Fowler Not to Blame on this One

Link to tonight’s coaching conversation

I know that I am the last person in the world that you ever thought that you would see writing this piece, but I’ve seen a lot of Wolfpackers on message boards (and on this blog) trying to criticize Lee Fowler for the John Calipari situation. I had to chime in and share that I find that criticism unfair.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty in this world for which Lee Fowler can be criticized – NC State wouldn’t be in this current situation had he taken the appropriate and obvious steps to make a change in our basketball program five years ago. Nor would it exist had he had been more proactive about nudging Herb Sendek out of Raleigh in recent years when perhaps the coaching candidate pool contained more rising stars (like Bruce Pearl last year and Thad Matta the previous year). It sure would have been nice to have been prepared for Calipari’s re-entrance into college basketball six years ago or have spoken with Rick Barnes five years ago before he was established and settled in Austin.

But, you cannot criticize Lee Fowler for missing on John Calipari. I honestly believe that there was nothing that Fowler and NC State could have done differently in the Calipari situation. Nothing. As we stated in our de-brief tonight, John Calipari initiated contact with NC State. John Calipari pursued NC State. John Calipari verbally committed to NC State. John Calipari lied to everyone throughout the process. He played us like a master. You can’t criticize Fowler for pursing one of the two big names that everyone in the NC State community wanted to try to pursue.

Perhaps the overall NC State search could be executed more strategically? Perhaps Fowler should have had a short list that was more vetted than it appears has been the case (because, he knows basketball)? Perhaps we should have been through more than just two candidates in Day Ten of the search – especially since Fowler expressed that he knew of Arizona State’s interest and the likelihood of losing Sendek before it happend.

Regardless, the Calipari situation is over. We will never have to face Calipari on a regular basis because we know that he will never coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is time to move forward.

Fowler, to his credit, has gone after the two coaches NC State has coveted for many years. Kudos. He (we) didn’t land them. There may be one more candidate that will universally unite the fan base that remains – Jay Wright. Perhaps this is where the criticism for Fowler starts to become justified – if you’ve had weeks to get ready for this, how are we not more engaged with Wright? Maybe we are. It just doesn’t feel that way.

In Georgia Tech’s search five years ago, all the GT fans were asking for Bill Self and Calipari. Dave Braine did his homework, and got who he thought was the best mid major coach out there, Paul Hewitt.

Going after the major boys is great, but the two downsides are (1) you can get burned and (2) some really good mid-major candidates get taken before you get to them. For example Mike Anderson (UAB to Mizzou) may have been a good fit for us. Same with Bobby Gonzalez (Manhatten to Seton Hall). Mark Turgeon at Wichita State just signed a contract extension.

I have heard/seen a few comments tonight that spoke to how Lee Fowler didn’t want to go after Calipari to begin with and was ‘pushed’ into by the Wolfpack Club and certain blogs. (No shit. How is that for a hoot! Talk about power!!!! I don’t know if I would want to admit that, however). I just wonder who these people who criticize would have acccepted as #2 on our list? Sounds like the same mindset that has driven our program into this ditch — Don’t aim high. Don’t set big goals. Don’t let anyone know that you want to be the best. When you live life in that manner then you can never fail!

I have no idea who Fowler’s original Plan B was supposed to be. I don’t think anyone really does. Public indications point to it being John Brady.

And somehow, certain critics of those that wanted to aim high think that Lee Fowler’s master plan of John Brady is supposed to make everyone feel BAD about trying to get Calipari? Non-sense. If anything it justifies exactly why State had to take swings of the bat at big named candidates. It’s not our fault that Fowler never proactively created a situation over the last six years where NC State could control its own destiny with a more strategic coaching move as opposed to a reactionary one.

Fowler, if he hasn’t done so, needs to start examining mid major candidates and be prepared for that avenue if Jay Wright is not the guy. There is a Jim Valvano, Coach K, Bobby Cremmins, or Paul Hewitt out there. Fowler must find him. Afterall, he knows basketball.

