"Gentleman, we are wasting time …"

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  • #133853

    SaccoV
    Participant

    although I doubt few would recognize the quote from a 1964 film entitled “Fail-Safe,” Walter Matthau’s line is certainly relevant in terms of dealing with 22 years worth of Elliott Avent as head baseball coach at NC State. First off, I want to let you know that, although I have not been a supporter of Avent for some time, I’m going to attempt to remain as impartial as I can, and let the numbers explain my assessment as indifferently as possible. I’ll have three areas of critique, and I would love for the gallery to add more to the continuing discussion.

      1) Conference Performance

    While coaching my own teams, I always put your performance against your conference competition as a higher priority than winning state titles. I subscribe to the theory that seeing guys multiple times over the course of the year is far tougher than winning on the big stage. I will get to the analysis of winning on the big stage with Avent momentarily. As an ACC coach, Avent has been good, compiling a 294-277 record (.512 winning %) not including this 2018 season. Adding this year’s totals, brings his CONFERENCE record to 313-288 (.521 winning %). For comparison I have added a list of the current coaches and their lifetime ACC records.

    Dan McDonnell (L’Ville) 88-31 (.739) 11th season
    Mike Martin (FSU) 489-224 (.686) 40th season
    Bryan O’Connor (UVa) 274-163-1 (.627) 15th season
    Jim Morris (Miami) 389-235-2 (.623) 25th season with Miami*
    Mike Fox (UN*) 342-214 (.615) 20th season
    Monte Lee (Clemson) 55-35 (.611) 3rd season
    Danny Hall (Ga Tech) 380-265-1 (.589) 24th season
    Elliott Avent (NC State)313-288 (.521) 22nd season
    Chris Pollard (Duke) 79-98 (.446) 7th season
    Tom Walter (WFU) 117-152 (.435) 9th season
    Mik Aoki (ND) 107-158 (.404) 4th season with ND*
    John Szefc (Va Tech) 34-55 (.382) 1st season at Va Tech*
    Joe Jordano (Pitt) 50-98 (.338) 21st season^
    Mike Gambino (BC) 72-161 (.309) 8th season

    *-ACC record with another team; conference record/Win % includes both coaching stints in league play.
    ^-Jordano resigned as Pitt baseball coach on June 22, 2018.

    Analysis — I’ve organized this list according to win-loss percentage. I know this skews the numbers toward coaches with fewer seasons, but I am viewing the numbers through that lens to highlights coaches who have done well despite their longevity or tenure. Also, you’ll note that I left off Syracuse … they have no baseball team. Probably so that Boeheim won’t have to dine at Denny’s when he’s on the road. Avent in 22 seasons falls right in the middle of the pack among ACC coaches in terms of winning percentage in his tenure at NC State. You can argue that the league is a tough one, and it is. You can argue that the numbers are slanted toward coaches with a shorter tenure, and it does, but in 22 years, Avent is in the middle. Ray Tanner was 119-87 (.578) in nine years at the helm, and his predecessor Sam Esposito was 183-121 (.602) in conference during his 21 years. I know the apples/oranges exceptions are coming to mind; however, 22 years in, and Avent is below the performance in this crucial indicator from his predecessors. Feel free to give me your thoughts on Avent’s record overall if you would like. In this criterion, Avent’s tenure has sufficiently shown the fans that he is an average coach.

      2) Team Superlatives [Conference Championships, NCAA Tournament Appearances, CWS Appearances, etc]

    A. Conference Championships — Elliott Avent has yet to win a conference regular season title or a conference tournament title in 22 years as head coach. To add insult to this particular injury, Elliott Avent has not even finished 1st in his own division since divisional play began in 2006. In my opinion this is the most damning evidence of the need for a change at this particular helm. Since 1997 (Avent’s first season as coach in Raleigh), UN* (2), UVa (2), Ga Tech (5), Wake Forest (3), Florida State (6), Clemson (2), Miami have all won conference tournament titles. In the ‘More salt, please, I have a massive wound here’ category, Avent has matched up in the conference tournament finals five times … and five times his teams lost (’01 to WF, ’03 to Ga Tech!, ’06 to Clemson, ’10 and ’15 to FSU). There are other instances where a win would have put State into the finals, but … do I really need to travel down this miserable road any further?
    Analysis — 0-5 in the tournament finals.

    ! — indicates the ACC Tournament that almost ruined my wedding and also indicates the Tom O’Brien/Herb Sendek Come-From Ahead To Lose Award recipient, where Ga Tech needed three wins in two days to win the title. NC State needed but one win against Ga Tech in two tries. Double fail!

