I will admit it, I LOVE the Kevin Keatts hire at NC State. As I went through Twitter, the sense I got was disappointment. Now, I am not sure if the disappointment that I felt was due to the news that had broken earlier in the day that Sean Miller, Archie Miller’s brother, was advising Archie not to take the NC State job due to Sean’s belief that he could be offered the University of North Carolina job after Roy Williams retires. Or was it the fact that they didn’t know much about Kevin Keatts, and these fans wanted to make a big splash with the names of Will Wade (VCU), Greg Marshall (Wichita St), and the a fore mentioned Archie Miller (Dayton).
Kevin Keatts, to me, checks all of the boxes that NC State needs as a coach. Keatts started out his head coaching career at Hargrave Military Academy where he was 262-17. I know that’s a high school record, bu that is an average of 26-2 in his ten years at Hargrave. It is also important because of the amount of talent that is in VA. At the beginning of 2016 164 players from VA were on D-1 basketball teams. To put that into context only OH, GA, NC, NY, FL, IL, CA, and TX had more.
After leaving Hargrave in 2011, Keats spent 3 years as an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville. Which means he also fostered relationships with coaches while there. And if you saw Pitino’s response to the news that Coach Keatts was hired, Pitino gushed about him as a recruiter and coach.
Finally, Keatts took the University of North Carolina at Wilmington job. This is the same UNCW team that 2 years before Keatts arrived, they were not allowed to compete in the NCAA tournament due to low APR (Academic Progress Rate) and was 9-23 the year before and his predecessor went 42-80 in 4 years . In that first year Keatts went 18-14. After that, Keatts lead UNCW to back-to-back CAA regular season and conference titles and NCAA tournament bids and went 72-28 in his 3 seasons at Wilmington.
In laying out Keatts coaching career you see that he is a great recruiter (Rick Pitino’s words) and a proven program builder. He coaches an in your face press style of basketball. When I watched UNCW play this year they reminded me of the early 90′s Nolan Richardson Arkansas team or the mid 90′s Rick Pitino Kentucky teams. A team current team that plays like that is the Bob Huggins West Virginia teams. The Keatts’ teams aren’t as physical as those teams but they play fast and press.
All of these examples are why I love the hire. Keatts has a style of play that is fun and exciting. It is fast paced and in your face. It is something unique to the ACC and can cause problems for teams, (see Virginia this year and Duke last year). He has recruiting relationships with high school coaches in VA, NC, and KY. Finally he has proven that he can rebuild program in a short amount of time.