Monday Night Coaching Update

We hope that you had a great Easter.

It’s hard to put together coaching updates when news is so spotty. But, we’ve evolved our ‘coverage’ much more along the lines of commentating and analyzing what we hear than sharing “scoop” over the last week.

We want to re-affirm our caution regarding the discussion of some things that we hear. The NC State coaching search is now in a stage where the public speculation of some names could create a potentially negative impact on the search since many coaches “in play” cannot afford for word to leak of any contact with State (or any other job).


* Last week we mentioned that we had heard that some NC State “insiders” had been very complimentary of SFN’s coverage and conversation related to the coaching search. These people commented on SFN’s accuracy, discretion, and quality of conversation.

* This week, we heard that some folks at NC State had been critical of some of our criticism about Lee Fowler? We have to ask…what criticism about Lee Fowler? Shit, we were some of the first people to publicly put a stake in the ground in support of him last week. We certainly hope that people with these kind of reading comprehension skills don’t have too much influence on the search.

Recent Developments

* First, the news is quiet. Very quiet. Don’t read too much into this as this is not some master plan. The first phase of the search needed the involvement of more indirect tenticles throughout the NC State Community (former players, direct friends of Barnes and Calipari, etc) and therefore generated the opportunity for a whole lot more information. The search now seems to be largely concentrated in one man’s hands – Lee Fowler.

* Barring an unknown & unexpected event with some kind of “mystery candidate”, NC State’s coaching search has obviously entered a different phase where conversations are taking place with “Stage B” candidates.

* There seem to be two distinct sub-categories of candidates in “Stage B”: (1) seasoned coaches with some kind of name recognition (PJ Carlesimo, Mike Brey, Lon Kruger, etc) and (2) the younger set of coaches with high potential “upsides” (Billy Gillispie, Frank Haith, Gregg Marshall, etc)

* ^Unless a “mystery candidate” exists (which we don’t think so), the decision between the more known names and the riskier upstarts is where the first key decision lies. What strategic direction will NC State take? (For more on the “strategic direction” conversation, you can click here.)

* We believe that Lee Fowler’s ass is on the line with this hire and the pressure may be building more and more each day. Therefore, we can’t help but expect him to prefer (what he thinks) is the “safe” decision and lean more heavily towards a more established coach. This is why we think the surfacing of Lon Kruger’s name is so interesting.

* There are some obvious problems with the “seasoned coach” approach — any established coach comes with some blemishes. Mike Brey may be looking for an out at Notre Dame to re-set his clock somewhere else since the odds are that he will be fired this year if the Irish fail to make the NCAA Tournament. Lon Kruger is about seven years removed from any real college success. PJ Carlisemo hasn’t been around the college game for 12 years and has quite an abrasive personality.

* NC State’s current dilemma reminds us of the US political trend whereby Senators cannot get elected as President (since JFK). The problem is that they all have actual records against which an opponent can run. Governors, like Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush do not have a record to haunt them. All that the electorate sees in the Governor is “upside” because of their lack of record on the issues. Lon Kruger & Mike Brey are the Senators. All of these other folks seem to be the Governors.

* Sources in three different conferences across America have indicated to SFN that Lee Fowler’s “shotgun approach” to the market may have hurt NC State’s reputation amongst coaches far worse than publicly missing on two of the best names in the profession. Evidently, Fowler (NC State) has made so many initial calls to named coaches that had no connection or reason to be interested in leaving their current position that he/State has presented ourselves as both disorganized and desperate. We’re not criticizing here. Just passing along what we’ve heard.

* We call a little bit of “BS” on the part of ^this about negatively impacting our search. We don’t think that Fowler’s lack of strategic direction has made a difference to anyone whom we had a legitimate shot to land. We are more distraught about the leadership issues that this news magnifies than we are the impact on State’s search.

* We would be severely disappointed if Fowler had not taken advantage of the last fourteen days (not to mention the couple of weeks before Sendek’s announcement that Fowler claimed to have knowledge of Sendek’s potential departure) to do his homework. Last week, some close to NC State claimed that this is not a problem and that Fowler was engaged in creating a contingency plans prior to Barnes & Calipari.

