By the time Mark Gottfried was hired, I was indifferent, borderline lethargic.
I was working in Puerto Rico that week, with no 3G and very limited Wi-Fi, and I’d already begun my self-imposed month-long hiatus – like I do every spring – away from all things N.C. State, which is entirely necessary to preserve my sanity. Every April I wonder how that kid from the foothills ended up a lifelong State fan and the only answer that ever seems to make sense is indeed quite simple: it wasn’t a choice, it’s inherent. So every May I find my way back.
I’ll forever remember my response on that Tuesday afternoon in April, when I got my buddy’s text that we’d hired Gottfried, which mercifully ended another grueling coaching search that it’s unfair to call mishandled, but entirely fair to call disappointing: “Don’t even joke about that, can you imagine how screwed we are if that’s true?”
Perhaps that reaction was irrational, based on Gottfried’s lineage and marginal success at both Murray State and then Alabama. But it was an honest reaction nonetheless. Look, it’s nothing against Gottfried, necessarily. I’d read The Letter the night before, so I’d made peace with the fact this coaching search wouldn’t end any better than the previous one. Regardless of what I hoped, I knew all along it wouldn’t be Billy Donovan; and as soon as Arizona beat Duke, I knew it wouldn’t be Sean Miller. I understood that we’d blown our shot at Rick Barnes last time around.
But as a long-suffering State fan, I was finally forced to accept that, in fact, all those folks were right: our job wasn’t the destination job we all so vehemently believed. The great N.C. State tradition of the older generations – the one largely responsible for building the ACC into something beyond a regional phenomenon – had been effectively and systemically annihilated by two decades of corrupt, opportunistic cronyism by our incompetent – and far too often, impotent – administration.
So while I’ll admit I didn’t necessarily find the hire inspiring, being a pragmatist I can at least appreciate its necessity, and I decided immediately to give him a fair chance, just like I did his predecessors. I wasn’t impressed by his coach-speak at the introductory press conference, because every coach “says all the right things” when he’s hired. Saying the right things doesn’t make him a winner. But he does seem to have an appreciation for the task at hand as well as the often unrealistic expectations us State fans tend to have. And so far, he’s assembled a fine staff and he’s apparently made quite the immediate impact on the recruiting trail.
It’s far too early for me to formulate any kind of definitive opinion about Mark Gottfried. But for me, his real value before he’s coached even a single game has proven to be intangible. He’s obviously both well-liked and -respected by his former ESPN colleagues, and just a few months into his tenure he’s already generated an improved perception of this wannabe program that can never expect to compete with Carolina and Duke.
If nothing else, I’ve somehow found myself excited about the possibility of Gottfried returning us to prominence, and I’m making a concerted effort to have a positive outlook on what he offers. Obviously, I wish him nothing but wild, unrivaled success. He may never win a game at State, but if having him on the sidelines keeps Mike Patrick and Andy Katz from constantly running their yaps about their favorite coach out in the desert, then I’ll forever remember Gottfried as one of State’s great coaches.
As for results, I don’t ask for much. Just beat Carolina and Duke regulalry and win the ACC Tournament. I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all.