General NCS Basketball

105 Responses to Fowler Not to Blame on this One

  1. motorhead 04/12/2006 at 6:03 AM #

    If Calipari really committed verbally and reneged, he is a very poor role model to his players and for his university. He is not a man and we don’t need him. I’m sure he could care less as his chauffeur drives him to the bank. Every dog has its day.

  2. motorhead 04/12/2006 at 6:04 AM #

    Westcoast, the guy from Nevada wouldn’t be a bad choice.

  3. class of 74 04/12/2006 at 6:32 AM #

    First, I totally agree with the sentiments of this piece. IMHO, we should go after Wright quickly and forcefully. If we are shot down then we look at 3 to four “B list” guys and make the hire. No to Brady or Larranaga or anyone like that. Go to the up-and-comers list and not singularly as we have done so far.

    Sure we are all disappointed but, looking on the bright side for a moment, we don’t have Herb and even Haith or Marshall will be an improvement in the long run. The only mistake so far was to negotiate singularly with our “A list”. We must learn from our mistakes and move forward. But remember Case, Sloan and Valvano were not big name, splash hires when they came aboard either.

  4. WolfHunt 04/12/2006 at 6:38 AM #

    I think we ought to stick with the high-risk candidates. We have one more top candidate (Wright) to shoot for. If that doesn’t work, then I think that we should look at the other end of the spectrum. Look for a coach at a small school who knows the game and has charisma. If we hired a potential “diamond in the rough,” then many fans would get upset, but at least he would be easy to fire in a few years if things did not improve. If we take a “safe” candidate, I’m afraid we’ll end up with Sendek, Part II — okay, but not great (and difficult to fire).

  5. SaccoV 04/12/2006 at 6:47 AM #

    Mark Fox would be a fabulous choice if he didn’t just receive a 5-year extension at Nevada YESTERDAY!!!

  6. Fletch 04/12/2006 at 6:48 AM #

    Lavin is interesting. He struggled at UCLA because he was young and hired buddies as assistants. I wonder if he has matured, and would be ready to learn from his mistakes? He is an excellent recruiter, just needs an experienced staff. To SFN: thanks for all of the discussions, and what is your feelings of who is next? I think Jay Wright is a waste of time, and would only fein interest for more money where he is. Do we just go for Gillispie? I wonder if he would come if A&M matched our offer? What are your thoughts?

  7. Fletch 04/12/2006 at 6:52 AM #

    Mark Fox only has 2 years of coaching experience. I believe he has only been there 2 years. I don’t know if he coached anywhere else prior to that.

  8. graywolf 04/12/2006 at 6:58 AM #

    I still say we go after Jay Wright first and then look to a mid-major or even Winthrop, but you still go after the proven product first. Fowler really did as he was asked by the fan base, but now we are on shaky ground because we know that he “knows basketball” and that is scary.

  9. danmanley2299 04/12/2006 at 6:59 AM #

    I dont know what I think anymore. I just want a coach. I called in sick to work today, need to play golf to clear my mind. I think going for the fences was a great plan, not sure where we go from here. Most of the folks I like juust reinked new contracts.

  10. Hawkeye Whitney 04/12/2006 at 7:24 AM #

    If we go after Wright and strike out, the athletic department then looks ridiculous. I can’t blame Fowler for Calipari, but what is the deal with (apparently) going down the short list one name at a time in such an agonizing and public manner. I would hope that Fowler is expanding his options and making multiple contacts simultaneously.

  11. Tired in Florida 04/12/2006 at 7:30 AM #

    …this is is the point in time where I’m afraid that arrogance on the part of Fowler will come into play…..he had two shots at high profile coaches (either of which would have unified the fanbase) and both fell through……the last big name that probably could (Wright) is a home town boy at ‘Nova with an $8.8M buyout clause in his contract and realistically this just ain’t gonna happen….bottom line is that the big red reset button was just pushed and at this point IMHO we should begin to look for the best mid major we can get – one with a personality and style of play that the fanbase will perceive to be an improvement over Sendek and therefor one that the fanbase will at least give a honeymoon chance to….. after all, (and we can’t repeat this enough times) unification of the fanbase should be Fowler’s #1 priority and is where I hope his arrogance doesn’t get in the way…….

