The decision to fire Mark Gottfried as basketball coach on Thursday will allow N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow more time to conduct a search for Gottfried’s replacement.
Few doubt who her top target likely will be: Dayton coach Archie Miller.
Miller, 38, played for the Pack. He was an assistant coach for the Pack. He has proven himself as a head coach at Dayton, taken the Flyers to the NCAA tournament the past three years and should get them back there again this season.
But other names can emerge in the Wolfpack coaching search. It could be that Yow, who has said she will retire in 2019, might talk with Butler coach Chris Holtmann or UNCW’s Kevin Keatts. Another possibility could be Will Wade, 34, in his second year as head coach at Virginia Commonwealth.
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Yow said Thursday she will use a search firm to help find Gottfried’s replacement. She refuted media reports that N.C. State, or a search firm working on N.C. State’s behalf, had contacted any coaches about the job.
“We’ve never contacted anyone, nor have we directed a third-party, to contact a coach,” Yow said. “I know that has been reported but it’s unequivocally wrong, it did not happen. I can’t control what an individual booster might do but we have not had anyone here, who will be involved in the search, do anything like that.”
Sean Miller, Archie’s older brother, was Yow’s primary target in 2011 when she hired Gottfried. Yow had considered the younger Miller during that search as well. Miller told the Dayton media on Thursday that no one from N.C. State has contacted him. The Flyers are 20-5 overall and 11-2 in the Atlantic-10 Conference with five remaining regular-season games.
“If I’m the best at anything, I’m the best at not dealing with anything but the task at hand,” Miller told the media. “My concern is our players.”
Miller said while he is an N.C. State alumnus and played for the Pack, calling it a great experience, “You go along your own path. That’s sort of where I am now.”
Miller was given a contract extension by Dayton through the 2023 season last March that included increased compensation. The Dayton Daily News reported that Miller made $1.16 million in 2014 and that it was a 68 percent increase from 2013.
Miller, in his sixth season at Dayton, has a 135-60 overall record and 64-33 conference record. In the 2014 NCAA tournament, the Flyers reached a regional final, beating Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford before being ousted by Florida.
When the Miller extension was announced, former Dayton president Dan Curran told the Daily News that Miller’s salary was equal to that made by Shaka Smart when Smart, now at Texas, coached at VCU — $1.8 million in Smart’s final season.
Curran told the newspaper that while Miller was content at Dayton, there are “probably 8 to 10 universities that you couldn’t pass over.”
Keatts, 44, is in his third season at UNCW, winning 25 games last season when the Seahawks advanced to the NCAA tournament and were competitive in a 93-85 loss to Duke in Providence, R.I. He was an assistant at Louisville from 2011-2014 before being named the UNCW coach in 2014.
Holtmann, 45, is in his third season as head coach at Butler after three seasons at Gardner-Webb. He won 23 games his first year with the Bulldogs and 22 last season, when the Bulldogs played in the NCAA tournament at PNC Arena and lost in the second round to Virginia.
Wade is seen as a young coach on the rise in the profession. A former assistant coach under Smart at VCU and Tommy Amaker at Harvard, the Clemson graduate became a head coach for the first time at Chattanooga in 2013.
The Nashville, Tenn., native spent two years at Chattanooga, winning 22 games his second season, when he was Southern Conference coach of the year. He went 25-11 in his first year at VCU, winning the regular-season title in the Atlantic-10 and reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament.