The Wolfpacker

May 2017 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 85 of 87

86 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER T his is the hard‑ est question to answer as an organi‑ zational leader: How do you find the right people to fill impor‑ tant positions? Sure, there are lots of folks who want a job. And lots of people who can do a job. And any number of people willing to take a job. But who is exactly the right fit? That was the ques‑ tion facing NC State athletics director Debbie Yow, the advisory committee she recruited and the search firm she hired to fill the men's basketball position vacated by Mark Gottfried at the end of the 2016‑17 season. Gottfried spent six dutiful seasons with Pack, going to four NCAA Tournaments with a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. The last two seasons, however, did not include postseason participation. And, for a variety of other reasons, Yow determined for the second time in her tenure to make a change in leadership in the program. The change, which was revealed midway through February, comes at a critical time in the history of a program that was once the leader in ACC championships but now has gone 30 years since winning its last tournament title. Clearly, the fan base is anxious for suc‑ cess, especially since next‑door neighbors Duke and North Carolina have won two of the last three NCAA titles, and State's Big Four brethren have won 23 of the 30 ACC Tournament titles since State last cut down the nets. We seem to be at the nexus of change in the world of college basketball. In an expanded ACC, now with 15 teams, there are a half‑dozen coaches already in the basketball Hall of Fame or just waiting for their number to be called. It's a tough neigh‑ borhood for any newcomer to establish roots. Here's the thing, though: Over the next five years, more than half of the current ACC coaches will likely be gone, either to retirement or maybe an unexpected depar‑ ture or two. Six current ACC coaches are 67 or older, including Duke's Mike Krzyze‑ wski and North Carolina's Roy Williams. What the Pack's coaching change did was put NC State in good position to be an es‑ tablished leader in the not too distant future. So Yow and those who advised her needed to hit a home run in finding a new coach. And all early indications are that is exactly what happened March 17, when former UNC Wilmington and Hargrave Military Academy head coach — and Louisville and Marshall assistant — Kevin Keatts was hired. The reason Yow most often identified for offering him the job was simple. "He has 'the stuff,'" Yow said when Ke‑ atts was introduced. For Yow, with more than 30 years of athletics administration experience, "the stuff" is an undefinable combination of feel and knowledge. "I'm not sure how you can explain it until you actually see it," Yow said. "It's the combination of the work ethic, the raw abilities to recruit, the X's and O's on the court. But it's more than that. It's the wis‑ dom to manage all of it and to manage a team. That's really the key. "He has that in the way some other coaches have." Keatts has the approval of NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson, who also sees something special in the coach's career, both on and off the court. "What impressed me the most is his com‑ mitment to excellence in all aspects of these young men's lives," the chancellor noted. "I said going into this that I wanted to make sure we had a coach that cared deeply and passionately about these guys' success, in every facet of their lives. "He's done that so well at every place he's been, plus he's a proven winner. Ev‑ erything about him aligned with me the first time we talked." Yow has a record in bringing in new personnel and push‑ ing them to an even higher level. She's par‑ ticularly proud of hiring men's and women's swimming coach Braden Holloway and wrestling coach Pat Popolizio, who both have guided their programs to high‑level finishes. She also made staff changes in her seven years with two other high‑profile programs, football with Dave Doeren and women's basketball with Wes Moore. Both have been successful in both the regular season and in the postseason, and have their pro‑ grams on the rise. For his part, Keatts understands that all the discussion over his early coaching suc‑ cess, his hiring and the vetting of his expe‑ riences and qualifications is now over. He's been identified as the person in charge, and he believes he can be successful in both the short and long term with the Wolfpack. "Probably the toughest question I got in the whole hiring process was about my vision for the program and where I see it going from here," Keatts said. "I told [Yow] my vision was to build the program, not just to build a great team. I don't want this to be a situation where we win one year and then aren't suc‑ cessful for two or three years after that. "I think it is important to lay the founda‑ tion for a program. That is something that has to be gradually built, and I hope every‑ body has patience for that. But in the end, I hope we will build a national championship program." And that is "the stuff" of coaching success. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE Kevin Keatts Has The 'Stuff' To Be Successful Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. You may contact him at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: Keatts (center) was hired in March after making a big impression on both NC State athletics director Debbie Yow (right) and chancellor Randy Woodson (left). PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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