  12. motorhead 04/12/2006 at 7:34 AM #

    If Fowler has done his job, and we give him the benefit of the doubt, he has had contacts with several other coaches. Hopefully he should have realized that Calipari was not a slam dunk and did not put all his eggs in one basket. That is what I would expect and from a well paid athletic director of a major school. I think if we start to see news quickly, this is the case. If nothing happens for awhile, then he obviously did not hedge.

  13. TNCSU 04/12/2006 at 7:49 AM #

    Lavin actually may be a good risk as I doubt ESPN will try to match our offer! He’s charismatic, but is he the blue collar guy we want?? I still think Marshall from Winthrop could be our guy. Wright would be a good pick, but he’s from the Philly area – doubt he’d come. How about Sean Miller at Xavier? What’s his record there?

  14. marathonman 04/12/2006 at 7:52 AM #

    I believe Fowler stated that he had advised the other candidates that the job was Calipari’s if he wanted it. Implying that there were other candidates being considered. At this point I don’t think we can afford to offer that same gratitude to Wright and everyone needs to be considered and evaluated at once…..I hope Haith, Marshall and Whittenburg have at least been contacted at this point…

  15. Rick 04/12/2006 at 7:57 AM #

    I criticize Lee for the way he has run the program not for one mistake (similar to my criticism of Herb).

    As for Wright. why not go for it. I am to the point that I do not want to know anything until it is done.

    In retrospect not getting Cal is good, especially if he is truly that much of a scumbag. We would be dealing with him holding us for ransom eveytime a job came open.

  16. booman group 04/12/2006 at 8:06 AM #

    Listening to David Glenn this AM he feels we should pursue Jay Wright and see what happens. He felt that Calapari used his displeasure with Memphis to get fat raise because of his interest in State and other coaching jobs out there. He said Fowler has done a good job on the search and should keep trying to land an A list coach. He also mentioned Creen at Marquette as another coaching choice. he DIDN’T mention Brady at all.

  17. booman group 04/12/2006 at 8:08 AM #

    oh one of the Mom’s of a new Memphis recruit called Calapari “sneaky” so it’s probally a very good thing we didn’t get this clown. from the way he played us, we don’t want someone who’s an a-hole.

  18. WP 01 04/12/2006 at 8:15 AM #

    Thank you so much for writing this and posting it where it will get a lot of read time. I thank Mr. Fowler for the effort he’s put thusfar. I have all the confidence in the world he will land a coach that will continue to improve the status of our program.

  19. Jason2413 04/12/2006 at 8:16 AM #

    I was truly taken aback when all this Calipari business shaked out. That just really sucks, because IMO he was the best fit for us. Seriously. And I was reading everything which indicated he WANTED to come here from the beginning. That just sucks.

    Wright is probably a very very long shot but go ahead and try, while checking out the low high majors and mid majors. I would be happy with someone like Gillispie, Haith, or Turgeon, all of whom I think have excellent upside potential.

  20. RAWFS 04/12/2006 at 8:17 AM #

    I only wish someone were writing one of those Feinstein-style first person insider books about this coaching search. I would love to know how things really went down. I suspect that the truth is a dozen times more interesting than all the stuff the press made up.

  21. Mr O 04/12/2006 at 8:27 AM #

    If Herb Sendek had been nudged out five years ago or at anytime in the last five seasons, then there is still no guarantee that somebody with the stature of Calipari or Barnes would have come.

    Additionally, Calipari and Barnes didn’t have the same stature 5 years ago that they have today. Both of their records would look much, much differently. Calipari’s first few years at Memphis were NIT trips. This last year thrust him back into the limelight with a No. 1 seed and final 8 trip. Barnes was a good coach 5 years ago, but his performance over the last five years has taken him near the top of the game. He still would have been a great hire five years ago, but not a hire at the level he is today.

