After denying reports it planned to fire head coach Mark Gottfried at the end of the season, N.C. State announced Thursday that it plans to fire head coach Mark Gottfried at the end of the season.
The move comes at the back end of a godawful campaign for the Wolfpack, which is currently in 14-13 overall, 3-11 in the ACC, and losers of their last six games by an average 19.2 points. Per ESPN, the Wolfpack (14-13, 3-11 in the ACC) publicized the decision Thursday afternoon in a press release, with statements from both athletic director Debbie Yow and Gottfried.
“Mark and I met today to discuss the future direction of our program,” Yow said in a release. “While it has long been my practice to evaluate the body of work at season’s end, in reviewing the overall direction of our program, we believe a change in leadership is necessary moving forward. Our focus now remains on supporting our student-athletes and staff over the final weeks of our season.”
“It has been a privilege to serve as head coach of NC State, and I’m proud of what we have accomplished during my time here,” Gottfried said in a release. “NC State is a special place and I appreciate the opportunity to finish the remainder of the season.”
Gottfried’s overall 122-82 record at N.C. State is proof enough that his agent’s phone is probably already ringing, but the past two seasons in Raleigh have been rough, to say the least. As of his firing announcement, the Wolfpack are 30-30 since the start of the 2016 season and seem unlikely to garner an invitation to the NIT this season, let alone the main tournament.
The downward spiral over the past two years and his messy exit will temporarily shroud the fact that his four consecutive tournament appearances to kick off his tenure were warmly welcomed by fans who watched the team missed March Madness in the previous five seasons under former coach Sidney Lowe. Lowe, the 1983 championship team’s starting point guard, entered his first college head coaching gig with a significant amount of cushion from N.C. State higher-ups—in five years, he went 86-78 and never took them into the tournament.
After signing Gottfried to a five-year deal in 2015 worth at least $2.48 million per year, the Wolfpack decided that his work in the following season and change was not promising enough to keep him around until 2020.
This season in particular got very ugly, very fast—non-conference play was kind to N.C. State, as it entered ACC play 11-2. Since then, the Wolfpack have sprinkled in three wins, including a one-off against Duke before it decided to actually play basketball again. But even with the upset, the 11 bad-look losses and blowouts were enough to do in Gottfried.
Gottfried’s key victory of the season wasn’t the Blue Devil upset, but the fact that he managed to pry future lottery pick Dennis Smith away from Duke, UNC, and Louisville (Dennis, man, you played yourself). The issue then became that he failed to translate his major recruiting victory in actual wins or defensive aptitude. The Wolfpack are among the worst units in all of college basketball, ranking 328th in points allowed per game at 80.5, per SportsReference. Outside their talented point guard, who is also guilty of playing like a lost toddler on defense, the Wolfpack have few reliable shot creators, which is why they sit at 14th in the ACC and own a loss to the team sitting at No. 15, Boston College, which is truly a dick-shooting feat to be remembered.
In the end, N.C. State never got “tougher,” and Gottfried has failed to do anything with a team that, even with Smith, was a bubble tournament team at best to begin with. Now, Wolfpack fans can revert to their natural state: wandering aimlessly amongst the piedmont, excitedly recalling the 1983 title game and pontificating about the Next Year that never comes.