Debbie Yow did it.
She hired a coach, in a short time span, without a massive media circus. A coach that hasn’t just inspired negative reactions, “told-you-so’s” from the Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman’s of the world. A coach that, if not the first option, was very high on the list (presumably, as the list didn’t manage to leak this time around). A coach with a track record, who’s done a good job very recently.
As a Pack fan, this one is a bit surreal.
Keatts has a great pedigree. He comes to NC State from UNC-Wilmington, a program you’ve likely seen stories of in the past few years, and not so much in the preceding years. That’s a good sign. Keatts spent time at Louisville (good sign) under Rick Pitino (good sign) who speaks highly of him (good sign) especially as a recruiter (good sign). He runs a hilariously up-tempo offense, good for 18th in the country this most recent year. He seems to follow in his Louisville mentor’s footsteps, and likes to press, play fast, and push for turnovers. These will all be welcome additions to Raleigh this upcoming year, and it’s entirely possible for Keatts to have the great year with Gottfried’s passed down roster the same way Gott excelled in his first year with Sid Lowe’s players.
A couple days ago, I would have told you that Keatts is in line to be NC State’s greatest coach since Valvano. Emotions were high, and K^2 won the press conference on day one. It seems like some players that could have been a transfer or departure threat (Abdul-Malik Abu, Omer Yurtseven, Maverick Rowan) are less of a threat to do so now (although nothing has been ruled out). Keatts is billing this as a chance to teach this team discipline, condition some of these guys, and help them dial in their teamwork. All of this makes it sound like he’s gonna take Gottfried’s players and help them turn into a functioning basketball team. I’m very interested in that outcome for sure.
The only problem I have is that I remember a coach winning an opening press conference in Raleigh.
Mark Gottfried came in and made a lot of promises. We were sold on the UCLA High Post offense, with the fundamentals being taught to the team starting on day one. We were all set up to have a better strength and conditioning program, and players were only going to be recruited if they were a good fit in the system.
Instead, what we got was a hodgepodge of player styles, a seeming apathy towards S&C, and a general chaos model to how the team offense was run. The high caliber of recruits came, the reliably quality basketball program never did.
I get it for sure, that in hindsight, Gottfried has rubbed a lot of people as a used car salesman. He’s inspired a lot of distrust, and he never did much on delivering on his promises. I just take it as dangerous to assume that was only him. I believe Keatts has the ability to put together a good, high functioning basketball program. But Gottfried had that ability as well. I think in hindsight, I’d put Keatts’ odds of success higher than Gott’s, but this question would have gone very differently 6 years ago. Keatts has a few areas of concern (defensive-anything is the majority of the list), as did Gott at the outset.
I’m not saying Keatts isn’t going to mold the current and future teams into competitors in the ACC and NCAA. God knows I’m pulling for it. Even the Carolina fans around me are pulling for it. It’s been quite a while since I’ve believed in a State basketball team, but I think Keatts can bring those to Raleigh. I want him to succeed, and as a fan, I’m willing to support him throughout the process.
I’ve just been burned in the past, and my tender heart isn’t ready to trust quite that easily. Here’s hoping Kevin Keatts can be the one for all of us downtrodden, scared Wolfpack fans. We’re cheering for you, Coach.