UNC Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts talks with guard JaQuel Richmond during an NCCA college basketball practice session at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, March 15, 2017. The team was preparing for its first round NCAA tournament game against Virginia on Thursday. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP)
By Rob McLamb
Special to the Times
There was much speculation that N.C. State would turn to an alum for its next men’s basketball head coach. Ultimately, the Wolfpack found their man and he was much closer to the program.
N.C. State announced Friday that UNC Wilmington head coach Kevin Keatts would make the 130-mile trip to Raleigh to become the school’s new head basketball coach. Keatts joins the Wolfpack after three seasons in charge of the Seahawks.
Keatts was named head coach after many had felt N.C. State would attempt to coax Dayton head coach Archie Miller into accepting the position at the university where he once played.
Ultimately, the athletic department moved quickly to secure Keatts as its next coach. His Seahawks reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season but lost to Virginia in the first round Thursday.
“When we set out to hire our next men’s basketball coach, we wanted to identify someone with the pedigree, vision and plan to serve as the architect of N.C. State basketball,” N.C. State Director of Athletics Debbie Yow said in a statement Friday. “Kevin quickly emerged as the perfect fit in each of these areas. His history of success in building programs, of competing at a championship-level in every stop of his career, his commitment to player development and priority in academics make him a tremendous hire for us.”
Keatts replaces Mark Gottfried, who was let go after back-to-back losing seasons following trips to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four years at N.C. State.
In each of his three seasons with at UNCW, Keatts guided the Seahawks to Colonial Athletic Association regular-season titles. He was the league’s Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and is 72-28 overall as a head coach.
Prior to arriving in Wilmington, Keatts was an associate head coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino for three seasons. The Cardinals won the national title in 2013 after reaching the Final Four the previous campaign.
His first head coaching job came in 1999 at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. He followed that up with a stint as an assistant at Marshall.
“The first person I met when I arrived at Hargrave was Kevin Keatts,” Marshall head coach Greg White said. “His personality, it’s unique. Right away, I knew he was special. He’s just such a warm person who can instantly connect with anyone.”
Keatts met with his team Friday to inform them of the move. He is expected to be in Raleigh over the weekend.
“I have an incredible respect for the history and tradition of N.C. State University, and am honored by the opportunity to lead the Wolfpack,” Keatts said in a statement. “There is an unbelievable commitment to basketball in Raleigh, and I share a vision with Debbie Yow and Chancellor Randy Woodson on what N.C. State can achieve.
“From incredible fan support to high-level academics, first-class facilities and the ability to recruit at the highest level, everything is in place at N.C. State to build an elite program. My family and I are honored to become a part of Wolfpack Nation, and I look forward to adding to its storied history.”