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. WP 01 04/12/2006 at 8:40 AM #

    I don’t have sour grapes towards Cal. No one can ever say that he’s fed up with the status of Conference USA anymore. Apparently he’d much rather prepare for Rice, SMU, and UTEP than Duke, UNC, and Maryland. More power to him—-he’ll probably make the tourney every year as a 2-4 seed and maybe make the Elite 8 every 4 or 5 years. He’ll be a hero and have a nice legacy. He’ll go down in history as being a good coach at a solid mid major school and ride off in the sunset with no significant accomplishments unless you’re a resident of Western TN or Northern Miss.

  2. StateFans 04/12/2006 at 8:42 AM #

    Quite the contrary, John Calipari wanted/needed the media attention so much that he leaked it himself to Andy Katz. No media attention, especially on internet message boards and blogs – that are all made up of the 50 lunatics on the internet – are taken seriously.

  3. GAWolf 04/12/2006 at 8:45 AM #

    Can everyone agree that we don’t need a John Brady? Brady, for instance, is a flash in the pan this last year considering he accomplished what he did with what essentially was an entire team from right there in Baton Rouge. That tells me that he got lucky as hell by just happening on a few great athletes right in his own backyard. Without those guys, he hasn’t done a whole lot.

    I think NC State would be much better served by what has been dubbed on this site as an “up-and-comer” than a flash-in-the-pan name that has only been in the forefront of college basketball this season alone.

    I agree with the sentiment that Gillespie, assuming he does have a liking to the Princeton-like offense, would be a terrible hire. Most fans I’m close to all agree that the last ten years would have been a lot less painful had we just played a less-boring brand of ball. Call it the Willie-Mays-Hayes or the Sidney Deans (White Men Can’t Jump) Syndrome if you will, but there’s something to the idea of at least looking good while losing. We have played terrible basketball over the last ten years and that goes for many of the games we wound up losing. I don’t think the Wolfpack fanbase can take many more ten minute scoring droughts.

    If we’re going after an older 2nd Tier coach, which is what I’d consider Brady, then we might as well go after Lavin. And if we’re going after a young guy who we’re going to have to gamble on, please God don’t let it be someone who runs the same offense that we just kicked out of town.

  4. BLUE SUCKS 04/12/2006 at 8:45 AM #

    We need to move on.

    Herb was (is) a good coach … just not the kind of coach we have to have.

    Xs and Os will only carry you so far. We MUST have a coach with a firey disposition, as well.

    At the end of the day, to get the most out of the Lorenzos and Damons and Cedrics we recruit, we need a coach with a commanding presence … like a Knight or a K … like a Valvano and a Sloan.

    We need to find OUR guy … and we don’t have to justify bringing in the likes of a Calipari to get him.

  5. booman group 04/12/2006 at 8:47 AM #

    What are the thoughts on Crean from Marquette? I know he’s still on the list and I don’t know much more about him except what I’ve seen in the NCAAT and the success of Dwanye Wade.

  6. 1roofgod 04/12/2006 at 8:47 AM #

    Stick to our former player he will offer the best opportunity, the least negative commentary, and the most commitment from the Fan base, we may actually support him. He has more to offer today’s athlete as far as his experience and he learned to recruit from Cremins and may reopen the Dematha connection and retain specualtive recruits such as Nate McMillan’s son…Dereck Whittenburg! call him 718-817-4245

  7. motorhead 04/12/2006 at 8:51 AM #

    No one cares about my opinion; but they should put an offer in front of Wright. If it gets leaked, then pull it.

  8. JoeDog 04/12/2006 at 8:51 AM #

    Not so fast, my friend! One thing could pop up and bite John Cal in the ass. Its called NCAA Sanctions. Violations are most likely going on and there was a history of stuff happening at UMass. How do you take a school like UMass, which wasn’t on the map, and turn it into a national Bball school? Heard about the booster, in Memphis, who bought a player for Alabama. Someone capped his ass yesterday. Its going on. NCAA Sanctions will kill a coaching career. And this is what will give me great satisfaction when Cali is struggling to make 7 figures at some obscure school in bumfucegypt

  9. NCSU94GRAD 04/12/2006 at 8:52 AM #

    Why are we still hearing Brady? Doesn’t Fowler understand we don’t want him and Wolfpack Nation will be even more divided if he goes down that road?

    Just curious, why is no one talking about Mark Turgeon from Wichita State? Thoughts? He has an impressive lineage….check it out at…

  10. Cardiff Giant 04/12/2006 at 8:54 AM #

    I’m ready to hire Frito Bandito as long as it’s not the guy from LSU.

  11. 1roofgod 04/12/2006 at 8:55 AM #

    Turgeon has talent!

  12. booman group 04/12/2006 at 8:55 AM #

    well it’s already started from the UNC guys.. my co-worker just told me “hey maybe State’s coaching job isn’t as attractive as y’all might think” it’s all I could do not to pummel him right in my office, but I need my job. 🙂

  13. Par Shooter 04/12/2006 at 8:56 AM #

    Like the folks at SFN, I’ve never had much use for Fowler since his arrival. I applaud him for aiming high with his first 2 choices during this search and I’m a little surprised that he has put such a full court press on Barnes and Cal. Kudos to him for at least giving it a shot. But I seriously question his instincts and ability to judge people and situations. The conventional wisdom now seems to be that Cal was using us all along. Considering the contact that Fowler had w/ Cal, I definitely fault him for not sniffing that out earlier and playing hardball or simply bailing. I think a big part of conducting searches of this type is being able to separate the bs from the truth and being able to recognize when you are being bluffed. On that count, there can be no doubt that Fowler has failed.

