some ACC respect. Oh yeah, there’s also the challenge of beating in-state rivals Duke and North Carolina, hardly a simple task.
To his credit, Gottfried said all the right things Tuesday.
“Every coach in America has challenging obstacles,” he said. “I’m not backing down from anyone here. I want to win. Period. We want to win, period. Whatever those challenges or obstacles are, you’ve got overcome them.”
The silver lining? If Gottfried falters, he can always blame Williams.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.