It started with a report from WTVD in Raleigh on Monday night.
Mark Gottfried, the head coach at N.C. State since 2011, will be fired at the end of the season. He was lucky to survive Wake Forest’s 88-58 beatdown of the Wolfpack on Saturday, the report said. Next came a story from the Sporting News, who reported via a source that the process of reaching out and gauging the interest of candidates has already begun. Next up was ESPN saying that Gottfried’s tenure with the Wolfpack would come to an end if he doesn’t right the ship and make a run late in the season.
Gottfried has been to four NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s. But he went 16-17 last season and could end up with a worse record this year despite adding Dennis Smith Jr., Omer Yurtseven, Terry Henderson and Torin Dorn. His contract only plays him $760,000 a year for the next three years, a more than manageable sum.
As a source told NBC Sports, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
“Right now, our focus and my focus with our team is getting it ready to play against North Carolina and at the same time, I still believe in our team,” Gottfried said when facing the media on Monday afternoon. “I believe we’ve shown at times how good we can be and my hope is we can turn this around and figure out how to get into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in sixth years. That’s where I am; that’s where I am personally.”
“Mark Gottfried remains our head coach, and we are all focused on our next opponent,” added Fred Demarest, N.C. State’s senior associate athletic director. “To suggest we have reached out to any other coach is both incorrect and blatantly irresponsible.”
All of this is happening as N.C. State gets ready to host North Carolina, a team that beat them by 51 points in the Dean Dome earlier this season.
What a time to be a Wolfpack fan.
Frankly, none of this is all that uncommon. This is how the process works. Dozens of programs around the country are doing the exact same due diligence as we speak. Someone connected to the university – maybe a booster, maybe a decision maker in the athletic department – reaches out to the agent or a friend of a coach they may be interested in pursuing to see whether or not it would be worth their time to do so. They do it now so that details can be worked out if there is a point in time where a chance is going to be made.
Time is of the essence in these matters. The longer you wait to make a change, the more likely it is that the guy you want will have found a job. The longer it takes to make a hire, the worse it looks for the university. Did they whiff on the guy they wanted? Do people keeping telling them no? Did Gary Williams badmouth the AD to everyone within shouting distance?!?
The difference here is that it is all playing out in the public’s view.
The Wolfpack have unquestionably underperformed this season. They have the talent to be a top six team in the ACC. They have the talent to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. They’re 14-12 overall, 3-10 in the ACC and, as Wake Forest’s Keyshawn Woods put it, “We knew if we got up early on them, they was going to quit.”
Gottfried has turned around disappointing seasons before, it’s something of his M.O., but it shouldn’t shock you that N.C. State is preparing for what appears to be the inevitable.