    As for regular season finishes, Avent has managed to finish 2nd in the conference/division five times in his 22 years. Not a bad accomplishment, but a feather in the cap, this ain’t. During the same span, Mike Fox (UN*) has finished first in division/conference seven times, Jim Morris four times at Miami (not counting the two 1st place finishes prior to 1997 at Ga Tech), Mike Martin at FSU finished first nine times, O’Connor at UVa has finished 1st twice (with nine 2nd place divisional finishes), Dan McDonnell at Louisville has finished 1st in the Atlantic Division (State’s division) 3 consecutive years before 2018, Monte Lee at Clemson finished his 3rd season at the helm with a 1st place divisional placement (thanks to a 5-7 ACC record for NC State down the stretch this season). Aoki (ND), Pollard (Duke), Walter (WF) and Szefc (while at MD) all have at least one 2nd place divisional finish.
    Analysis — “I’m virtually bursting with adequatulence!” (Phil Hartman as Bill McNeill from “Newsradio”)

    B. NCAA Appearances/Super Regional Appearances
    Avent has made the NCAA Tournament field 18 of his 22 seasons. Not bad. But not great. Of those 18 appearances, four times NC State broke through and went to the Super Regional Round of 16. Only one of those appearances did Avent make it through to Omaha to the CWS. As with other coaches who have the albatross of ‘mediocre’ around their necks, I have to give Avent credit here. This is a crowning achievement for any coach. And several coaches still have jobs who have not reached a super regional or the CWS. In the most positive light possible, this is Avent’s crown jewel, the post-season. What tarnishes this particular jewel is the way those losses tended to add to a certain fan’s displeasure. 2003 was a prime example, as State headed to Coral Gables to face a tough Miami team, and built a solid lead in game 1 only to lose by a run 10-9 and then give up 6 runs in the top of the 11th in game 2 to lose. 2003 was a banner year for NC State baseball (all sarcasm intended).
    Analysis — Ceilings aren’t really made of glass — Dead Philosopher

    C. CWS
    We made it once in 2013. Only to end up facing UN* twice, and losing the last one 8-1 when none of our hitters could turn on Hobbs Johnson’s fastball which he threw every pitch. The UCLA loss was also troubling as UCLA was up by a run with Trea Turner at the plate and the bases full. Turner got a fastball, and mauled it into left field but the ball didn’t even make the warning track as that was the first season of the new Rosenblatt Stadium and a deeper fence and different direction of play accounted for the fewest home runs that year in Omaha since 40-ounce wood was the standard bat. Although much better than a Sweet 16 appearance, the fact of losing to UN* the second time was more bitter than lemon-soaked baking chocolate. Still not over that one.

    As for his conference peers, Fox, Martin, Hall, Morris, O’Connor, McDonnell have all made multiple CWS appearances. Coastal Carolina’s lone appearance and lone NCAA championship began at the hands of Avent. CCU beat NC State in the Raleigh regional in 2016 after rain interrupted what should have been the last inning of the deciding game. If there is one instance where I say luck played a part, it’s this one. TCU in 2015 was NOT the result of bad luck. And so the universe (and Avent’s overall record) remains somewhat in balance.

    Analysis — One CWS is a great accomplishment. And considering that this university’s team has only made that journey twice in 115 years of baseball … that is something to be proud of.

      3) Stellar Players/MLB standouts

    I have to admit this criterion also has limits and mitigating factors. NC State does not have a stellar list of MLB players in its history, so this can be seen as a way to nullify some of the missed opportunities for Avent. However, I choose to look at how the team performed with the players on the roster and their overall yearly performance. This may take some time but I’ll use a few examples to shorten this diatribe. Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner are the stand-alone MLB-caliber players from Avent’s tenure as head coach. Several players had stints in the minors (Eric Surkamp, Colt Morton, etc). Joey Devine had a spectacular entry to the Major Leagues (gave up a grand slam in his MLB debut for the Braves), but had some decent success with the A’s as a reliever. Outside of Devine, Turner and Rodon, Avent’s players have been minor leaguers. No offense toward them, because I loved them all as members of the Wolfpack. Few of them have been standout major leaguers. Avent has had the Conference Pitcher of the Year twice (Rodon ’13 and Brown ’18) but has never had the Player of the Year. 2018 also marks the second time one of Avent’s Freshman has won Conference Freshman of the Year, and that was Patrick Bailey (Rodon won in ’12). Given that Avent has had 35 first team All-ACC players, and 31 2nd-team All-ACC players, I don’t believe lack of talent is a credible excuse for 22 years worth of finishing 2nd or lower.
    Analysis — Too Early to Call. Perhaps one or two of the recent players (Deatherage comes to mind) will become standouts in the big leagues. For 22 years, a few MLB journeymen doesn’t attest to Avent’s ability to either bring in top-caliber talent or to develop talent. I don’t want this thread to become focused on recruiting, but I know that recruiting is a part of the job of college coach.

