Former NC State head coaches hired, fired in state of Virginia

It’s been an interesting few weeks related to respected former NC State Head Football coaches.

First, the Wolfpack’s head man for the last six years, Tom O’Brien, accepted a job at the University of Virginia that saved NC State a million dollars in buyout. It was a GREAT move by the Cavaliers to land TOB (and John Tenuta). Definitely an upgrade for their staff.

Today, the News & Observer ran a very good article stating that Tom O’Brien does not harbor any anger towards NC State. The article is very comprehensive about TOB’s time in Raleigh and should be read if you have time. The following snipit is the set up:

Within two weeks of his dismissal as N.C. State’s football coach, Tom O’Brien knew he wasn’t ready to retire to a life of leisure.

Sure, he had given away all the Wolfpack gear in his wardrobe within 48 hours of the Nov. 25 firing, but that was more a matter of moving on than an expression of discontent. And in O’Brien’s case, moving forward meant accepting an associate head coach position at Virginia, where he previously spent 15 seasons as an assistant under George Welsh before becoming Boston College’s head coach in 1997.

In his first public comments Friday since his return to Charlottesville, Va., he joked that he was eager to defer all future media obligations to Cavaliers head coach Mike London, who coached under O’Brien for four seasons at BC. He offered no sign of irritation or disappointment in the end of his six-year tenure at N.C. State, only pointed pride at the program’s accomplishments during his time in Raleigh.

“I didn’t have any anger, I didn’t have any frustration,” O’Brien said of his response to his dismissal after compiling a 40-35 record and taking the Wolfpack to four bowl games in the last five years. “When I was hired at N.C. State, I was hired to do a job. I went there with the goals of being champions in the classroom, champions in the community and champions on the football field. That’s always been my goal.”

O’Brien cited academic strides – the Wolfpack football team’s 2011-12 Academic Progress Rate was 990, up 70 points from four years earlier – and the support of State’s academic community.

“I got some great letters from the faculty, how their whole perspective of athletics has changed since I was there … When I left Boston College, it was a top 3 [academic program in the ACC]. I went to N.C. State, and it was a bottom 3. Now we’re back in the top 3. I did what I was supposed to there.”

Of course, a series of TOB quotes wouldn’t be complete without some kind of Yankee-fied, snarky, backhanded swipe at everyone. I kinda feel like the following comment about other fans having “newfound respect” for poor old NC State all because of Tom O’Brien is one of those statements. If TOB is the reason for “newfound respect” then I’d like to remind all of the whacked out State fans that the penance of forcing Les Robinson, Larry Monteith, Todd Turner and Herb Sendek on us was as big of a failure as we preached for the last 20 years.

“I don’t have any regrets. I don’t feel bad,” O’Brien said about how his time at N.C. State ended. “I accomplished a lot. Many people in this profession expressed those feelings, and those are the only people that are really important to me, because they know what it’s like and they know what you have to go through. There were as many people – Carolina people, Duke people, Wake people – that would come up to me and tell me how much they respected what I did, the type of program I ran at N.C. State and had a newfound respect for State. So I think I accomplished a lot, and I have nothing to say one way or another, except to say it’s a new chapter, and it’s time to move on.”

Then, late this week Virginia Tech fired Mike O’Cain. I find this move FASCINATING because of the contrast it draws between coaches that are ultimately successful, and coaches that aren’t.

Much like Tom O’Brien, Mike O’Cain went through multiple years where he could’ve helped solidify his job security AND probably help the performance of his program if he would’ve just made some key changes on his coaching staff. And, much like TOB, MOC wouldn’t make any moves citing excuses like ‘loyalty’ and ‘continuity’. Yet, in the first year that MOC’s offense struggled at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer didn’t hesitate to make a move. Quick question, who is move successful – Frank Beamer or Mike O’Cain? Some people have what it takes to lead and be successful. Some people don’t.

Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller Mike O’Cain has been fired.

O’Cain said he was informed Tuesday by football coach Frank Beamer that he would not be part of the Hokies’ staff next season.

“It’s just part of this business,” O’Cain said Thursday night. “It’s not a part that you look forward to at all. Sometimes you don’t understand why things happen when they do. Frank’s in charge of this thing. He has to do what he thinks is best for this football program.”

O’Cain was the head coach at North Carolina State from 1993-1999 and the offensive coordinator at North Carolina and Clemson after that, before joining Tech’s staff before the 2006 season.


O’Cain said he was aware of growing fan unrest surrounding the offense’s productivity, but said he did not know changes were coming until the offseason.

“There was never any indication during the season that anything was going to happen,” O’Cain said. “I’ve been in this profession for 36 years. You know when things aren’t going good and you’re struggling and there’s a disgruntled bunch out there, for whatever the reason, that that could happen. But I had no inclination that it was going to happen.”

The 58-year-old O’Cain said he’d like to remain in coaching and has been “involved” in a few searches this offseason, but “they didn’t quite pan out.”

O’Cain said his age is an obstacle to getting hired as is his primary position. As a quarterbacks coach, he’d need to find a team where the offensive coordinator is not also the quarterbacks coach. Tech is expected to announce the hiring of three new offensive assistants as early as Friday.

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12 Responses to Former NC State head coaches hired, fired in state of Virginia

  1. packalum44 01/19/2013 at 9:20 AM #

    Poor TOB was forced to get rid of 30 guys in his first 3 years. The stupid f***unsolicitedly volunteered our team for Penn State type penalties and then uses it as an excuse.

    I’ve complained for years about him kicking guys off the team and how it has cost us wins but for him to come out and say it. I despise him. What a complete asshole moron.

