Tar Heel Fan

Thursday, April 06, 2006

NC State Fan Misconceptions

Now that we are approaching a week since Herb Sendek took his modified Princeton offense and went to Arizona St., Wolfpack nation continues it's vigil on message board and AM sports talk awaiting the naming of the coach which will take them where Sendek could not. Having spent some time reading the Pack Pride message board(they denied my application to be able to post there) I have learned that Wolfpack fans are operating through this fiasco with a number of misconceptions which make it all far more entertaining than it normal. Misconception: State needs a "big name" coach Real Motivation: Instant Gratification My answer to this is why? Why do you necessarily need a star coach when you think that Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Bobby Knight, and Mike Krzyzewski were big name coaches before they landed at their respective schools? Of course not, but it should also be noted that all of those coaches walked into situations where the program was at rock bottom or on probation from infractions committed by the previous coach. NC State does not appear to be in that boat. NC State has been to five straight NCAA Tournaments, is winning 20 games a season, the players are graduating, and the program is clean(Good thing they got rid of Sendek with those shenanigans going on.) It is the general feeling that since the program is in good shape, now is the time to spend the resources to get a big name who can build a mansion on top of Sendek's foundation. I would ultimatly disagree with that assumption. I think there are plenty of good mid-major coaches who carry a lesser price tag who can take the current foundation and build a nice house. The real problem with Wolfpack nation is they are tired of waiting and a big name coach is more likely to shortcut the development process because his name and status brings instant credibility and a almost instant recruiting pipeline. A successful mid-major coach would needs a few years to get the ball rolling. Finding the next coaching star would server NC State for much longer and much better than diving into the middle of a name coach's career. Misconception:The new coach needs ego and personality to stand toe-to-toe with Roy and K. Real Motivation: Inferiority complex when it comes to UNC and Duke As I have said many times before, the NC State neurosis over Sendek had more to do with him not being Jim Valvano than the actual win total. I am not going to rehash these reasons I discussed here but rest assured the low key Sendek did not sit well with State fans who spoke so highly of the sound bite at the ready Valvano. This mentality is what is playing out in this case. State fans want a coach who already has his own aura and orbit in space. They want someone who is a giant right next to Roy and Coach K. There is also some notion that head-to-head recruiting is an issue which seems a little silly. Going back to the first point they want someone who can come in and suck some of the air in the room away from the other two guys and match them not only in Xs and Os but also in the public relations battle. The folley in this thinking is that you are having the coaching search dictate not by what you need but how you can beat two other local coaches in what amounts to a chest beating contest. As much as I dislike Coach K and complain on this blog about the attention he gets and the media favorability I also realize that as a function of how UNC performs none of it matters. NC State fans seem so concerned about how well a new coach would "matchup" with the other two coaches they are obviously willing to pay $2 million a year for a guy in Rick Barnes who is 2-14 against those two combined. In other words they want their coach to look and sound as good as the other two and they do not want to wait for that to happen. Misconception: UNC and Duke fans are fearful NC State will land a top coach Real Motivation: They hope UNC and Duke fans are fearful I could really care less other than the tremendous entertainment value it all has in watching them get worked up over it. If Barnes or someone else comes in and revives the program to the point they are able to beat UNC more often then I will deal with the same way I deal with Duke's current run of dominance. These things run in a cycle, except in NC State's case the cycle has been going for a very long time. I honestly do not worry about such things because UNC's goal when it begins each season is to win a national championship. Since the chances of playing another conference school at any point in the tournament is usually quite remote, why should I care how good they get at NC State. UNC has beaten Duke a total of four times this decade. You know how many national championships UNC has in the same span. One, the same number as Duke. The point is that beating the rival is nice, winning the ACC championship is nice, but winning the whole thing is better. In fact UNC's past two national championship seasons have included ACC Tournament losses to Georgia Tech. I treat a team getting a new coach like a team getting good recruits, I will wait and see what comes of the situation and deal with it then. Besides I think I speak for both UNC and Duke fans in saying that we have so much confidence in our head coaches and the skill they show in exercising their craft that I really will not lose on moment of sleep worrying about what kind of coach ends up in Raleigh, Lexington, KY, or Bloomington, IN. We have two of the best in the business why should we worry about the other guys. Misconception: NC State is an elite program and desired coaching desitnation Real Motivation: Say it enough times and it might become true I have dealt with this some on my other posts and in short, no NC State is not a national elite program. It is also debatable whether thay have ever been that with any kind of serious consistency. NC State fans like to point to the 1980's which included the national title in 1983. The problem is NC State only made it put of the first round 3 out of the next 6 years when they hit the Elite 8 in 1985 and 1986. 1984 they missed the NCAAs and in 1987 and 1988 they went home early. 1989 was a Sweet 16 year followed by probabtion in 1990 due to misconduct. The 1970's were similar with two really good years which included a national title, but during the rest of the decade the Wolfpack was good but nothing to write home about. In fact you have to skip the 1960's and go right to the formation of the ACC and NC State's inital dominance under Everett Case to find anything remotely close to elite program status. Wolfpack fans are stuck in the past and hold up standards of winning which were not even adhered to that closely by the most beloved coach of all Jimmy V. The other part of the equation is that it is difficult to claim you program is elite and a desired job when the fan base runs the coach out of town for doing nothing more than running a clean operation and making it to 5 straight NCAA Tournaments in which he won four times in the first round and went to the Sweet 16 once. This is not to rehash the Sendek situation, but merely a reminder that coaches are going to consider the fan base as a crucial factor in whether or not they even want to put up with the pressure of having to instantly gratify a discontented group of fans who were dissatified with a level of success most schools would kill to have. And I am not saying NC State does not have a right to desire to win and be national champions, it is just a better road to get there if you actually ground view of your program in reality as a means of tempering your expectations. These four misconceptions along with many other delusional comments form a very clear picture of the state of mind in Wolfpack nation. As a group they have launguished in medicority and even when they enjoyed a few moments of glory in the 70's and 80's they were so starved for that kind of success they have woven those into a perception that they are somehow an elite program. This is also born out of the immense inferiority complex they feel being on the same street with UNC and Duke. It has made them utterly self concsious and narrow minded in their focus on the progress of the program. One telling moment this season was when UNC went to Raleigh to play NC State and Wolfpack nation viewed it as their Armegeddon. It was an important game for UNC in terms of momentum and improving their position in the standings and the same was true for NC State. Except Wolfpack fans saw it as a chance to take down UNC and engage in some kind of asinine chest beating when the tournament and the standings were far more important issues. The way that game was framed, I honestly believe was the reason NC State entered into the slide they experienced. If their focus had been on themselves and winning basketball games in pursuit of the bigger picture then perhaps they would have played better and even if they had lost, perhaps it would not have been so devasting. NC State fans are bent on a quest to be instantly catapulted to the top of college basketball and they want to stick it to UNC and Duke in the process. And make no mistake there is nothing wrong with that. However, that kind of climb is rarely instant and anyone who thinks UNC or Duke got there by worrying themselves sick over what the other team was doing would be flat wrong. NC State fans need to answer the question of which is the more important set of wins; 2 or 3 over your chief rivals or the six games in March/April. UNC and Duke know the answer to that question and understand pursuing the greater goal means you are good enough to take care of the other question as well.

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