Around the year 2000 when I first started my slow education of all things NC State, my father would tell me about “The Big Four” which always confused me because I couldn’t see what accomplishments or competitive edge the four universities had in common.
For those who are younger (like me) and may not be aware, “The Big Four” are NC State, Wake Forest, Duke, and UNC who used to all play in the Dixie Classic tournament in the 1940′s through the beginning of the 1960′s and later in the Big Four tournament of the 1970′s. Generally speaking, these where four pretty good basketball programs that could all compete with each other on any given day.
Since then, a couple of us have fell of the wagon. Suffice to say that NC State has seen better days (that mostly happen to reside a generation ago) and Wake Forest isn’t in any better shape (a few good seasons here and there, but they never have been a National Championship team). Actually, in the last 10 years, we’ve only been seeded in the top half of the conference 4 times. Not much of a powerhouse…
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. As our very own Alpha Wolf was kind enough to point out, the rhetoric that has been spewed for years is that NC State is obsessed with beating UNC and Duke to a fanatical extent for no damn good reason other than we feel inferior due to their success. The following is from an article published by Gary Parrish that Alpha Wolf posted in our forums.
Sendek coached the Wolfpack from 1996 to 2006 and finished in the top half of the ACC in each of his final five seasons, all of which resulted in NCAA tournament appearances. According to the “reasonable” Wolfpack fan who e-mailed, everything should’ve been hunky-dory. But everything wasn’t. N.C. State fans were so tough on Sendek after five straight NCAA tournaments that he decided to walk away and escape a scenario where he would very clearly never win enough to please the majority, and what Sendek has done at Arizona State in the subsequent years is irrelevant. The point remains the same. N.C. State fans were unhappy and glad to see their coach go after five straight NCAA tournaments.Why?
Because Duke and North Carolina were doing better.
This is technically correct, but not for the reasons that ole Gary thinks.
The problem is that the media seems to paint NC State as the third Baldwin to the ACC where we, as a program, struggle to ever be quite as good as UNC or Duke, yet want to pretend we are a part of their club. The media, either not willing or flat-out incapable to do the research, sees us do things like firing*** Herb Sendek, an “alright” coach, and assumes that since we are doing well by many programs’ standards, we must be upset that we aren’t “the other two Baldwins”.
Pay attention and you might learn something, Gary. Sure, NC State fans love beating UNC because… well… they are a cesspool of evil that spawns all we consider heinous on this earth. Duke we just dislike because they are an obstacle and old rival. So why don’t we hate Wake Forest? Easy… they aren’t an obstacle and quite frankly most of the fans you meet from Wake Forest aren’t complete a**holes.
NC State wants to regain national prowess. Period. That’s it. To do that, we must win championships in our conference, then in the NCAA tournament. Duke and UNC are an obstacle to that end. Therefore, NC State is upset when you can’t beat UNC and Duke because it means you can’t win a championship.
(***I know technically we didn’t “fire” Herb Sendek, but to be honest after hearing so many people bash NC State for “running him off”, I’ve started to take this little bit of false information as a badge of honor. You’re damn right that we wanted him fired and for all I care, I’m more than happy to take on the factually incorrect accusation that the FANS fired Herb Sendek because not being on the top is NOT okay.)
TOURNAMENT RESULTS SINCE 2000-2001
Since the 2000-2001 season, the first one that I really started paying attention to, NC State has only been seeded in the top half of the conference 4 times. How many times has Duke been in the top half of the conference during tournament time? TEN out of the last 11 seasons. What about Carolina? EIGHT out of the last 11 seasons. In addition to that, Duke has been to the ACC title game 9 times since 2000-2001, winning a total of 7 titles, and Carolina has been there 4 times, winning the title twice.
NC State has been to the title game just 3 times in the last 11 seasons, never once winning the title, and one of those years was the ‘pseudo-miracle run’ during Lowe’s first season. The only other program to go to the ACC championship game more than once during that time span was Georgia Tech. Note that Wake Forest isn’t even on the map. They had a few good seeds in the tournament, but couldn’t seem to make for good competition. They aren’t much of an obstacle.