* Based on some ‘inquiry’ calls Fowler has made in recent days we can’t buy ^it. What has this guy been doing the last six years to not know more about potential candidates out there? What was he doing in the two weeks prior to Sendek’s departure when he knew of ASU’s interest in our coach? How could he have started the search so far behind when he had so long to prepare contigency plans? (See related)

* Frank Haith – We would have thought that Haith’s name would have generated more momentum in West Raleigh after the local and national media support that has been thrown behind Haith’s name the last couple of weeks. We believe more “unofficial” contacts have been made with Frank than are being reported. We hope that there is a reason for the tight-lipped nature of this, but we don’t have any reason to believe it.

* More on our thoughts of Haith’s candidacy can be found by clicking here; and more on a potential hurdle for Haith can be found by clicking here.

* Mike Brey – Notre Dame’s coach popped up this weekend, and we laughed at the irony since this was always a job that we thought Sendek would have jumped whenever the opportunity arose. The association of Brey’s name with the State job did not surprise us at all. Brey has always respected the NC State job very much and has kept his eye on the job during his transitions from Duke to Delaware and then to Notre Dame. The timing was always off by a year for him. Recent reports seem to indicate that there is no real interest between a mutual courtship. Because of Brey’s current job at Notre Dame, we expect that he had to tell Lee Fowler that he couldn’t spend time talking. If he wasn’t “the choice” then we had to move on.

* We’ve heard little to nothing about Gregg Marshall, Billy Gillispie and Steve Lavin over the last couple of days. The only thing out there is this piece in today’s discussing Gregg Marshall:

“To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been any interest expressed from their end,” (Winthrop AD) Hickman said Monday. “That obviously would be a huge jump for Gregg, both financially and in terms of league recognition. If he had that opportunity, I think he would feel he would have to look at it.”

* Chris Lowery‘s name (link to biography) popped up in the News & Observer this morning and got some Wolfpackers talking today. We don’t really understand why. Didn’t we just go through an experiment with the youngest coach in college basketball? Where is Lowery’s true “fit” in Raleigh? If you want to hire an African American coach with only two years of head coaching experience, why not hire one with more overall experience, who is currently a Head Coach in the ACC with significant local recruiting ties, a great local reputation, and whose two years of head coaching performance showed immediate improvement in his program (Frank Haith) as opposed to two years of regression (like Lowery’s)?

* The more that this progresses, the more of a shot that Dereck Whittenburg has at the job. We LOVE Dereck, but have not thought that he has the necessary experience for the Wolfpack yet. But…why not hire Dereck as opposed to some of the names now randomly being discussed at this point?

* We will leave you with a fantastic quote from one of our favorite message board posters, kwolf68. The quote hits on quite a few topics with which we completely concur. We would have thought that kwolf68 was a member of our team with how much this fits our feelings:

I think and hope that Fowler is watching game tape of each of these coaches.

I am really tired about debating NCAA record, Final 4s, etc. A basketball man CAN watch a coach and figure out if he is a coach that can take a program places.

Watch his coaching…How does he react when his players do well, what does he do when the players totally suck or quit, how innovative is he, does he think outside the box, does he respond to another teams timeout with creative thinking, is he a leader, and can he inspire hope?

That coach is out there and he isn’t necessarily in Austin or Memphis. Fowler needs to find him. He could be Haith, Lowery, Kruger, etc., I don’t know, but I am not and never will be upset that Herb Sendek left this program, I am not looking back, and not going “what if” with him. I just wished he had left last year which would have likely put Bruce Pearl in Raleigh.

Our guy is out there. Maybe now that Fowler has missed on the “names” he can really find that diamond of a coach. I know nothing of Lowery, little of Kruger and the others. I don’t like Lavin, am cool on PJC, not sure about Haith, and Brey is interesting but again…not sold. Still, I am very happy we are looking ahead at a new coach though the search has been difficult-difficult because Fowler had to go for those named guys so he wasn’t chased down like Frankenstein. Now the real decision starts…Which one of these sleeper-prospects IS THE GUY???

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54 Responses to Monday Night Coaching Update

  1. Pakkfan 04/17/2006 at 10:24 PM #

    As always well written, and much appreciated.

