It only took NC State’s hometown newspaper a couple of years for it to sink in, but it’s starting to sink in.
First, a SFN Flashback to March 2005, in an entry entitled Understanding Wolfpack Fans, Part 1:
Todayâ€™s myth Iâ€™d like to tackle is one that we see quite frequently in the winter. Itâ€™s the idea that NC State fans judge a coach just on his personality. Itâ€™s usually expressed in this fashion: NC State fans donâ€™t like Herb Sendek because he doesnâ€™t have the personality of Chuck Amato or Jim Valvano.
Letâ€™s examine this statement. Yes, there are a great many (significantly greater than 50) NC State fans who donâ€™t like Herb Sendek. Yes, there are a great many Wolfpack fans who like Jim Valvano and Chuck Amato. Itâ€™s true that Chuck Amato and Jim Valvano both have larger-than-life personalities. And it is true that Herb Sendek doesnâ€™t have the personality of Chuck Amato or Jim Valvano.
But does it follow that the coachâ€™s personality is what determines whether NC State fans like him? Does a coach need a larger-than-life personality for Wolfpack fans to like him?
Of course not. Thatâ€™s rock stupid. … If the experts were willing to investigate the matter further (read: at all), they might ask if there is any coach with a subdued personality that Wolfpack fans liked. It wouldnâ€™t take long to discover Dick Sheridan. The gentlemanâ€™s coach. Taciturn, meek, so nice he couldnâ€™t even dump 70 points on Mack Brown when he had the chance and instead called a second half full of dive plays — the man is beloved among Wolfpack fans. Yet even though they coached a few years together, he was the antithesis to Valvano.
So much for the myth. So what else could it be? Why do NC State fans like Valvano and Amato but not Herb?
What was the answer? Those of you who are playing at home already know. Media peeps, take a guess at it before reading on. OK, here it is:
Hereâ€™s a novel idea: wins. Herb has coached here nine years, and in that time he hasnâ€™t won a title nor made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, to which he has gone only three times. Valvano coached one year more than Herb, and in that time he finished first in the ACC regular season twice, he won the ACC championship twice, he saw several Sweet Sixteens, a couple of Elite Eights, one Final Four and one National Championship.
Now, here’s where it gets good. Raleigh’s News & Observer ran what, to them, counts as Christmas spirit — an article about WHAT HAPPENED that caused Chuck Amato to lose his job as head football coach at NC State. Here’s a link to the full article, but the headline sums it up well (emphasis added):
Amato’s style wears thin without wins
Surprise, surprise huh? Not to Wolfpack fans. As SFN noted nearly two years ago:
Amato, while not yet winning a title, has given NC Stateâ€™s lowly football tradition its winningest season and has gone to bowls four out of five seasons. His last season, however, was a losing season — but he was able to recruit well regardless, so Wolfpack fans have continued high expectations for his teams. If Amato has another year or two like 2004, however, donâ€™t think his personality will keep Wolfpack fans from grumbling. … [T]he simple fact is, NC State fans do care about winning. Once you realize that, youâ€™ll see why the Personality of the Coach Myth is a myth.
Funny thing is, that was written back when Amato’s style was “in” because of the wins. But the general principle holds: a coach’s personality is a personal negative when he loses, and a positive when he wins. But it’s related to wins and losses. No one, not even Wolfpack fans, wants a flamboyant loser or a “gentleman” loser. Not because of mass disaffection with the idea of a genteel or flamboyant coach, but because of mass disaffection with losing.
It takes signature ignorance of a fan base to assume, as the old media seem frequently to do, that it’s the personality of the coach that matters most. When it comes to a “foreign” (ya mean they don’t like Carolina? whaaaaat?) fan base such as the Wolfpack’s, reporters apparently need an “insider” such as Reef Ivey to spell it out for them: “If you’re winning, people put up with personality traits they don’t particularly like. But if you do not win …” (To translate: It’s winning that matters! DUH!)
Addendum: Speaking of Sheridan, NC State’s new football coach, Tom O’Brien, has been compared to him. Provided TOB continues his winning ways at NC State, we’ll like him just fine. But not because he reminds us of Sheridan or because he’s “the anti-Amato.”
Here’s the Big Secret in Raleigh: Our judgment of Coach O’Brien, Coach Lowe, and future Wolfpack coaches will rest ultimately on their W’s and L’s. Just like other fan bases’ judgments of their coaches.