Wolfpack season still up in the air

NC State Notebook

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The hammer finally fell and yet there is still longer to go.

N.C. State’s eventual dismissal of men’s basketball head coach Mark Gottfried has been on the fast track of late, particularly once WTVD’s Mark Armstrong issued a report Monday saying that a decision to fire the head coach after six seasons had been made and Dayton head coach and former Wolfpack player Archie Miller had been approached about the job.

On Thursday it became official. Gottfried, who is 122-82 overall and 47-55 in Atlantic Coast Conference play in his tenure, will not return next season.

Yet Gottfried will be allowed to coach the remainder of the season. If it was his wish to do so then it was a nice gesture by N.C. State but it also will keep the basketball team, loser of six straight, under a cloud as the final four games of the regular season play out.

“It has been a privilege to serve as head coach of N.C. State, and I’m proud of what we have accomplished during my time here,” Gottfried said in a statement released by the university. “N.C. State is a special place and I appreciate the opportunity to finish the remainder of the season.”

Wednesday’s 97-73 loss to North Carolina on Wednesday in PNC Arena mirrors Gottfried’s plight in that the result was expected but there was some absurdity involved. The Tar Heels outrebounded N.C. State with ease, hauling in more offensive boards than the Wolfpack could muster on the defensive end, and outscored Gottfried’s team in the paint by a remarkable 60-22 margin.

Gottfried earned his 400th career victory as a coach with a stunning upset of then No. 17 Duke in Durham on Jan. 23. It appeared that N.C. State would be able to make a run but a blowout loss at Louisville was followed by two home defeats to Syracuse and Miami. In both games the Wolfpack led in the second half before the wheels fell off. The Pack has been clocked in each of its last three games, losing by a combined 78 points.

Gottfried was fired 24 days after the Wolfpack beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“Mark and I met today to discuss the future direction of our program,” N.C. State Director of Athletics Debbie Yow said. “While it has long been my practice to evaluate the body of work at season’s end, in reviewing the overall direction of our program, we believe a change in leadership is necessary moving forward. Our focus now remains on supporting our student-athletes and staff over the final weeks of our season.”  

What will happen over the course of the remainder of the season is anyone’s guess. Considering the team’s potential and not its recent form, N.C. State actually has winnable games remaining on the schedule. With a talent like freshman Dennis Smith Jr. on the roster, the Wolfpack enters any contest with a chance.

One thing is certain, the past few weeks have been eventful. While there was a change made Thursday, the next few weeks of the regular season will be just as interesting.

Rob McLamb has covered N.C. State athletics and recruiting for Pack Pride (Scout.com) since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.