      Summary

    — Elliott Avent has had ample time and ample talent (and five direct chances) to win one championship. He hasn’t done it. I doubt it will happen next year, but call me a pessimist. The outside factors (facilities, AD in the twilight) are obviously at play here moreover to determine whether a change is made. I doubt that change is made for the 2019 season, but I’m hoping I can take my four boys to Doak/Dail one day in the future and see the promise of a new coach.

    #133854

    GoldenChain
    Participant

    Is this where I am supposed to point out that the guy that Avent replaced has won two CWS since leaving NCSU? And that guy was a State alumni (Ray Tanner).

    #133856

    WolftownVA81
    Participant

    Hard to argue with those facts – mediocre about sums it up. At some point, no matter how much a coach loves his school, it is about your record. New coach in 2020 please.

    #133857

    gso packbacker
    Participant

    Looking into the details of his record and postseason performance, other than the early 2000’s, Avent has been extremely consistent over the years.

    So the real question is “what’s the minimum?” And remember that if the minimum wasn’t good enough, then it wouldn’t be the minimum, would it?

    Personally, I think he has met the minimum from my standpoint. However, my question as the AD would be the same as it was to Tom O’Brien. If we both agree our goal is something more than what we’ve achieved (e.g. ACC Championship), what are we going to do differently to achieve that result? We know what they say about doing the same things and expecting different results.

    #133859

    TheCOWDOG
    Moderator

    Sacco, that’s a very fair assessment.

    #133861

    ryebread
    Participant

    Great assembly of the results. Honestly probably the best I have seen.

    Would you be willing to do a similar analysis on the input$ the program has? Only by judging inputs vs outputs would one really be able to make an informed decision.

    My stinking suspicion is that while Avent is the baseball version of HWSNBN with respect to the outputs, he is probably doing it with bottom of the conference inputs. Unlike HWSNBN, who was regularly squandering a king’s ransom, I suspect Avent is probably punching above the program’s weight. Make no mistake. I was adamant that HWSNBN needed to go, and still don’t regret that despite the years of wandering in the desert with Lowe and Gott. I am just not quite as convinced on Avent.

    I doubt Avent is ever going to break through and win anything substantial. I just wonder if our program is really set up to do so. Tanner is the perfect example of a guy that wasn’t great by this analysis, but then went to a place with big time input$ And was able to break through. Did Tanner suddenly become better overnight, or was he unable to reach his full potential here? I think that is the question AD Yow has to ask….

    #133862

    13OT
    Participant

    Seems to me that Wolfpack officials are satisfied if not downright happy each season with football, basketball and baseball going .500 in the ACC, or somewhere near that. Just serve up enough cupcakes to cover the sub-.500 seasons.

    The bar of ACC sports success at NCSU for the above 3 sports has become a Limbo bar.

    #133865

    ryebread
    Participant

    13OT: I agree with you regarding football and baseball and maybe women’s basketball. I do not agree about men’s basketball. There are some expectations there, maybe not ones that reflect the top 20 input$ in nearly every metric, but there are some minimal expectations.

    I have always thought the best way to change those expectations would be for men’s basketball to get back to performing like the input$ suggest it should. Do that and our fan base will get another taste of winning (in something meaningful) and expectations (and input$) will go up for football.

    Baseball is going to be what it is. Run a clean program and make the post season, while doing it on the cheap is the model. It is what it is, and honestly is smart business. Oregon State winning another title is going to do very little for the university, and they invested heavily to get it. This is why I believe the yearly Avent debate over a 2 week period is nothing more than a blip on the radar for the administration.

    #133912

    SaccoV
    Participant

    Pitching Coach Scott Foxhall has bolted for the same position at Mississippi State. Backing the Pack has a good write-up here. I was believing that Scott would stay if offered the head coaching position, and I think he would be an upgrade in the chair. I hope we get an opportunity to give him that spot soon!!

    #133917

    Greywolf
    Participant

    The question I didn’t see addressed is why did Ray Tanner leave after 9 years? Was it lack of training facilities? Was it salary? Answers here would give us something to look at besides the W/L.

