Coaching Challenges: Mark Gottfried (NC State)

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Four ACC coaches our out, four new ones are in. That was the easy part. The fun part begins now. Each new coach has to deal with their unique challenges. I’ve already pointed out challenges for Maryland’s Mark Turgeon and Miami’s Jim Larranaga, so today I tackle the Wolfpack’s new coach.

MARK GOTTFRIED (NC STATE)

Welcome to the triangle of death Mr. Gottfried. For over 20 years, North Carolina State has been stuck behind the shadows of Duke and North Carolina. If this was a Godfather story, the Wolfpack would be Frado. Can Coach Gottfried change this?

Time will tell, but if he’s going to accomplish anything he’s going to have to make some magic happen now.

To start with, Gottfried didn’t get any favors from point guard, Ryan Harrow. The sophomore decided to skip town, leaving the new coach without a point guard. While Harrow didn’t dominate as a freshman, he was a lightening quick guard that would eventually make life tough for opposing teams. Add in the graduation of Javier Gonzalez and N.C. State doesn’t have a ball handler heading into 2011-2012.

This is bad.

It doesn’t matter how much talent you have on the floor, if you don’t have a quarterback to run the show, the rest of the pieces are going to suffer. I suspect they’ll be looking for an available PG in the 2011 class, but don’t be surprised if sophomore Lorenzo Brown takes over. He’s a shooting guard, but he played some point last year.

However, it’s not all bad news for the new coach.  Gottfried will have one of the most athletically gifted players on the floor in C.J. Leslie. He decided to skip the NBA draft and he should be the Wolfpack’s number one option this fall. The challenge for Gottfried will be to continue to turn this athletic freak into an actual basketball player.

On top of Gonzalez and Harrow’s departures, N.C. State will also need to find a way to replace Tracy Smith. The forward had been State’s best player the past two years. It was his injury last season that really hurt this team and cost Sidney Lowe his job.

While Smith was an important player, don’t be surprised if they improve as a team with his departure. Jordan Vanderberg will clog up the middle with his 7-foot-1 frame and Richard Howell could be the team’s most impressive inside scorer, as well as its emotional leader. Also, don’t forget about Scott Wood, who should continue to develop his outside stroke.

POTENTIAL 2011-2012 STARTING LINEUP
G – Lorenzo Brown
G – Scott Wood
F – C.J. Leslie
F – Richard Howell
C – Jordan Vanderberg

Long-term it appears Mark Gottfried is thinking in-state. It’s not a bad strategy. While the state of North Carolina isn’t stocked with NBA elites, the Wolfpack have certainly missed plenty of hometown talent over the years. The beauty of the strategy is that it won’t be stepping on the toes of Duke or North Carolina, since both schools recruit nationally.

On top of that, Gottfried won’t feel the pressure like some of the other ACC coaches. For example, in Maryland, Mark Turgeon will be expected to produce pretty damn quick. He’s replacing a legend, so I’m not sure he can afford to rebuilt for too long.

Gottfried won’t feel that kind of pressure at NC State. Sure the fans want wins, but it’s been so long since the Wolfpack have been relevant. If he can get them to be a consistent top-four team in the ACC, then it will be considered a success.