If you read this site regularly, then you know that we had constantly preached patience with this Wolfpack team. We have defended Gottfried and did our best to help you understand that young teams take time to mature. We explained that as the season wears on and the team builds experience, that they will start to show signs of improvement, and that we would start to see kinks being worked out, deficiencies becoming strengths.
At this point, however, over halfway through the ACC season, I think it’s fair to say that we were wrong and that there is a bigger problem at hand than ‘simple youth.’ I think it’s fair now to start asking some tough questions.
What is going on? The turnovers make sense. The team IS young, and we all have to be aware that with youth comes mental lapses. But we aren’t just seeing momentary lapses in judgment. We are seeing a team that has yet to find any identity at all. We are seeing a team that plays extremely soft and fails over and over again to make any significant adjustments to their style of play. We are watching an offense that puts up points but doesn’t have much fluidity or consistency in their sets. And most obviously, we are watching a defense that looks like they are defending as a team for the very first time each time they take the floor.
This is not a rant that’s aimed to tear down the current team or staff. Believe me, we want more than anything to focus on the positives and point out areas of growth and how this team can continue to build itself into a contender. The problem is, as hard as we search, there simply isn’t concrete evidence to back up that notion. This team isn’t growing. They aren’t getting better game by game. They are losing the same way over and over again. They continue to play isolation, one on one offense. They continue to get abused physically by every team they face, and they continue to play some of the worst defense we’ve seen in our years of watching the Wolfpack.
So what are we supposed to write? I was brought up being told, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. So, should the site just go dark for a while? What about the people who visit our site in hopes of figuring out what is wrong? Should we not provide them with some breakdown or some theory as to what we believe is happening? Believe me, it’s a tough spot to be in. We started PackInsider.com because we wanted to be a site that delivers in-depth game breakdowns in a positive fashion. We wanted to be able to filter out the negative voices whose complaints were over-exaggerated and at times unwarranted. But at this point, with the product that we are watching on the floor, we can’t help but agree that something is very wrong with this basketball team and something needs to change quick and drastically.
Florida State is one of the best teams in the country, so NC State losing to them was not something to get bent out of shape over. Losing to UNC stings, but it’s not something you have to have any kind of deep worry about. Some of NC State’s losses are just that; losses. That’s not the focus here. The focus here is how they are losing. There is a very deep lack of pride on this basketball team. Time after time, defensive assignments are missed and the opponent gets an easy bucket. Time after time, a ‘who wants it more’ rebound comes down and an NC State is on the losing end of the battle. Time after time a player takes a quick, out-of-rhythm shot that kills momentum. These things happen with a young team, but most of the time it’s early in the season and most of the time the correction is quick and harsh. Usually, after a missed assignment on defense, a veteran gets in your face and demands you keep focus and don’t miss that assignment again. If it’s not a veteran player, then usually it is a coach who yanks you out of the basketball game, sits you down and chews you out until you are very clear on what you did wrong and understand that if it happens again there are consequences to be paid.
Why isn’t any of this happening with this Wofpack team? When these mistakes are made or when a player loses focus or lacks hustle, there is very little bickering amongst the team. It’s just a head-shake, a quick word or two and then back to the other end. These are not the actions of a team with pride. These are not the actions of a team who are on the same page and out for the same goal. These are actions of apathy.
I’m not saying this team doesn’t want to win, because no one ‘doesn’t want to win,’ but their on-court actions say otherwise. Their lack of physicality on the court says otherwise.Their inconsistency in hustle says otherwise. Their failure to hold each other accountable says otherwise.
Maybe it’s not that they ‘don’t want to win.’ Maybe it’s that they simply don’t know how yet. That is where you have to look to coaching. That’s where the buck stops. Mark Gottfried has missed the mark with this team. We can argue all day about what is the root problem. Is he too soft on them? Is he too hard on them? Is his system too complicated? Are they just not in good enough shape? Are they not paying attention?
You can go on and on about what went wrong, but at the end of the day it’s the coaches job to be creative, be flexible and provide his team with whatever it needs to be successful. If that means a dictatorship coaching style, then so be it. If that means a player-first coaching style, then ok. A different offensive approach, a different defensive approach, maybe a different style of communication. No one here knows exactly what is wrong, but everyone here knows that something is and this late in the season, the burden falls on Mark Gottfried. He didn’t push the right buttons this time and because of that his team looks lost.
There is time left this season, but the interest and intrigue this team once had is waning and we really can’t argue with those who have tuned it out. The talent is there. Man for man, NC State has the horses to compete, but mental lapses, lack of physicality, and lack of pride has turned what should be a contender into a team currently in shambles.