04/06/11 — Stevens: Newest hire will test fans' patience

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Stevens: Newest hire will test fans' patience

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 6, 2011 1:47 PM

Patience isn't just a virtue, it's often a necessity.

North Carolina State hired Mark Gottfried on Tuesday to replace Sidney Lowe as it's men's basketball coach.

Gottfried may not be considered by some as a "sexy hire," and he wasn't the administration's first choice. The Wolfpack missed out on a pair of young, blossoming coaches -- Shaka Smart (VCU) and Sean Miller (Arizona) -- during the search to replace Lowe.

Gottfried coached Alabama for 11 seasons and led the Crimson Tide to the NCAA tournament five times in 10 years between 1998 and 2008. The Crimson Tide reached the Elite Eight in 2004. Gottfried has a career record of 278-155, with 210 wins at Alabama, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation during the 2002-03 season.

Prior to arriving at Alabama, Gottfried spent three seasons as head coach at Murray State and seven years as an assistant coach at UCLA. He had worked the past two years as a college basketball analyst at ESPN.

Only time will tell if Gottfried can restore N.C. State's tradition-rich program. After being officially introduced on Tuesday, Gottfried spoke of restoring that tradition, contending for national championships and being competitive with the program's biggest rivals.

Those are lofty expectations and certainly goals any fan base would love to embrace. However, those types of accomplishments don't happen over night, particularly in the ACC, and with a program in need of an overhaul.

The Wolfpack haven't been to the NCAA tournament since the 2005-06 season. State's only postseason appearances in five seasons under Lowe were a pair of trips to the NIT. The Wolfpack were 3-16 against Duke and North Carolina during Lowe's tenure in Raleigh.

State hasn't ended the regular season in the top three of the ACC standings since a second-place finish in the 2003-04 season. The Wolfpack went 15-16 this past season, including a 5-11 mark in conference play.

Gottfried's tallest task in Raleigh may be molding N.C. State into a team rather than a random collection of players. Developing team chemistry and recruiting players that fit into a system takes time, and a patient fan base.

The Wolfpack had just two players, Tracy Smith and C.J. Leslie, average in double figures in scoring last season. N.C. State shot 69 percent from the free line and only 32 percent from 3-point range.

There's plenty of reasons that Duke and North Carolina annually have recruiting classes ranked among the best in the nation. Toward the top of that list of reasons is the fact that tradition sells itself. Highly-touted high school basketball players want to play for programs that give them the best chance to win national championships and pursue a career in the NBA.

Right now, N.C. State isn't one of those schools.

Gottfried may or may not be the man to restore the tradition of a once-proud program. A little time and a patient fan base with realistic expectations could go a long way to making sure it happens.