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. BlakeJohns 04/12/2006 at 10:40 AM #

    Boo, That “10% raise” was a red herring thrown out that the media picked up and ran with. That was never offered. Harold Byrd – a leading Memphis booster – last week already had a package together that was going to raise Cal’s guaranteed base pay by $300k, from $1.1 milliion to $1.4 million. And that was before any of this broke.

    Goob, You know that stuff turns purple when you drink too much.

    The negotiations with Memphis never went south. Cal just wanted to cover all possibilities before signing the extension. He greatly respects the ACC and the Big East. I think ultimately he will leave Memphis for a job in one of those conferences. He wanted to consider it. Well, last week NCSU was all over Barnes, so he can’t get involved then without looking like a backup plan. So when that fell through, he made contact so that he could have a couple of days to seriously consider it. He got involved at the only time he could – not after Memphis negotiations fell apart.

  2. highstick 04/12/2006 at 10:56 AM #

    Guys, I live in Rock Hill. Marshall is a class act and at this point, he’s my number 1 choice. I also know the AD. Want me to recruit him to replace Jethro????

  3. ruffles31 04/12/2006 at 3:37 PM #


    As much as I agree with you and this site (it is kind of frightening), I have to disagree with not putting blame on Fowler and crew. When they found out that Calipari’s flight to Raleigh was no longer a secret and it had not been leaked on the NCSU side, they had to realize that it came from Calipari or someone really close on the Memphis side. That would of made me wonder if something was going on.

    I question why Lee didn’t sense a possible “Beamerization” underway by Calipari and then not make Calipari sign a contract while in Raleigh. Give him an ultimatim. Sign it now or we make a statement saying you are no longer under consideration for the job. We take all leverage out under his legs.

  4. Jeff 04/12/2006 at 4:58 PM #

    ^ ruffles,

    I totally agree with your comments that Fowler can/should be criticized for the execution of HOW he went after Calipari. (Getting caught flying to Memphis? When the first rule of meeting with a coach is to do it on neutral turf to avoid media attention)

    But, that is different from the sweeping criticism that some were giving him for trying.

  5. gotohellcarolina 04/12/2006 at 9:30 PM #

    Hey, SFN.

    Couldn’t agree more. Fowler stepped up. A couple of clowns played the two ends against the middle for bonus loot, and we still have a pretty good pool of talent to fish from.

    I was hoping for Cal, too. Duped like all of us.

    Most importantly WE are not at fault like these condescending, blue-blinded pseudojournalists who like to point and say see I told you.

Leave a Reply