As the Wolfpack fan base licks it’s wounds after another blow out loss, this time by 30 at Wake Forest, we are left to wonder how did we get here. When you look at the roster, you see talent up and down that bench. They have a Top 5 pick at point guard who is averaging 18.7 points 6.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game (all top 5 in the ACC according to the ACC official website) in Dennis Smith Jr.
You had an improving Malik Abu who was is averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds a game. Then you have the 2 sharp shooters Terry Henderson and Maverick Rowan who are shooting .406 and .402 from 3-pt range respectfully.
All of this should have a team firmly in the middle of the pack of a very competitive ACC. However, NC State is mired at 14-11 overall and 3-9 in conference. The NCAA tournament seems to be a pipe dream from where we sit right now.
So, how does a team with some much promise disappoint so much? Well, there are a few reasons but, in my opinion, it comes down to the coach. Now, coaching is more then X’s and O’s and in game adjustments. Which, let’s be fair, Mark Gottfried has struggled at this season. The team seems lost on defense, they have tried man-to-man defense that didn’t work and a 2-3 zone that was even worse. There is the decisions on the coaching staff, which, again to be fair, has not been much better. Gottfired jettisoned Bobby Lutz during this past offseason and brought in Joe Dooley from Florida Gulf Coast.
Now, what Mark Gottfried has done well is recruited. Gottfried has been able to bring in some outstanding basketball players. From T.J. Warren to Cat Barber, to Dennis Smith Jr. All guys who were brought into the program righ out of high school. Gottfried has been able to also bring in guys via transfers, players like Terry Henderson and Torin Dorn. Now, the down side of Mark Gottfried is the list of guys who have LEFT the program. That list is longer and at the moment more substantial because of what those players are. The first player to leave was Rodney Purvis who transferred to UConn.
That seems to have opened the flood gates. Tyler Lewis went to Butler, Kyle Washington went to Cincinnati, Cody and Caleb Martin transferred to Nevada.
Now, those players may not have the talent of a Warren, Barber, or Smith Jr. What those players did have was will. Those players were what people call “glue guys.” They don’t do things that will show up on the stat sheet. Purvis’ impact at UConn was noticeable. If you doubt that, google Purvis & UConn run and in that short article he says he wants to do anything to win. “I do anything.” “I’m going to rebound, I’m going to run.” Does anyone in Raleigh want that kind of dedication? Tyler Lewis transferred to Butler, the reason for that is obvious, Cat Barber.
But Lewis did one thing very well, he was able to run a team. Lewis wasn’t the athlete or scorer that Barber was but it took Cat a couple years to learn how to be the point guard of a team. Kyle Washington, the king of taking the awful 3 went to Cincinnati. In his first year of playing is averaging 13.8 points 7 rebounds shooting 53.8 from the field and 44.8 from three point range.
Finally that brings me to the Martin twins, who both played defense and were athletic enough to keep in front of players.
Being a coach is being able to teach and recruit, which Gottfired has been okay at doing. However, there is another trait good coaches have. That trait is looking at your team and finding the players who are the glue guys. Those players who may not have your recruiting classes into the top 15 but are just as important. Guys who have the mentality to not lose, those who will do anything to win.
This is where I believe that Gottfried has failed as a coach! He has not found those guys who do anything on the court, those who leave it out there. Leaders, who know how to push the buttons of teammates and get the best out of them.
That is what is missing from this team. The Wolfpack is full of talent, they have players who will play professionally overseas. They have 1 or 2 that will play in the NBA. What they don’t have, is the glue guys that send a team from average to good, from good to great, and from great to national champions