Everyone else has withdrawn ... why not me?
Good afternoon and thank you for coming to this news conference on short notice. After careful consideration and extensive consultation with my family and my employers at ESPN.com, I would like to announce that I'm not a candidate to become the next men's basketball coach at North Carolina State.
I figured I should make this announcement now, before the coaches at Savannah State, Ithaca College and Fayetteville 71st High School beat me to it. They seem to be the only guys left who haven't yet pulled their hats out of the Wolfpack's Ring of Despair. Nobody likes to be the last guest to leave a sagging party, you know?
I understand the allure of my undefeated record and my uncanny gift for 20/20 hindsight, but I believe my talents are better suited to subject-verb agreement than drawing up inbounds plays.
I never was a serious candidate, never was offered the job and had no official contact with NC State athletic director Lee Fowler. I am also excellent at sounding adamant while lying like a used-car salesman.
I sympathize with Fowler, who somehow has become the curator of the least popular seven-figure job in America. But if it's a choice between writing my column and absorbing repeated blows to the head from Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and a delusional NC State fan base, get me to my laptop.
Of course, the good people of Wolfpack Nation should not be delusional any longer. Being turned down by everyone but Joe at the Jiffy Lube in Carrboro, NC, should be the wake-up call that lets those folks know it's not 1983 anymore.
The fans might need to realize the effect they've had upon those of us in the candidate pool. Who wants to put up with the piņata treatment Herb Sendek got, even for $1.5 million a year?
You considered Sendek simply substandard, an intolerably above-average coach at a school that still seems to believe David Thompson will re-enroll any time now.
Herb won 19 games a season at a program coming off five straight losing seasons. He ended his tenure with five straight NCAA Tournament bids and won five tournament games in that time. He solidified the program's sketchy reputation in the areas of academics and rules compliance.
Not good enough, you said. Gotta have more. More victories. More players who are good enough to deliver a third national championship. More personality at a school that still cherishes Norm Sloan's feistiness and Jim Valvano's charm.
Fine, super-stoic Sendek said. He left for the sunshine and relative sanity of Arizona State.
And NC State, thus freed to pursue the best and brightest and show America how great a job this can be, has struck out more often than Dave Kingman.
Rick Barnes? Pipe dream. He was never leaving Texas for Raleigh.
John Calipari? Says he was close to taking the job, but wound up playing Fowler vs. Memphis in a Show Me You Love Me showdown. Memphis won.
John Brady? Colleague Andy Katz reported that there might have been an opening with him if the Wolfpack had moved faster, but now he's gotten the raise he craved at LSU.
Steve Lavin? OK, here was the true trouble sign. When you make an offer to a coach who was fired from his last job and has been out of the game for three years, then he leaves you hanging for several days, then he says no, it's time to organize a search party to find your face. You've lost it.
Since Lavin pulled out, West Virginia's John Beilein -- who might as well be Sendek's brother in terms of coaching style -- piped up to say he's not a candidate. So did Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. So did Notre Dame's Mike Brey. Winthrop's Gregg Marshall looks like the lonely girl at the bar, still available at closing time if NC State gets desperate.
Given the stampede to the nearest hot microphone to announce a lack of interest in NC State, I decided to join in. All together now: This job has cooties.
(Somewhere Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan is feeling better about things. The ungainly process that produced Kelvin Sampson as the tepidly received new coach of the Hoosiers doesn't look nearly so bad in comparison.)
In pulling out of consideration, I should add a couple of points on North Carolina State's behalf:
• It's not that easy to make a big-name hire these days.
As one ACC administrator told me, "It's hard to hire a major coach. Harder than it looks. Look at the challenges Nebraska, Notre Dame, Georgia, Alabama and other big-name football schools have faced in hiring a football coach. NC State's in a tough spot because it has had some success in hoops and there's all the pressure from Duke and UNC right down the road. I'm sure their fans are pressuring them to hire a big name."
Note that State's pool is devoid of up-and-coming assistant coaches, and the school has generally shunned head coaches moving up from mid-major conferences. The bigger you shoot, the higher the risk of rejection. Most proven coaches already are well-compensated at very good programs.
• Whiffing on your top choices is not fatal.
Among the schools mentioned above, Notre Dame seems to have awakened the echoes with Charlie Weis; Georgia wound up with a brilliant coach in Mark Richt; Alabama appears to have gained stability with Mike Shula; and Nebraska could be making a comeback with Bill Callahan. Having a solid Plan A is good, but having solid contingency plans is even better. Fowler might be down to the sub-contingency of the contingency plans, but it's not too late to save this thing.
• Like everything else in modern life, we expect coaching hires to happen now.
NC State's search seemingly has dragged on forever, right? It's been one month. Compare that to when Kentucky went looking for a coach to replace Eddie Sutton in 1989.
Sutton stepped down March 19. Rick Pitino was locked up May 31. In between, only two candidates were interviewed: Arizona's Lute Olson in early April and Seton Hall's P.J. Carlesimo in late April. Both chose to stay at their schools, paving the way for what might have been the best third-choice hire in basketball history.
Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton moved very deliberately, which no longer seems to be an acceptable option. In the current world of backdoor "unofficial" contact with agents, coaching search firms and hyper-secret dealings, we've come to expect rapid resolutions of these affairs. New coaches simply pop up in a matter of days in their new positions, after repeatedly denying interest in that particular job and pledging fealty to their current school.
So the fact that North Carolina State still is flailing around without a coach does not necessarily mean the program will collapse. It does, however, mean the humbled Wolfpack should have a clearer view of their place in the Hoopsworld pecking order.
And they'll have to move on without me. The coach at Fayetteville 71st is willing to come cheap, though.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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