    ::: Tips Hat :::

  2. VaWolf82 04/17/2006 at 10:28 PM #

    I’m getting exhausted dissecting random names from across the country. The comments are beginning to run together…it’s beginning to look like people are cutting and pasting the same thoughts in multiple places. If you’re as tired of this as I am, then here’s an entry from The Red and White from State that you will appreciate:

  3. Lock 04/17/2006 at 10:36 PM #

    Yeah, at this point…I almost feel why NOT take a chance with Wittenberg? It’ll be an interesting experiment, and if things don’t work out…well, it would have been fun.

    But, how many times do we need to point out that Sendek’s gone and how ‘great’ a thing that is but he should have gone earlier?

    Can we please move on from that now?

    SFN – You, and a lot of others continue to miss the point. It isn’t about Sendek. It is about Lee Fowler and his lack of proactive management. Last time we checked, Lee Fowler was still very much here. The same lack of strategic management and proactivity that kept Sendek (and Tarantini, and Kim Hall, and others) in Raleigh so long is the same lack of strategic management and proactivity that seems to again be rearing its head in our search.

    We couldn’t agree more. We wish that everyone would stop focusing on Sendek.

  4. VaWolf82 04/17/2006 at 10:37 PM #

    Therefore, we can’t help but expect him to prefer (what he thinks) is the “safe� decision and lean more heavily towards a more established coach.

    I just deleted my comment that basically said that LF has always prefered the safe decision….staying with Herb instead of looking for someone better. But you know….that isn’t really true. After the 2001 season, it would have been much easier to fire Sendek after a losing season and no trips to the NCAAT than to stick with Herb. Maybe LF will surprise me…I sure hope so.

  5. StateFans 04/17/2006 at 10:43 PM #

    ^ It would have only been easier on the front end, but not on the back end when he was going to have to get off his ass and do some work (like he is having to do now).

    On the back end, he was going to have to get out and hire a coach. Considering that he barely knew who Rick Barnes was at that time, could you have imagined?

    Fowler’s only coaching hire has been Randy Wiehl at MTSU. That didn’t work out too well. The easy thing FOR LEE was to not fire Herb in 2001. That way he could be called a “stand up guy”.

  6. FL Wolf 04/17/2006 at 10:45 PM #

    I think Whit has as much or more coaching experience then a lot of the other B listers. He understands intimately the dynamic in Raleigh to win against Duke and Carolina.

    My biggest question is can he handle the stage. He has shown in the past as a player he can – and I think that tells us a lot about the man and the coach. He has ties to great recruiting fields and has shown a knack for developing what talent he gets. The fan base would take it easy on Fowler with a wait and see attitude.

    At the end of the day, this is the best calculated decision for a “what if” coaching pool.

  7. Tau837 04/17/2006 at 11:00 PM #

    With respect to Whit, I haven’t really seen anyone comment on his ability to recruit. I love him, like every Wolfpack fan, and I have read that he has turned around a program or two… but they were small programs. In those surroundings, coaching definitely could make the difference.

    But at State, while coaching can also potentially make the difference, it can only do that if the requisite talent is in the program. Correct me if I’m wrong, but to date, Whit has not been in position to recruit national elite talent, and thus it isn’t clear he could be successful in doing so… it isn’t clear he has the necessary contacts & relationships, etc.

    Also, some folks have suggested that the way to go is to get a young coach with potential to be a homerun. But with that greater potential comes greater risk, and thus the need to keep such a coach on a shorter leash (e.g., to fire such a coach after 5 years instead of 10 years if progress is not good enough). Whit falls into this high risk, high reward category, but I would dread having to fire him if it didn’t work out. As hard as it was to get rid of Herb (and let’s face it, he’d still be here if he didn’t choose to leave), how hard would it be to get rid of Whit if his performance wasn’t satisfactory? So Wolfpack nation would be faced with living with mediocrity in order to avoid treating Whit negatively… or we would have to go through another period of dissension with Whit in Herb’s place. Imagine how hard that would be.

    So I see Whit as the coach with the highest potential reward–it would be better if he took us to national prominence again than anyone else. But also as the coach with the highest risk. Are we willing to take such a high risk, when we can get other coaches with great potential but less risk (e.g., Haith, Gillespie)? I say no.

