Luke DeCock

Quick football hire offers hope hoops search will go smoothly – DeCock

Awesome. Another N.C. State basketball coaching search. The last two have gone about as well as land wars in Asia, and taken about as long.

Maybe this one will be different, after the university announced Thursday that Mark Gottfried would not return next season. The process that led to athletic director Debbie Yow hiring Dave Doeren to replace Tom O’Brien as football coach offers some hope that it will.

But the way the last two went, some fans are still having flashbacks.

Eleven years ago, then-athletic director Lee Fowler failed to entice a long list of candidates (Rick Barnes, John Calipari, etc.) and instead, after more than a month, ended up with Sidney Lowe, a longtime NBA coach whose love for the school where he starred far exceeded his knowledge of the college game.

In 2011, when Yow decided to fire Lowe after five mostly disappointing seasons without an NCAA tournament appearance, she was also rebuffed by a different but equally long list of coaches (Sean Miller, Shaka Smart, etc.) She even sent out a letter to Wolfpack fans after three fruitless weeks acknowledging the search was taking longer than expected before landing, unexpectedly, on Gottfried, who had been out of coaching for more than two years. She then accused then-Maryland coach Gary Williams of “sabotage” during the process.

Neither search could be described as nominal. Last time around, there were coaches who weren’t even approached claiming they’d turned the job down, because things had gotten so weird they knew no one would doubt them.

But the Doeren hiring, in December 2012, was different. Yow made the decision to fire O’Brien once she had identified Doeren as her top target and moved quickly to close the deal. While things haven’t gone as smoothly for Doeren on the field as he or Yow would have liked, the hiring process was quick and efficient – and Doeren has everything lined up for a breakthrough season in 2017.

Whoever the new coach is, next season will offer a bit of a grace period. Even if the Wolfpack can conjure a sixth year of eligibility for Terry Henderson, even if Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven come back to school, the talent level is going to be thin next year – especially in the backcourt, if a few players transfer out in the wake of Gottfried’s departure, which would be totally understandable. There’s only one recruit signed, Garner’s Thomas Allen, so there’s not a big class to protect.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Expectations will be low and available scholarships will be plentiful, which isn’t the worst place to start putting one’s stamp on the program. Just ask Josh Pastner.

There are qualified candidates out there beyond Miller, who will be fans’ top choice, just as his brother was six years ago. Given the way the season has devolved, Yow should long ago have identified several realistic targets. Now, with the decision made, she must move swiftly (and quietly) to lock one down.

The way the last two searches dragged on in embarrassing fashion made the N.C. State job less attractive with each passing rejection, turning what should have been a reasonably desirable landing spot into damaged goods.

Yow avoided all of that with Doeren, which raises hopes she can do it again with Gottfried’s successor. The alternative is too grim to contemplate.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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