We’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. Kevin Keatts, the current UNCW head coach, is on the list of head coaches that are being vetted by NC State.
From everything we’ve heard, Keatts would take the job if offered. But WILL NC State offer? Let’s take a look at the situation and give you a breakdown of our thoughts.
Most of you know Keatts from Hargrave, where he coached former NC State point guard Lorenzo Brown. During Brown’s recruitment, we had the chance to speak with Keatts on numerous occasions. He is a good basketball mind and gave a lot of good insight into the recruiting process.
After Hargrave, he went to Louisville to become to the top recruiter for Rick Pitino’s squad. While there, he landed some impressive classes and started to make a name for himself. After his run with the Cardinals, Keatts took his first head coaching job at UNC-Wilmington. His work there is why he is currently on the Wolfpack’s radar.
In his three years at UNCW, Keatts has taken a struggling program and put them back on the map. Wilmington has finished 1st (or tied for first) in all three seasons under Keatts. He also won coach of the year in his first campaign.
So why is NC State considering him? Well, first off, he is an up and coming star in the coaching ranks. The key phrase, however, is ‘up and coming.’ Winning in the Colonial conference is one thing, but winning in the ACC is another animal. Wilmington’s competition isn’t that strong, but his recruiting ties to the area and his ability to build a program has NC State’s attention.
Honestly, I find the amount of buzz around him to be fair, but not fully substantiated. We’d think that Keatts would be a top tier (maybe #2 or #3) candidate for the Wolfpack if he had both shown success at Wilmington and also shown success at another stop. Basing your hire on 3 years in the Colonial conference is fine, but we’d like to believe that the NC State position is prestigious enough to warrant a little more evidence of success.
Sure, Dayton’s Archie Miller only has 6 years at one stop, and VCU’s Will Wade has 4 years of experience at two stops, so it’s not like they have that much more. However, both Miller and Wade have found success in a much more competitive conference and we believe that is worth something. Miller and Wade are pretty much believed to be NC State’s top two mid-major candidates at the moment, with Keatts looking like the #3.
We think Keatts is a good candidate, sure, but we think he’s a tick below Miller and Wade based on experience and proven success. So why is there so much buzz about Keatts?
Let’s break that down. Keatts is thought to be the most attainable candidate. Talk is that he wants the NC State job pretty bad. True or not, that is a reason that the N&O and multiple national writers are talking seriously about Keatts being a real potential for NC State.
The other reason we think you’re hearing Keatts name mentioned so much is because we are seeing it being floated a lot more by sources close to NC State. What does this mean? It certainly doesn’t mean they think Keatts is a top 2 or 3 candidate, does it? You have Miller, Wade, Drew, Holtmann and a few more that would obviously be bigger splashes than Kevin Keatts. So why all the chatter?
We believe that NC State is doing all they can to not replicate the failure in PR we saw during the last search. People were talking Rick Barnes, Sean Miller, Billy Donovan, and many more huge names (many of which ended up being pipe dreams). Debbie Yow offered up a letter during the latter days of the search that basically tried to walk back NC State fans expectations before she announced the ‘out of the blue’ hire of Mark Gottfried.
We believe that while it may have worked at the time, NC State fans felt blindsided by the hire. They didn’t have time to vet him on the message boards and social media or come to a consensus on whether or not they liked him for the position. Now, it shouldn’t matter what message board fans think, however as you’ve seen, fan perception does end up playing a role. Gottfried was never ‘their guy.’ So when the going got rough they didn’t feel a invested connection with him and were quick to create a rallying cry for his ouster. We’re not trying to say it was undeserved, but had it been Rick Barnes or Sean Miller with the same record we believe the fans would not have come to such a quick consensus on ‘time being up.’
At the end of the day, what we believe is going on is that, yes, NC State does think Keatts would be an acceptable hire and would be someone who could turn the program around, but we also believe they know he’s their ‘floor guy’. They likely aren’t going to hire Keatts over Archie, Wade, or any of the other more proven options, but they are doing their best to get his name under consideration early, so if in fact, they end up missing on their top names, fans aren’t breaking out the pitchforks after being blindsided for a second time.
Take it for what it’s worth. We don’t have any insight into the true motive for Keatts’ name being floated so prominantly, but we’ve been doing this for a while now and get a feeling that this just might be the case.