  8. Chip 04/17/2006 at 11:00 PM #

    Wasn’t LF only on the job a couple of months back in 2001? I remembering thinking that there was no way a new AD was going to fire the head basketball coach after being on the job for such a short time. It would have been the right choice but LF wasn’t man enough to make such a move being so new. I have to disagree with the previous poster who stated keeping Sendek was the less safe decision. He didn’t have to make a new hire so he didn’t have to risk making a bad choice. LF punted in 2001.

    SFN – Think Fowler arrived in Raleigh at the beginning of that football season, meaning that he had been on the job around 9 months at the time.

  9. beowolf 04/17/2006 at 11:01 PM #

    Thanks for a good update, SFN.

    kwolf’s comments about looking at how the coach handles different situations is money.

    Oh, and while I’m at it, I have to admit a sentimentality in favor of Whitt.

  10. 98st8 04/17/2006 at 11:11 PM #

    Why don’t we just wait and see who Lee Fowler gets before we start going after him. Seemed like a week ago you guys hated him for “ignoring Calipari’s calls”… then he was a hero for supposedly getting Calipari.

    The bottom line is that Lee Fowler was in a terrible situation. He more than anyone else knew the frustration of the fan base. The reputation of NC State would have taken a significant hit if we actually FIRED Sendek. He couldn’t fire Sendek. You can’t fire a coach if the team finishes in the top 1/3 of one of the toughest conferences in the country. Especially if he goes to 5 straight tournaments.

    I think we all appreciated Sendek as a man and where he was able to take our program on a consistent basis. We just could not make it to the next level. That was painfully obvious. So Sendek leaves… that worked out great for everyone.

    Everyone in the country knew that we were going after Barnes then Cal… no surprise. Now is the time that Fowler earns his money. He needs to get the best coach available for the program.

    If you are just “guessing” about what is going on behind the scenes, leave your thoughts aside. It is not productive to be destructive about something you are only guessing about.

    98st8 is getting tired of the blame game

  11. Wilmpack 04/17/2006 at 11:18 PM #

    Great update, SFN. With all due respect, I have to disagree with the thoughts on Chris Lowery. The guy may be 34, but his SUI team’s 2006-2007 preseason ranking is 14th in one poll and 10th in another. The team averages over 4 rebounds/game more than their opponents. His defensive scheme has been quoted as second to none in the nation so if he could also bring in a more up-tempo offense I am sold. When he was an assistant at Illinois, he recruited the likes of Luther Head, Dee Brown, and Deron Williams. I would be elated if either he or Whitt was hired. However, my gut says it will be Kruger.

  12. VaWolf82 04/17/2006 at 11:19 PM #

    He didn’t have to make a new hire so he didn’t have to risk making a bad choice. LF punted in 2001.

    You may be right. It’s getting too late for an old man to think straight.

    The thing that worries me is “the mind of Lee Fowler”. If he was truly happy with Sendek’s “success”, then he will be evaluating coaches one way. If he’s looking for championships, then he would look for something else.

  13. tvp 04/17/2006 at 11:26 PM #

    At what point does the length of the search become detrimental not just to Fowler’s career but to our basketball program, both next year and beyond? I don’t think we are at that point yet, but I do fear that it may be coming soon.

  14. 98st8 04/17/2006 at 11:30 PM #

    we are in day 16 of this search… it took us 25 days to get Sendek….. I don’t think time will be detrimental to the program, not hiring a good coach will be

    SFN – the length of time of the search is the not the issue. The amount of time that it eats into the recruiting period is the issue. If you want to look at 1996 – we are now beyond the date that Sendek, whose first duty as coach was to call Damon Thornton (recruit) – was hired.

    Why does the alternative have to be that we don’t hire a good coach? It sounds just like the “you can’t win and be clean” thought process.

    To be accurate – Fowler ‘knows basketball’ and had at least two weeks to prepare for the situation (there is your time longer than 1996’s 25 days) since he admitted that he knew of ASU’s interest in Sendek two weeks prior to the hire.

  15. WestCoast 04/17/2006 at 11:47 PM #

    Appreciate the update SFN…also the fact that you’ve finally mentioned Whitt could be a canidate. As far as him performing on the big stage of the ACC, we’ll never know if doesn’t get the chance.

