DeCock: Gottfried goes from selling vision of Wolfpack's program to living it

ldecock@newsobserver.comOctober 9, 2012 

N.C. State's Mark Gottfried hugs C.J. Leslie (5) after N.C. State's 66-63 victory over Georgetown in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, March 18, 2012.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

— It was only a little more than a year ago that Mark Gottfried stood up in front of the Raleigh Sports Club and delivered an address that was about 99 percent promise and 1 percent substance.

At the time, that was the new N.C. State basketball coach’s job: Stoke the fires of a smoldering fan base, but without raising expectations too high. It required a delicate balance and left him describing his own team as “not great” and “not terrible.”

(Gottfried even talked about the possibility of playing Kansas, a pledge that he would deliver in a most unexpected fashion.)

And hanging over all of it was the decision of Rodney Purvis, the coveted local recruit from Raleigh’s Upper Room Academy who was only two days away from making a decision among Connecticut, Memphis, Virginia Commonwealth, N.C. Central and N.C. State.

That was the state of the N.C. State program on Sept. 28, 2011.

Flash forward to Monday.

Purvis is in the practice gym at the Dail Center, talking to reporters and posing for photos at media day, his leap of faith in his hometown school validated by the team’s postseason success.

The Wolfpack is coming off a 24-win season that ended with a loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16, good for a fourth-place tie in the ACC.

C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown passed on the NBA to return to the Wolfpack, where Purvis is part of a high-powered recruiting class that also includes T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis.

When the first AP poll comes out on Oct. 26, it’s likely N.C. State will be solidly in the top 10. When the ACC media gathers in Charlotte next week, there’s a chance the Wolfpack will be predicted to win the ACC.

This is the state of the N.C. State program on Oct. 8, 2012.

“I was really confident with coach Gottfried, and I can see it paid off with the tournament and what he’s done for the university,” Purvis said Monday. “I was super excited. I had all my friends excited, even people who were Carolina fans, Duke fans, I turned them into State fans. Anytime they won, I felt like I was winning too.”

A year ago at media day, N.C. State’s players talked about uncertainty, about hopes for the season that were little more than that – hope. Monday, Scott Wood assessed the welcome burden of expectations. Richard Howell complained, good-naturedly, about being unable to go unnoticed in public. Leslie, once in desperate need of mentorship, talked solemnly about his duty to mentor the freshmen. And Brown reminisced about how Gottfried told the team before last season it would take a while for things to click, a warning that seems so dated now.

“I’d love to stand up in front of every group and say we’re going to be a top-10 team,” Gottfried said on Sept. 28, 2011, after giving his speech to the sports club. “We’re not there yet.”

Fifty-three weeks later, they’re there now. It’s not a question of whether they have the talent, or whether they can do it. It’s only a question of whether they will.

“It’s no different than last year,” Gottfried said. “We were picked near the bottom, and that’s not something we paid attention to last year, and it’s not something we’re going to pay attention to this year. Regardless of where you’re picked, the only thing that counts is how hard you work each day and how well you do your job each day.

“Now, can our players truly grasp that? We’ll find out.”

DeCock: luke.decock@newsobserver.com, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947

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