    I’d give Fowler an A for targeting Barnes and Cal first and being able to put together attractive offers. I said at the start of the search that we had to make Barnes, Cal and Wright say NO to great offers. That’s what we wanted him to do and I think he has done that for 2 and may well do it for Wright. After that, we look at the more attainable tier. Ultimately, he’ll be judged by how well he picks from the next group of coaches and that answer won’t be known for 2-3 years (at least). If he ends up finding a good fit that can win big, he’ll come out looking good…in some ways better than if we simply had bought a “sure thing”. Of course, there is the other side of this (ahem, Brady, Odom, etc.).

    But for all of that, I’d have to give Fowler a D for his execution of the Cal situation. At some point, when you’re being played like a fiddle, some alarms have to go off and you have to realize that you’re in a shake-down. And you damn sure better find a better exit strategy than just sitting around waiting for Cal to say “thanks for the raise, Lee”.

  14. WilmingtonWolf05 04/12/2006 at 8:56 AM #

    Yeah, I saw this one coming a mile away. I’ll hear it all day from both UNZ and EZU fans…. #@&%!

  15. wolfydave 04/12/2006 at 8:57 AM #

    I disagree, Lee knew at least 1-2 weeks in advance that Herb was probably going to leave yet its obvious now he had no PLAN A, B, C… hmmm sounds like the coach… Our whole issues surround the administrative decisions that this AD has failed or is incapable of making… go ahead cut our losses, fire him, and let a search committee find our next coach and bring in a new AD….

    quite frankly anyone we bring in now will not solve the problems of uniting the fanbase which was the #1 prerequisite of this hire.

  16. Tired in Florida 04/12/2006 at 8:58 AM #

    …you’re spot on motorhead IMHO… thing I’ve learned from all this is that whenever you see a leak involving contract details you can almost be 99.44% sure that it caomes form the offeree…..and it only stands to reason that anybody that does this can only do it because of a hidden agenda for gain at your expense…..hindsight is always 20-20 but I agree that when the trip and money details of Calapari’s offer started to leak, a rapid phone call and a potential ultimatum was in order if the right answers didn’t come back immedaitely….

  17. WilmingtonWolf05 04/12/2006 at 9:01 AM #

    I just have this sneaking suspicion that the lesbian sister school down the road has mettled in our coaching search. It just seems a little too much like a perfect storm of bad news for NC State AND Duke right now, while the smug smurfs sit quietly in the corner…. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do just have a feeling.

  18. GAWolf 04/12/2006 at 9:04 AM #

    If we hire Odom… I will immediately denounce my affiliation to Wolfpack Basketball.

  19. Winston Wolf 04/12/2006 at 9:04 AM #

    I really wanted Calipari. In the end, thank God we did not get him. The man’s a liar and we do not need a coach with low integrity.

    Can you imagine if he did come to State, he would be pitting against other college and pro teams every year to enhance his ego and his wealth? We don’t need a coach like that.

  20. goobnav 04/12/2006 at 9:05 AM #

    Booman, don’t believe the poo poo from the Tarhole bandwagon. Tell your co-workers that they better have their seatbelts on really tight when the Hole comes to a sudden stop. I agree, don’t go after Brady, he will just try to increase that $700K paycheck. Go after the mid-majors, Wright is not going to happen.

  21. goobnav 04/12/2006 at 9:10 AM #

    Wilmington, did you forget that the Hole is a terrorist camp for bad drivers. Living hear in the triangle, you would think that the media will only say good things about a school where you best friend can push you out a window. Don’t let the Smurfs get to you, remember they got canceled. Keep the faith Pack! Let’s get a coach and get ready to spank those illegitimate children at the Hole.

  22. J-wolf 04/12/2006 at 9:12 AM #

    I woke up today with a renewed sense of purpose. The shattered confidence of last night has been rebuilt, and I’m ready to move forward. This morning I wore my Wolfpack red polo shirt to work. This is a rare occurance, as I keep it stashed for big game days…but I figure today may just be the biggest game day of all for Wolfpack basketball. Last night I was down…I was seriously ready to give up. Part of me wanted for Wolfpack basketball to not hire anybody and just shut down for a couple of years. However, last night I had a dream of the last great NC State coach and I woke up some words bouncing around my head, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!”

    We’re NC State, after all, and we’ve single-handedly raised the average salary of D-1 coaches! We’re going to get ours, it’s just a matter of time…and when we get the one we ARE going to stick it to some Tarholes and Dookies.

  23. NCSU94GRAD 04/12/2006 at 9:15 AM #

    I need a mental health day. The dookies and tarholes have already started this morning. “Told you State was aiming too high”….”Maybe you guys could get a D2 coach”….”Nobody wants that job”….blah, blah, blah! Many thanks to Lee Flower for making all of us in Wolfpack nation feel worse than third rate! Ugh.

  24. booman group 04/12/2006 at 9:15 AM #

    just remind the smurf nation that when they landed Doh, he was like their 6th choice after Roy, Larry, George all said to go pound sand.

  25. Bleeds_Red 04/12/2006 at 9:18 AM #

    Has anyone given a thought to the possibility that LF DID indeed sniff this out which is why he made him come back to Raleigh before an offer was given? The guy did due diligence in my book. He got him to come to RDU to show good faith. We thought he was coming. He did not. We did get played by one of the slickest cats in the coaching business. I for one wanted him here. Tis not going to be the case.

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