I am not a basketball coach. I do not even pretend to be but I do feel I possess an accurate perspective on NCSU basketball. I have been watching and playing basketball for 30+ years, have been a State fan as long as I can remember. I have been paying real close attention to the ten year Herb Sendek era. Based on my experiences and observations I believe I can offer a few insights into NC State and its fans.
First, let me thank you for agreeing to be our coach. You knew the situation you inherited was not ideal and would require a lot of hard work to meet the fans expectations. When looking at the situation you saw:
1) a lack of actual players (6 scholarship players to start the year)
2) a lack of traditional positions (i.e. no PG or center)
3) a lack of experience (2 returning players that had played meaningful minutes)
4) media bias towards Sendek (they seemed to love him)
5) a perception that NCSU fans ran off a “successful coach” (I bet you do not define success as trips to the NCAA)
6) UNC and Duke basketball history, programs and coaches (can we start a fund for the retirement of K and Roy?)
So here is some advice from a part time hack:
1) Keep the positive spirit that seems to be your trademark – Both you and the team keep plugging away without complaint when you could easily call it quits. Everyone appreciates this, especially our “don’t give up, don’t ever give up” fans.
2) Keep reminding the players of our tradition - Having DT and other former greats visit the players just reminds them that NCSU basketball is about more than just this team. It is a glorious history filled with great players and spectacular moments. Sometimes players perform better knowing they are part of something greater than themselves. NCSU fans were sick of being told they should know their place. We DO know our place and so do you.
3) Keep selling yourself - I love listening to your interviews. You do not give the esoteric, obtuse and sometimes terse retorts NCSU fans have come to loathe. You are straightforward and direct while being humorous yet confident. Your personality and enthusiasm will have the media eating out of your hand in no time.
4) Embrace our quirkiness – Let’s be honest, NCSU fans can be a pain. All schools’ fans are pains, but all schools’ fans aren’t as knowledgable or passionate as Wolfpackers. After 15 frustrating years, we have no bandwagon fans. That means that what is left is – by nature – the rabid “lunatic fringe”. To compound our problems is a severe little brother syndrome. We want to be better than UNC and Duke and hate the fact that we are not. What this means is when we love someone, we truly love them (see Valvano, Jim). I see the same passion in you and it gives me chills. Let everyone see that school passion, it will only endear you to us.
5) Lastly, and most importantly, really get to know the “big dogs” - Rightly or wrongly, the big donors will make or break your tenure, so I implore you to do your best to connect with them. They love you now, and they will continue to love you. But, as your tenure progresses in Raleigh some of their personal support can potentially be the difference in how you are assessed. Note that I am not telling you to dedicate a phony chair to someone’s deceased relative, but your relationship with them is critically important.
Good luck in your new position as head basketball coach of NC State University. I believe you will succeed and am pulling madly for you to do so. I have enjoyed watching you on the sideline and cannot wait to see what you accomplish!
Thanks from ALL WOLFPACKERS!