  16. Metalhead 04/18/2006 at 12:03 AM #

    Lets step back a little and look at the whole picture. What would YOU do if you were the NCSU AD the past couple of weeks. If you say that you would’ve been quick and hired Barnes or Cal, you are wrong. Do you really think that Fowler just sat on his butt and thought hey lets give him 2 million and he’ll come cause we are STATE? No. Same with Calipari. So I don’t think there are many people with AD experience here that can say that (myself included). I’m now sticking up for Fowler or knocking him down. But he alone does not make the decisions. There are several prominent boosters and top supporters that probably will have their input. And seeing as how they help “fund” the coaches salary, I think their input or, shall I say, their perception of the available candidates will be important. I feel the quietness the last few days is attributed to really NOT having a clear choice. There maybe parrallel discussions with several coaches right now. All we can really do is play the waiting game like an impatient father to be, peddling back and forth in the waiting room for news of his baby’s birth. In our case, Lee’s been in labor for about 16 days. HAVE the baby already!!

    SFN – What we would do would not have just started over the last two weeks. It would have been a continuing process over the last six years. We wouldn’t have just started learning about candidates after Sendek left. We wouldn’t have been caught unprepared for the situation when Sendek left. We certainly would have had a much more strategic, pre-prepared list upon which to execute as opposed to trying to build the list in the middle of the search.

  17. wisssh86 04/18/2006 at 12:24 AM #
  18. Mike 04/18/2006 at 12:29 AM #

    ok, I am not a member there. Is it Kruger?

  19. scoots 04/18/2006 at 1:09 AM #

    I’m worried when, unlike earlier, this is being left almost exclusively in Fowler’s hands & he’ll take the “safe” road w/somebody like Kruger. I’m not sure he did enough homework before starting this search, even though he had a 2-week heads-up from Herb. Just look at Kruger’s record and, apart from his Final 4 team at Florida 12 years ago, he’s no better at all than Herb. At least Herb’s teams consistently made the NCAA for the last 5 years, while Kruger’s programs at K-State, Florida & Illinois were never consistently good. I was getting quite excited about the prospects of Gillispie, but this now is quite depressing. I wonder if Gillispie privately turned us down.

  20. BLUE SUCKS 04/18/2006 at 1:50 AM #

    This is unbelievable! No offense to anyone of my brothers here, but this entire process has been about as painful as listening to Gretchin and her panel of legal “experts” speculate over non-existent evidence.

  21. class of 74 04/18/2006 at 7:40 AM #

    Lee’s past is chocked full of examples we can criticize and I’ve done my share of criticizing but now is not the time for any of that. I think we must support Mr. Fowler throughout this process as it has become the most important decision in his tenure. This hire has the potential to wipe the slate clean for Lee if the right hire is made.

    Like it or not, Lee’s future is joined at the hip with this hire and if the new coach goes awry both our basketball program and Lee are goners. Now some would say hooray Lee’s gone but I’m more concerned with our program than Lee’s future. I just happen to see them as being the same right now.

  22. Fletch 04/18/2006 at 8:01 AM #

    OK, I agree with VaWolf82. “The mind of Lee Fowler”. This is right and it worries me based on the factual history we have of our AD. I honestly think he would read Kwolf68’s comments about film and say “wow, good idea”. The “shotgun approach” proves he was behind in this deal from the get-go. I honestly don’t know enough about the search to comment on how he is doing, but the mind of Lee Fowler has me worried. The safe pick is rarely the best pick. I believe in the risk:reward deal to some extent here.

  23. Jeff 04/18/2006 at 8:10 AM #

    I completely agreee, class of ’74. I think most Wolfpackers want(ed) to use this opportunity to wipe the slate clean. I think that we are all excited to see who the coach ends up being!

  24. WolfHunt 04/18/2006 at 8:18 AM #

    The thought of Lee Fowler picking a “safe” choice worries me. As noted earlier, “safe” picks come with baggage. While rising star coaches have lots of risk, they also offer the chance of greater rewards.

  25. Cardiff Giant 04/18/2006 at 8:27 AM #

    Nice update mah brutha.

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