Again, Gary, you have to keep in mind that NC State’s goal isn’t wins against UNC and Duke; it’s returning to national prominence and winning titles. So if NC State wants to win titles, who is it that is consistent in their way? It’s not Wake Forest or Maryland or anyone else that someone may rationalize should be a rival. It’s UNC and Duke. Those are the teams consistently in the championship game, so if we want a good litmus test on whether we are good enough to win the ACC championship, we have to be able to consistently compete with this caliber of competition.
They are good teams. I’m man enough to admit it. But NC State doesn’t want a coach that is going to just “upset” these guys out of some ‘obsession’. They want a coach that can have NC State in a position where THEY have to upset US because that means that our program is in good shape to be a conference and national player.
NUMBER OF TITLES
That’s not unreasonable, either. Consider that in 1990, these were the accomplishments for each of the three programs in question:
Conference Titles = 17
National Titles = 2
Conference Titles = 19
National Titles = 2 (I don’t include that Helms trophy peice of s**t)
Conference Titles = 13
National Titles = 0
So back in 1990 before all of the Valvano/NCAA/”wasn’t an issue but the conference/our administration screwed us over anyway” stuff, Duke was lagging behind NC State and UNC and all that separated “the flagship” with State were two conference championships. Both UNC and NC State were considered major “national” programs that were in the conversation for post-season aspiration every single season.
Now fast-forward to today. Where do we stand?
Conference Titles = 17
National Titles = 2
Conference Titles = 25
National Titles = 5
Conference Titles = 24
National Titles = 4
Again, Gary, it’s not specifically about beating UNC or Duke; it’s about returning to national prominence. You look at those numbers and what sticks out to you? Perhaps it’s the improvement of Duke, but it’s most likely the lack of change in NC State’s numbers. NC State has been dead-in-the-water since before the 1990s. If that were your program, what would your priority be? Would you be more concerned with beating one or two programs out there and risk firing “the world’s best coach” because he didn’t have enough head-to-head wins against rivals, or would you be more concerned with the fact that despite all of your “success” in making the NCAA tournament, your basketball program hasn’t been a real thread to ANYONE, in terms of hardware acquisition, since 1990?
NC State fans are smarter than you give them credit for. They want the damn hardware. Beating UNC and Duke is just the means to the end.
CONCLUSION (MOSTLY FOR GARY)
Last time I’ll say it, Gary: NC State doesn’t measure it’s success over some irrational obsession with UNC or Duke. It doesn’t care as much about head-to-head contests as you think and it isn’t going to fire an otherwise successful coach because those head-to-head records aren’t getting better. NC State hasn’t been a “game changer” threatening to grab national or conference titles in a long time, and that is NC State’s concern primary concern. Want to know why we would fire someone who can’t beat UNC and/or Duke? Because if they can’t beat UNC and/or Duke, they obviously can’t be in the running for the ACC title each year and can’t be counted on in the NCAA tournament.
What Gottfried brings to NC State is a lot of experience in grabbing titles. His staff, collectively, brings in 8 different conference championships and 1 national championship at their former posts. If Gottfried puts together a program that wins titles, it is going to have to beat UNC and Duke. That’s just how it is. Sure, the fans will whine and moan if we don’t beat our rivals, but at the end of the day, it’s our return as a national contender that is of primary concern. ALL of our coaches in the last 20 years have been incapable of doing that. That’s why they were fired; not because of some irrational obsession with conference rivals. If UNC manages to beat us more than 50% of the time Gottfried is here, once his program is established, of course, I promise you no one will care too much if that record is accompanied by a few ACC Champion plaques and some deep NCAA runs to the final four.
It’s all about image and ours isn’t tied to UNC and Duke. Now start doing your damn job, Gary, and help do some analysis on how we get back to where we deserve to be.