About 4 or 5 years ago when Lee Fowler was still relatively new to his position at NC State, a friend of mine whom Fowler knew well had the ‘pleasure’ of spending some time with Fowler. We will call my friend, Mr. X.
(Quotes are paraphrases here since I am only relaying a story from a friend).
Once while having a casual conversation, Fowler hypothetically asked Mr. X, “If Herb wasn’t the coach at NC State, who do you think would be a good replacement?”
Mr. X was excited by the opportunity to have the conversation and casually responded with the obvious fully expecting Fowler to already understand, “I don’t know. I think that most NC State fans think Rick Barnes is a real good fit. State fans have always liked Barnes.”
Imagine Mr. X’s surprise when Fowler responded, “Rick Barnes? The guy at Texas? Hmmmm. I don’t know much about him.”
Mr. X then went on to explain a little about Barnes is NC roots, and his time at Clemson, and of course his standing up to Dean Smith.
After these comments, Fowler then threw out, “What about Steve Lavin? I’m impressed by Steve Lavin and think that he’s getting mistreated at UCLA.”
(At the time Lavin was stil the head coach at UCLA. Despite making 6 straight NCAA Tournaments and five sweet 16′s, Lavin was ultimately relieved of his job after 12 years on the Bruins staff his first losing season (10-19) in 2003. Of course Fowler thought that Lavin was being mistreated; Fowler would have given Lavin a job for life)
When I was told of this story years ago, I just shook my head in horror (and fear) that Lee Fowler may one day execute a coaching search for what will end up being the most important hire in NC State Basketball history.
However, in light of this exchange, you can imagine how unsurprised I was whe Pack Pride’s “Coaching Scoop Update” included a picture of Steve Lavin this morning.
I am going to refrain from saying too much more about Lavin. But, you can take a peak at this link for a little more perspective.
I will leave you with just a couple of general thoughts related to the topic:
(1) Fans have a very bad habit of simply taking a coach’s overall record and latching on to it as if it would be transferrable to other jobs. Steve Lavin had one of the five best basketball jobs in AMERICA. His numbers look generally pretty good when you look at them without framing them against the backdrop of his resource base.
But, UCLA is UCLA…with little competition on the west coast; not to mention that Lavin inherited the program not too long after they won a National Championship. You need to analyze coaches in comparison to what they have done with their resource base. Lavin managed to go 10-19 in this sixth season (whatever happened to building a program?) .
(2) Lavin has been trying to get back into coaching every year since he was fired by UCLA. Nobody has hired him. There is a reason for that. Even more troubling is the fact that despite Lavin’s experience as a top assistant coach at Purdue during Gene Keady’s best seasons, Purdue chose not to offer their job to Lavin when Keady announced his retirement a couple of years ago.
In the end, NC State needs to pay special attention to its brand management (which is something that Lee Fowler’s acceptance of poor performance and years of arguing with the fanbase indicates he can’t comprehend.) Why would NC State want to hire any coach that couldn’t get the job done to the standards of other schools?
Post-script – Read the first comment below for some statistical nuggest of Lavin’s “achievements” while at UCLA.