Gottfried's Wolfpack likely to pick up tempo

Former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried likes his players to run and create scoring opportunities. He used that formula to take his teams to seven NCAA tournaments.

Staff WriterApril 6, 2011 

— As new N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried described his style of play Tuesday, it quickly became apparent that the pace of basketball is going to speed up at the RBC Center.

In five seasons under former coach Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack never ranked higher than sixth in the ACC in scoring. Before that, N.C. State spent much of Herb Sendek's 10-season tenure in a methodical, slow-paced, Princeton-type system.

Gottfried will take a different approach.

"We do like to run," he said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. "We would like to play up-tempo. I'm not a guy who likes to play in the 40s and 50s. I'm a guy who likes to push the ball and create opportunities."

Gottfried comes to N.C. State with seven NCAA tournament appearances, including a regional final in 2004 at Alabama, as a head coach.

He is known as an excellent recruiter, and the guards in the N.C. State program were familiar with his development of current Los Angeles Clippers guard Mo Williams, a seven-year NBA veteran.

"Mo Williams plays in the NBA right now, and apparently he's helped him get there," said sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown. "That's a big deal for Ryan [Harrow] and me right now, because basically we're the only two point guards here, and I'm a point guard/shooting guard. I'm pretty sure he can help us out."

The news of Gottfried's hiring sent Forsyth Country Day junior guard Tyler Lewis hustling to do some quick research. By Tuesday evening, Lewis was impressed with what he had learned.

Lewis said he intends to honor his commitment to N.C. State and hopes Gottfried is impressed with his game.

"I know he likes to get up and down at a fast pace, which will help my game a lot, because that's when I'm at my best," Lewis said.

Gottfried proved himself as a recruiter at a school known more for its football success than its basketball program. Some of his top classes at Alabama were ranked No. 8 (2004 and 2005), No. 23 (2007) and No. 13 (2008) in the nation by Rivals.com.

Williams and forwards Richard Hendrix and JaMychal Green were McDonald's All-Americans who signed with Gottfried.

"He can sell his program," said All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons. "I think he's got a great eye for talent. He's very experienced, a very capable coach, he's a good teacher, he's a good motivator, and I think he's got the total package I would be looking for if I were hiring a head coach."

At Alabama, where Gottfried coached from 1998 to 2009, he also built fan interest. The Crimson Tide didn't go to the NCAA tournament until his fourth season.

But home attendance increased after the team starting winning and a student group that called itself "Mark's Madness" formed in 2000 and created a louder atmosphere.

"He's a good PR guy," said Hunter Johnson, the president of Mark's Madness from 2005 to 2008. "He knows how to handle people and when it's a good time to do it. When he first got to Tuscaloosa, he was drumming up support, getting the town behind the team."

After five straight NCAA tournament appearances, though, Gottfried ended his time at Alabama on a sour note. The team failed to make the NCAA tournament in 2007 and 2008, and Gottfried stepped down 19 games into the 2008-09 season.

Gottfried attributed some of the program's struggles to injuries to highly regarded point guard Ronald Steele. But Gottfried said the head coach ultimately bears responsibility.

"We had a great run for a long time, and I don't think we did nearly as good a job sustaining that," Gottfried said. "A lot of mistakes were made. Some staff decisions or player decisions and a lot of other decisions. Those are things you learn from, you move on from."

He did move on, doing an estimated 100 games as an analyst for ESPN. He said he learned from visiting with coaches such as Tom Izzo, John Calipari and Rick Pitino.

Now Gottfried is bringing his fast pace to N.C. State, where ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said fans will enjoy his coaching and personality.

"He's got a really good feel for players and he's a really good recruiter and relates really well to people," Bilas said. "I think N.C. State fans are going to like him."

ktysiac@charlotteobserer.com or 919-829-8942

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service