    Doeren took Debbie Yow out to watch a practice in a cold, driving rain. The wind inverted her umbrella. Doeren asked her how she thought we would do if we had some recruits on official visits. The IPF got moved up from 6th on the priority list to 2nd behind Reynolds.

    You can’t work with hitters without indoor batting cages and pitchers without indoor places to pitch, etc. Are the practice facilities sufficient to entice a good, new baseball coach or NC State a death wish for bright, young baseball coaches? Is Avent the best we can do with the baseball practice facilities we have and the salary we are willing to pay?

    I’m not for keeping Avent. I just wanted to get real with the options we have.

    It’s as if we prioritized our sports and mens Basketball was #1, Football #3 and baseball will be will be somewhere after that. (#2 Reynolds was a multi-sport deal)

    #133918

    TheCOWDOG
    Moderator

    I had a very candid conversation with Ray Tanner at Coach Esposito’s Celebration of Life, last Thursday.
    Let’s just say that Sam very much encouraged him to bolt.

    Avent is under the gun.

    #133919

    66pack
    Participant

    Rye,how do you know what Oregon State put into another title?

    #133920

    SaccoV
    Participant

    Avent is in contract ‘conversations’ according to WRAL; the link is here. First, global warming, then Helsinki, now this.

    #133921

    freshmanin83
    Participant

    So Sacco V are you trying to say that you think the Avent contract conversations are much ado about nothing?

    #133922

    SaccoV
    Participant

    I’m puzzled as to why they are occurring at all. Unless the ‘conversation’ is to assure his outright release/retirement and the promotion/hiring of another coach. I don’t think his last few years have been enough to earn him an extension, and this season’s high point occurred much too early and the collapse at the end was far too steep to warrant extension discussions. 22-seasons worth of this has salted me crusty. I want an announcement of retirement and a press conference with a new coach. And I know I’m not going to get that with news stories of ‘contract conversations.’

    #133923

    Greywolf
    Participant

    I’m puzzled as to why they are occurring at all.

    That’s simple enough to answer… It’s what Debbie does with the head coach of all our sports at the end of the sport season.

    We no longer have a Lacrosse team for the same reason we don’t have practice facilities for baseball and a diving facility for swimming — budget, i.e., money. NC State has to make some tough decisions about where to spend the money we have each year. Factor in the requirement to have equal athletic opportunities for women and we are between a rock and a hard place.

    I see no point in making statements about our administration being satisfied with mediocrity. Ranking 15th in the Director’s Cup demonstrates they care. Many of us only care about men’s basketball, football and baseball. Some schools have chosen to go that way. Market analyis likely shows football is more bang for the buck for University branding, then men’s basketball, then the all the rest. As Rye stated not much return on money spent on baseball success.

    Enough, enough. Greywolf, go waste your time somewhere else for a while.

    #133924

    SaccoV
    Participant

    GreyWolf, I completely agree with you, and I am concerned that Yow is NOT following her own policy here with regard to baseball and Avent where she clearly has with other sports. She’s made quality hires with Wes Moore (WBB), Pat Popolizio (Wrestling), Braden Holloway (Swimming/Diving), Dave Doeren (FB), Kevin Keatts (MBB) et. al. but Avent appears safe in his position. In the back of my feeble mind, I am hopeful that this ‘conversation’ included an agreement to let Avent coach out the rest of his contract, and then be done. 23 seasons is enough for any coach, especially one who has been consistent but not spectacular. Yow kicks the can down the road for the next AD to make a big hire knowing that the 2018-2019 sports program is in a better financial place to make one. I am disappointed that she didn’t make a change, but I completely understand that the finances are not there to buy him out or to replace him with a quality coach.

    #133926

    Greywolf
    Participant

    I am disappointed that she didn’t make a change, but I completely understand that the finances are not there to buy him out or to replace him with a quality coach.

    Sacco, I sincerely believe it’s more than just money. Money won’t get a quality coach. The coaching fraternity talks and all the coaches know about our practice facility shortcomings. We don’t see behind the scenes. Pop may have been promised a new mat and mat room to practice on to entice him to come here. How do we do that? Lord knows we need one. Think about it. We don’t have enough mats to train on. Our meet facility (Reynolds) is outstanding but not our practice space.

    Read what Mr. Dog said in response to my question. Sam likely knew we weren’t going to get practice facilities and/or assistant-coach money. Esposito was a good friend of AD Valvano and more than likely knew what was and what wasn’t going down. He also knew the financial position of the University.