    My point is that hiring Calipari or Barnes in the past wouldn’t have been the same in terms of hiring them now. Their names weren’t as “big” in the past as they are today because they weren’t as accomplished.

    Secondly, we could very easily hire a guy that was at a similar point in building their resumes as Calipari and Barnes were 5 years ago so it would actually be close to an equal hire. Our job is certainly much more attractive today than it was five years ago because of the players in the program and because our program has been much more visible over the last five years.

    I would disagree with any criticism of Fowler’s decision to retain Herb five years ago. From my recollection, the most likely coach was actually Dave Odom. So IMO the last five years worked out well enough that there is no reason to look back and question past decisions.

    I still think we will end up with a quality coach. He is just going to be someone who is still building his name and there is nothing wrong with that. If we could get the next Paul Hewitt from a mid-major, then I would take that in a second. Bruce Pearl came from a mid-major afterall just a single year ago.

  22. Disting_gent 04/12/2006 at 8:34 AM #

    My question, as the saga continues, is what we, as the Wolfpack Nation, should do differently to be sure that we do to hinder the search. SFN, for good reason, has received accolades for the information contained and the investigative techniques taken by the members on the board.

    I just can’t help wondering if our overzealousness (that’s a 5 syllable word- wonder if UNC grads are confused) might have tainted any of the decision making by Rick or Cal. Guys (and gals posting) we must face the facts that we are not merely conversing with our brethren of the NCSU tree, but we are also being monitored by the world.

    We are high profile. We, as NCSU, are being watched as the best job available. We, as SFN contributors, are being watched as the pulse of the Wolfpack nation. We must not take this lightly.

    So, as we apparently begin to court my personal #1 favorite coach (Jay Wright is one helluva coach, all pluses, no misuses; although it may be a losing battle), I ask that we each take ownership in the coaching search, and self regulate the words and techniques that are used. We must represent ourselves as not only passionate, resourceful and intelligent (even if it tainted the secrecy of negotiations, the plane tracking was BRILLIANT!! One for the ages), but also patient and supportive of those in ou family, including LeeF.

    My plea, fellow pack. Stay positive, and let’s not make a mockery of our own process. There will be plenty of outsiders doing that for us.

  23. 1roofgod 04/12/2006 at 8:37 AM #

    Whittenburg Or Billy Gillespie at Texas A&M

  24. PittsburghPackFan 04/12/2006 at 8:38 AM #

    My thoughts this morning ( after I said my now-ritual FU Calipari ):

    1) I really don’t think we should waste any more time on Wright, Pitino, or Tubby. It just won’t make sense financially for them to leave to come here. Plus Wright is coaching in his hometown and alma mater?

    2) I believe Lavin got really great players to come to UCLA because of the school AND brcause he was in LA. I don’t think he could perform the same magic here. Also, excluding some nice NCAA tourney runs, didn’t his teams annually get worse every year he was there?

    3) The more I hear about Gregg Marshall, the more I like him. But does he have a fighter’s mentality? THAT’S what it will take to win in Raleigh.

    4) Whittenburg, I know nothing about him except that he may have some ties in Atlanta, NY and DC. That can’t be bad, AND he drastically improved Fordham. They are in the A10 though, so does it mean anything?

    5) I don’t know where to stand on Doherty. Did he recruit those players, or did the University? How good of an X’s and O’s guy is he? I just get geeked about him because his teams ( on the court ) seemed so focused and hard-working. They were just out-talented. I also love the thought of a State team with him as coach using the 4 Corners to run out the clock to victory in CH.

    Now, discuss amongst yerselves.

  25. coppertop 04/12/2006 at 8:40 AM #

    ESPN reports us to be going after John Brady? I hope that is just speculation… I hope we go for wright 1st, although if not hopefully he’s next in line after we ensure that brady gets a nice raise at LSU.

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