Mark Gottfried is the head basketball coach at N.C. State, and he addressed his team before its third-round upset of Georgetown.
I told you the other day and I believe this with all my heart, Gottfried told his players. Youre good enough. Youre good enough to do this. Youre good enough to advance. Theres a plane waiting for you to take you to St. Louis. Theres a hotel room waiting for you. Theres a game waiting to be played in St. Louis.
The speech was televised, and as Gottfried finished the camera panned briefly to the back of the room where, next to the dry-erase board, stood his top assistant, Bobby Lutz.
It was like watching a band perform on TV. Gottfried was the singer and lead guitarist. Lutz played drums.
The tour has been rewarding. For the first time, Lutz is in the Sweet 16, where the Wolfpack will play second-seeded Kansas.
Its been a really special few weeks here, Lutz, 53, says by telephone. Its a cliché, but its difficult to describe the feeling. Its a feeling of happiness. Its unexpected in terms of where we were at the beginning of the season, but not unexpected the last few weeks. Its very satisfying and hard to put into words what its like to work closely with Mark (Gottfried) and (assistants) Rob Moxley and Orlando (Early).
Moxley and Early worked with Lutz in Charlotte, where he was head coach from 1999 until he was fired after the 09-10 season.
Charlotte played in five NCAA tournaments under Lutz, and in 2001 the 49ers advanced to the round of 32, where they were beaten by top-seeded Illinois. Bill Self, who coaches Kansas, coached the Illini then.
The 49ers failed to make the tournament Lutzs last five seasons. Basketball in Charlotte changed. Louisville (Rick Pitino), Cincinnati (then Bob Huggins) and Memphis (then John Calipari) left Conference USA, taking the rivalries with them.
Lutz and the program were diminished. The 49ers moved to the Atlantic 10, a prestigious basketball conference if you live in Philadelphia. But they have yet to find traction, or success.
I wanted to work at some level in administration at Charlotte, but that clearly was not going to be an option, says Lutz. So I definitely wanted to stay in coaching.
Lutz was offered an opportunity to be assistant head coach at Iowa State last season, but waited three months before he accepted the job. He loved the time off. When he was ready, he headed to Ames, Iowa, and speaks glowingly of his season there.
Lutz returned to N.C. State, and his old friend Gottfried, this season after Lutzs father, Bob, suffered a heart attack. Bob Lutz, who still lives in Denver, N.C., in the house in which Bobby grew up, has recovered nicely.
So has his son, who is a major piece of N.C. States resurgence.
Lutz is advance scout and defensive coordinator, a superior strategist who often is the smartest man in whatever room he steps.
What Mark has done with the program is something everybody in the state, except Duke and North Carolina fans, should feel good about, says Lutz. And even they might admit that the ACC is much more interesting when N.C. State and Wake are competitive, too.
And to be part of the staff that brought us back into relevancy so quickly is something that Ill remember a long, long time.
Lutz would like to be a head coach again. He says he has learned from Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State (whose team made the tournament this season) and from Gottfried.
Will you come back a better head coach?
I dont know if Ill get opportunity, Lutz says. But if I do, Im 100 percent confident the answer is yes.