Tar Heel Fan

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Strike Two

In the 10 days since Herb Sendek left NC State for Arizona St. two coaches have managed to parlay for themselves a total of $900,000 in raises from their respective schools. In other words, being on NC State's wish list for coaches is good for your personal portfolio. First Texas' Rick Barnes said no and was duly paid for his decision to stay in Austin. I honestly think Barnes made a decision based on the merits and not so much the money(though the money helps.) Next on the list was John Calipari of Memphis who I thought had a reputation of not being the most upstanding of coaches. Now we have evidence that is most certainly the case. NC State AD Lee Fowlet made the decision to make this run at Calipari a public affair after keeping the Barnes pursuit secret. Fowler was aggressive and I thought the public courtship was a bold move with built-in advantages for NC State. By putting it on the table in full view of the world, Calipari was forced to move quickly and Memphis was also forced to either pony up or let him go. So Fowler offers the big money, estimated at more than half a million dollars more than Memphis had recently bumped his salary to following the end of the season. This entered another factor into the mix which was an apparent rift between Calipari and Memphis AD R.C. Johnson who had only offered Calipari $100,000 more even though he had taken the Tigers to the Elite 8. Needless to say Calipari was not amused and essentially stood ready to play the "disrespect" card. NC State came calling(was called?) and Calipari entertained the offer in Memphis on Sunday and followed up Monday with a visit to campus. Now I know that signs are really good if the guy comes and visits. Why waste the time to travel there if you are not serious? If you a coach gets as far as the campus visit and further discussion then it is almost a sure bet. Of course UNC thought Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer was a sure bet six years ago when he came to Chapel Hill to talk turkey about the UNC football job and even verbally committed to take it. UNC AD Dick Braddour forgot to have him sign the contract and Beamer went back to Blacksburg, got all misty eyed, and he received a handsome offer to stay put. He did and a new venacular was born in the realm of North Carolina college athletics. UNC got "Beamered" And now NC State has had the joy of having been "Beamered" too. Calipari played the Wolfpack like a violin. It was a masterful performance in which Calipari led NC State down the garden path only to bash them over the head with a rock and walk off arm-in-arm with Memphis. Even before this occurred I had always felt Calipari was a weasel and now we have proof of it. NC State's rabid desperation for a "big name" coach and a personality of epic proportions was a huge weakness here. Also, it was known how much money they threw at Barnes, it was a safe bet they would throw similar money at the Memphis coach. Calipari played the situation every step of the way from the initial offer right down to the campus visit which scared the living daylights out of Memphis boosters to the point they immediately raised the pot of dough needed to retain their prized coach. Of course the most brillant charade of the whole act was the perceived tension between Calipari and his boss, Johnson, which lent further credence to the idea that Calipari was upset at his treatment. Many in the media thought Calipari was jaded enough to take another job because Memphis only chose to do the right thing after the NC State offer came and not out of recognition for his accomplisments. In the end Calipari did what one would expect Calipari to do and that is look out for himself. It is obvious that being king of Conference USA is enough to feed his massive ego and he is still under no restrictions as to the kinds of players he can recruit. Memphis will easily be a top 10-15 team next season with two good recruits coming in. Calipari had all of his ducks in a row at Memphis and was only missing one thing: a top flight contract. All Calipari wanted was his fair market value for building a contender and if he had to use NC State insatiable appetite for an established coach with great hair so be it. NC State got screwed, hands down. The problem they face now is getting more ominous as the days wear on. It can be reasonably assumed that every single AD in the country who even remotely thinks Lee Fowler might call has either locked their guy into a good deal or has one sitting his desk drawer ready to pull out if necessary. Make no mistake, Lee Fowler did everything he was supposed to do here. He made the big offers and fought for two big names who would have been good fits for NC State. Fowler led them to the water, they just wanted no part of it for whatever reason. It was a huge and calculated risk which would have made Fowler a revered person had it worked but now that it hasn't he is being maligned by the fan base. Now the NC State AD faces a daunting and difficult task which begins with the question: What now?

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