The Wolfpacker

May 2017 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 28 of 87

MAY 2017 ■ 29 "I wanted to be Fletcher Arritt. I didn't want to leave. Then opportunity knocked." Keatts' plans shifted fast when Louisville Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino called him in the spring of 2011 about joining his staff. There, Keatts helped the Cardinals reach two Final Fours, including winning the national title in 2013. The return to the college ranks landed Keatts the head coaching job at North Carolina Wilmington in March 2014. In his three seasons with the Seahawks, he finished first in the Colonial Athletic As- sociation regular season standings three- straight years, winning the league tourney and reaching the NCAA Tournament the last two. Keatts compiled a 72-28 overall record and 41-13 CAA mark at UNCW. He fell in close losses to Duke and Virginia in re- spective years in the first round of the "Big Dance," giving him some foreshadowing of his next big change in life. Keatts was named the new NC State coach March 17 and held his introduc- tory press conference two days later. As he boldly stated, he is a winner, and ev- erything about his coaching career backs that up. "I'm going to work every day like it is my last day of work," Keatts said. "If I don't do well, I get fired." Keatts' energy and work ethic led NCSU athletic director Debbie Yow to declare he had "the stuff." The pursuit of Keatts as head coach was nearly identical to locat- ing and closing in on football coach Dave Doeren on Dec. 1, 2012. Yow said she could easily have con- versed with Keatts for hours during their interview. "We could still be there talking," Yow jokingly said. "We were into basketball, and we loved that part of the conversation, talking about the game. He was completely prepared." Keatts went 29-6 overall and 15-3 in the CAA with the Seahawks this season. UNCW played with a 6-7 post player, three wings and a point guard. Keatts will con- tinue playing some small-ball, but will fea- ture two post players at NC State. "I would love to have a traditional four man for rebounding purposes," Keatts said. "I will not abandon the fact that we can play with four guards. If you look at the game against Virginia, which was so crazy, we made those guys adjust to us." NC State went 15-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC in 2016-17 under former head coach Mark Gottfried, who was fired after six years. Pitino knows the ACC just got tougher with his protégé arriving in Raleigh. "They've hired one helluva basketball coach — he's absolutely great as a re- cruiter as well as a coach," said Pitino at his NCAA Tournament press conference. Hargrave Shaped Keatts' Coaching Career Keatts' basketball coaching life is rooted by his time at Hargrave, and his experi- ence there — forming a practice schedule, calling timeouts and making mistakes — groomed him for the past six years of his college basketball coaching career. The chance to learn from Pitino also changed Keatts' life. Incorporating Piti- no's schemes and approaches with what he learned through trial and error at Hargrave helped prepare Keatts for what lay ahead at UNC Wilmington. "For a lot of people who don't under- stand what Hargrave is, it's an unbeliev- able, elite prep school," Keatts said. "You look at what we did at UNCW, and it is 10 Keatts was named NC State's head coach March 17 and in- troduced at a press conference two days later by chancellor Randy Woodson and athletics director Debbie Yow. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN ERA Kevin Keatts Plans To Create An Exciting Brand Of Basketball

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