DeCock: One tortuous coaching search leads to an easier one

December 2, 2012 

— As long, disheartening and at times painful as N.C. State’s search for a basketball coach was in the spring of 2011, it ended up in the right place, with Mark Gottfried taking the Wolfpack to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament and making a national impact on the recruiting scene.

It also landed N.C. State a football coach. Indirectly, to be sure, but the reason it took less than a week to bring Dave Doeren from Northern Illinois was precisely because the Wolfpack followed the same path it took to get to Gottfried – this time, without any detours.

Both Doeren and Gottfried are represented by the same agent, Jordan Bazant of The Legacy Agency. Long before N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow made Bazant one of her first calls after firing Tom O’Brien to check on Doeren, Bazant and Doeren had discussed the coach’s potential next move, and N.C. State ranked high among his preferences.

“I had conversations with my agent for the last couple years, obviously, about where this was going,” Doeren said. “When we won the conference championship last year, we hadn’t won it in 28 years at Northern, so I knew if we had another good year people might be asking to talk to us.

“So we just kind of strategized about, ‘What part of the country would you want to be in? What kind of school would you want to go to?’ By the time we were done, he said, ‘I have a client, a basketball coach, and it sounds like this is the kind of place you’d want to end up at.’ ”

Doeren knew enough about North Carolina to listen to what his agent was saying. He’d come to Asheville a decade ago on a fly-fishing trip and been back several times, bringing his family to Lake Lure on vacation last summer. He liked the fishing. He liked the climate. He could see himself here.

When N.C. State came calling, he had other options, but he’d been thinking about N.C. State long before N.C. State was thinking about him.

As for Yow, she had a short list of four candidates, which the N&O has reported included Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, Kent State coach Darrell Hazell and Doeren. Yow said Doeren quickly rose to the top of that group. Unlike the spring of 2011, when basketball coach after basketball coach spurned N.C. State’s advances, she found a very willing listener in Doeren.

“It’s nice to have people know you well enough to understand what the fit should be,” Yow said. “They knew him really well, they knew me really well, they understood. And they were right.”

So it was a match from the start, an interested school and an interested coach, which made it the polar opposite of the basketball search.

As for the two coaches, Gottfried said Sunday he had never met Doeren. Turns out he had, he just didn’t remember it. Doeren said he played in a golf tournament last year in Gottfried’s native Alabama where Gottfried was the keynote speaker.

“He probably doesn’t remember,” Doeren said. “It was just a handshake and a hello.”

They’re connected by more than that now. One tortuous coaching search led to another easy one. As hard as it was to find a basketball coach, it was that easy to find a football coach. About all it took was a handshake and a hello.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, Twitter: @LukeDeCock

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