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NC State hires Kevin Keatts as its next basketball coach

NC State hires Wilmington's Kevin Keatts according to sources

North Carolina-Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts talks with reporters following his team's narrow loss to Virginia in the first round of NCAA Tournament action.
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North Carolina-Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts talks with reporters following his team's narrow loss to Virginia in the first round of NCAA Tournament action.

That didn’t take long at all.

N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow moved quickly to find a new basketball coach and agreed to a deal with Kevin Keatts, the school announced on Friday.

Keatts, who led UNC-Wilmington to the NCAA tournament the past two years, was scheduled to meet with the Wolfpack players in Raleigh on Friday night.

Working efficiently, to avoid the mistakes of her last coaching search, Yow lined up an interview with Keatts on Friday and worked out the details to replace former coach Mark Gottfried.

Keatts, 44, quickly turned around a UNCW program that had six straight losing seasons. He had a 72-28 record in three years and won at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title in each of his three years.

A former assistant for Rick Pitino at Louisville, Keatts was the primary recruiter for Louisville’s 2013 national championship team.

“He’s got the total package,” Pitino said in an interview with The News & Observer before the ACC tournament. “He doesn’t have a weakness as a coach. He’s an outstanding recruiter, that was a big factor in us winning the championship.”

A long, protracted search netted Gottfried in 2011, and Yow was intent on making this one as smooth as possible. Yow decided to fire Gottfried on Feb. 16. Gottfried led N.C. State to the NCAA tournament in each of his first four seasons but the Wolfpack went 9-27 in the ACC the past two years.

Keatts, who is from Lynchburg, Va., is a former point guard for Ferrum College in the early 1990s. He made his name as the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, a prep school in Chatham, Va., where he won 263 games in 10 seasons.

He sent 103 players from Hargrave to Division I basketball, including former N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown.

Keatts joined Pitino’s staff at Louisville in 2011 and helped bring in Luke Hancock, the Most Outstanding Player in the 2013 Final Four, and Montrezl Harrell; guards Terry Rozier and Anton Gill followed.

Louisville went to the Final Four in two of Keatts’ three seasons with Pitino. When UNCW AD Jimmy Bass called Pitino in 2014 looking for a coach, he recommended Keatts.

The Seahawks went 29-63 the three years before Keatts was hired and immediately saw a turnaround with an 18-14 mark in his first season in 2014-15.

Keatts’ second team won the CAA regular season and tournament and was taken out by Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Seahawks won the double CAA title again this year but lost to another ACC opponent, Virginia, in the NCAA tournament on Thursday afternoon in Orlando, Fla.

Keatts made about $600,000 with UNCW this season and has a $200,000 buyout in his contract.

Details of Keatts’ contract with N.C. State were not available. Gottfried’s annual compensation with N.C. State was about $2.5 million.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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