    It’s easy to fault Debbie Yow for this and that. I know she is lobbying, spread-sheets and all that, for money for all sports. Favoritism is a cheap shot and unwarranted (not you). It’s a bang for the buck situation. I’ve mentioned the Title (whatever) has to be considered or bad consequences occur.

    I don’t mean to go on and on so I’ll close. Lets enjoy the recruiting.

    #133927

    SaccoV
    Participant

    Grey, I don’t mean to imply favoritism toward Avent, and I have been very pleased with Yow’s willingness to let coaches go when they don’t perform. Avent is the enigma. Other posters have mentioned that the administration is fine with mediocrity, but I don’t buy that for the afore-mentioned reasons of other coaches in other sports (including FB and MBB) getting fired for poor or average performance. Another year that goes is another year for a different school to grab up one of those really good coaches who don’t have great facilities but have great talent and have overachieved. Keatts came from UNCW; Popolizio from Binghamton. A great baseball coach is out there waiting to take the yoke and move this team forward.

    #133928

    ryebread
    Participant

    SaccoV: I hear what you are saying but would suggest that if inputs are measured against outputs, then I’m not so sure that Avent is underachieving…………. Everything that I see says we’re paying in the bottom 3rd of the league to run our baseball program, yet are getting top 3rd results. How is that underachieving?

    If I’m an AD, if I can run a non-revenue sport on the cheap, if it stays clean, graduates kids, gets better results than what I am spending, then that is an absolute no brainer. Why would I shake that up — particularly if it guaranteed that I would have to spend more, and might or might not actually yield better results?

    #133929

    ryebread
    Participant

    66pack:

    Here’s a look at OSU’s stadium:
    Beaver Stadium
    Compare and contrast that with the Doak.

    Here’s information on OSU’s coaching salaries:
    The OSU baseball coach now has a deal that runs through the 2022 season, according to the contact obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Casey, who won two College World Series titles at OSU in 2006 and 2007, is set to make at least $5.5 million over the next six years.

    The 57-year-old has been given a $50,000 raise for each of the remaining four years on the deal, earning $800,000 for the coming year, $850,000 in 2018, $900,000 in 2019 and $950,000 in 2020. His annual salary will increase by another $50,000 over each of the next two years of the extension, concluding at $1.05 million in the final year.
    .
    .
    .
    The amended deal also features a deferred compensation account that will be credited with $13,889 each month starting in June 2016. Casey would receive the full balance upon completion of the contract or if terminated without cause. The balance would be forfeited if he voluntarily ended the agreement or was terminated for cause. Per terms of the current deal, the account could net Casey as much as an additional $1,013,897.

    In addition to Casey, Oregon State renewed the contracts for associate head coach Pat Bailey ($120,000) and pitching coach Nate Yeskie ($110,000). Both one-year deals feature raises of $30,000 from each prior agreement. The 2017 season will be Bailey’s 10th and Yeskie’s ninth at Oregon State.

    We pay Avent less than 1/2 of that.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’d like us to be winning titles too and I don’t think Avent is going to do it. I recognize that just may not be in the cards given the current reality of our baseball program.

    #133932

    Greywolf
    Participant

    Rye,
    Glad I could fill some space while you gathered some real information. Can you get any info on OSU’s practice facilities. I think poor practice facilities would be a hindrance to landing an up and comer type coach. And it’s clear what a difference the IPF has made with the football team.

    #133933

    ryebread
    Participant

    Grey: A 2 minute pass suggests that sometimes they practice in the football facility. I didn’t look much though.

    Here’s a good video that shows a “behind the scenes” from this past season:
    Oregon State video

    I am not behind the scenes of our baseball team, but I tend to doubt we have anything remotely similar with respect to investment — facilities, locker room, stadium, videography, etc.. We may though, and I’m happy to be corrected.

    There are 297 D1 baseball teams that all want to win conference and national titles. Of those 297, how many really have the resources to win it all? People like to cite Coastal, but even they invested (albeit on their own scale):
    Coastal Carolina investment

    NC State’s fans want to win like the fans of those other 296 programs, and cite our obvious long drought. They look at the coach and think that is the cause. Maybe it is, but maybe he’s just a symptom, or maybe he reflects the whole lack of investment we make? I don’t know that answer, but that’s the AD’s job. I suspect she might be happier with outputs relative to inputs (ultimately the bottom line) than the casual, 3 week a summer fan who complains after we don’t win it all.

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