The Wolfpacker

May 2017 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 29 of 87

30 ■ THE WOLFPACKER years of being a coach at Hargrave Military Academy mixed in with what Louisville has done. You'll see the same thing here." Lorenzo Brown understands Keatts' past and what he'll need to do to win at NC State in the future. The former Wolfpack point guard, who finished up a successful stint in China and is now in the NBDL with the Grand Rapids Storm, credits Keatts for help- ing him become the player he is today. "When I was at Hargrave he put me in the role of being an all-around player," Brown said. "He gave me too much freedom actu- ally, but it helped break me out of my shell because I was always quiet. He got the ag- gression out of me and made me who I am today." In three years at NC State, Brown aver- aged 11.6 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was saddened to see his former coach Gottfried get fired Feb. 16, but also is hope- ful for the Wolfpack's future under Keatts. The current players will need time to ad- just to a new coach, something Brown went through himself. He played his freshman year for Sidney Lowe and then two seasons under Gottfried. "The coaching transition is as hard as you make it," Brown said. "If you think about how it won't be good for me or things like that, or in a negative way, it will hurt you. You have to come in positive and be ready to work." The two have communicated with each other about the NC State job since Keatts emerged as a candidate. Keatts also coached former NCSU players DeShawn Painter, Kenny Inge and Anthony Grundy during his two stints at Hargrave. "I always knew he was a good coach," Brown said. "I feel like wherever he was at, he would make it work. He was a players' coach and knows the right thing to say. He can make players want to play for him. "The NC State players better be prepared to work. You have to be prepared to play hard each and every day that you step on the court. You'll get better while doing it." Brown enjoyed watching his for- mer coach have great success with UNC Wilmington. Another long-time friend of Keatts — Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy head coach Steve Smith — also watched UNCW's postseason runs. Smith and Oak Hill started playing a pre- season scrimmage against Hargrave in 1990, and he got to know former rival when Keatts was hired as an assistant coach at Hargrave in 1997. Keatts slid over one chair to be- come the head coach in 1999, and he would have some star-studded battles with Smith, who has won nine national titles and over 1,000 games at Oak Hill. Smith was happy for his friend when he first got hired at Louisville as an assistant coach in 2011, and then eventually head coaching jobs at UNC Wilmington and now NC State. "I've known him since he was an assis- tant, so a long time, 20-plus years," Smith said. "We were co-coaches of the Kentucky Derby Classic in Louisville, and he men- tioned to me, 'If Coach Pitino calls you, I'm interviewing for an assistant coaching job.' I had talked to Coach Pitino and Richard Pitino, who was an assistant coach there at the time, about Kevin." Smith told Pitino that Keatts was the "whole package" when it came to recruit- ing, coaching and relationships with players. "I was glad he got the job there and then he ended up winning a national champion- ship and moved on to UNC Wilmington," Smith said. Smith watched the CAA Tournament title game and the UNCW vs. Virginia battle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, which turned out to be Keatts' last game with the Seahawks. "I thought maybe they were going to get it done that day," Smith said. "Virginia is a hard team to play, and their style of play is different. I thought they had a chance, and I picked them in my pool to win that game." Smith saw a meshing of different styles in Keatts' UNC Wilmington squad. "Coaches all steal things from each other, and we all learn from each other," Smith said. "I saw some things that were similar to Hargrave because he had Division I players when he was there, similar to what I have at Oak Hill. He has also used his experience from coaching at Louisville. In three seasons at Louisville, Keatts helped Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino reach two Final Fours and win the 2013 national championship. PHOTO COURTESY LOUISVILLE

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