  2. IMFletcherWolf 01/19/2013 at 9:52 AM #

    ^ Geez, tell us what you really think.

  3. LifeLongWolf 01/19/2013 at 10:25 AM #

    In general, I like TOB and I think he is a decent human being. I DO think he left us better than he found us.

    But I have to wonder about the “I’m not mad about getting fired” part. Either he’s just too polite to air his dirty laundry in public (very possible) or he was never fully emotionally invested in the first place. I suspect it’s a little of both, and the lack of full emotional investment was noticeable on the field. This manifested in the way he reacted, in “in-game” coaching snafus (really? you couldn’t be bothered to teach directional punting? what else do the punters have to do in practice? also see time management, 4th down calls, etc.), the way he failed at recruiting, and the way the players performed.

    I’m totally making stuff up based on suspect info that I obtained from lazy journalists, so this may be 100% wrong. But there you go.

  4. Astral Rain 01/19/2013 at 11:21 AM #

    I have respect for what TOB did. Without the improvements TOB did, we wouldn’t have been able to hire DD- he did a great job laying the building blocks of a program.

    State’s players were/are champions in the classroom and community, but not on the field. 2 out of 3 is respectable, but not enough to last more than 6 years. A school like State deserves a 3 out of 3.

    I would cheer for TOB when he is introed as a visitor, much like I would CTC, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad they’re in their current roles instead of coaching here- despite my respect for each of them.

  5. Wufpacker 01/19/2013 at 12:58 PM #

    ^ Ditto on that. Well said.

  6. MrPlywood 01/19/2013 at 6:51 PM #

    Has any other coach ever made so many moves within the same conference?

  7. Alpha Wolf 01/19/2013 at 7:15 PM #

    You don’t have to teach directional punting to tell the kicker to put the dadgum ball out of bounds no matter what.

  8. choppack1 01/20/2013 at 7:11 AM #

    Alpha- what happens a lot in those cases is that the punter kicks it out of bounds….20 yards down the field.

    But hey, the man was 5-1 vs. Unc…5 of those games were against bowl eligible teams/team with a winning record. Much, much better than amato.

    And I have no doubt he is pissed. He was hired by lee fowler. The last 3 seasons would have had lee screaming with joy. Our current ad is a different sort and expects more. Time will tell if she is a male version of amato (who ultimately won’t be able to maintain the stability to build something special) or the ad that changed the course of nc state athletics for the better.

  9. choppack1 01/20/2013 at 7:14 AM #

    Also, an interesting thought to think about how 2 punts may have made the difference between tob being worshipped vs. Tob being fired.

  10. NOT A FAN OF BLUE 01/20/2013 at 11:28 AM #

    Best 6 State coaches … (avg wins) per year vs FBS (only) teams:

    Holtz 8.25
    Sheridan 7.33
    Amato 7.17
    Bo Rein 6.75
    MOC 6.17
    TOB 5.67

    Of the last 3 State coachng regimes, the average final national rankings:

    MOC #53
    Amato #38
    TOB #55

    Bottom line: We were regressing.

  11. Wulfpack 01/20/2013 at 3:40 PM #

    If he did what he was hired to do, then he wasn’t hired to do all that much. I respect him, but he is an average coach, as his record depicts.

  12. ppack3 01/21/2013 at 10:13 AM #

    When you think back on how many talented kids were “let go” because they didn’t match up with TOB’s “standards, it’s pretty amazing. TOB is not going to manage those guys. He wants “Yes Sir” men coming in ass freshmen. Well, those guys are 2-3 star guys. And, I’m not knocking the players that we have. But, I am saying that you have to have your share of elite players (bare minimum) to compliment those guys if you expect to win championships.

    TOB took the Pack job saying that he thought that they could recruit better in Raleigh than he could recruit in Chestnut Hill. I’m not sure if he meant “better rated players” or not, but he brought in a couple of guys (Sam Jones, for example) that could have been monsters but they couldn’t cut it according to TOB.

    The deterioration of Coach Horton’s health really hurt the chances that State would be the “O-Line U” that BC was during the O’Brien era. The other thing that differed from what we expected when TOB was hired? Mike Archer. We didn’t get Spaz in the package deal. I really think that we’d have been a bit better if (a) Spaz had come to Raleigh with TOB, or (b) TOB took the initiative to replace archer a few years ago.

    Lastly, the only thing that annoys me about TOB is his distortion of statistics in order to make a point. His assertion that we beat UNC 5/6 times, and we were 4-2 over top-25 teams over the past 2-3 years, is a bit misleading. Yes, we beat two top-10 teams and went 5-1 against UNC, when other programs cannot say the same things. However, the flip-side of that coin is to ask, “Then Coach, if you beat those teams, who did you lose to?” That, in a nutshell, is why TOB is not in Raleigh. Apathy for the team was at an all-time high. Whole games went by without articles about them on FAN SITES! That’s pretty bad. And, Debbie knew it. After all, her Inbox was out of control enough that she had to write people back with bulk responses, rather than responding individually as normal.

    I respect what TOB did here. I think that he built a good foundation and for that, I thank him, his staff and his players. But, we needed a refreshing shot in the arm. And, I think that we got that in Dave Dorean. I think he brings the best of both Amato and O’Brien. Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see what kind of success he has as the HC at State. But, I really see DD having the personality to recruit AND manage talent (rather than refusing to take on that task, as TOB). I see DD’s enthusiasm rubbing off on the players and the fans. And, I see that he’s saying that he’s very committed to running a clean program. Time will tell, on all of those counts.

    Funny, two days after he was fired, I got rid of all of my TOB gear. No hard feelings.

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