I know a lot of fans are pissed off. It hasn’t been a very rewarding season thus far for us.
First, you lose your best player in Manny Bates, only a minute into the first game.
Then you dominate the #1 team in the nation for 35 minutes, before falling apart and losing in OT.
Next, you lose your first 3 ACC games by a total of 15 points. All close games, all down to the wire.
To compound it, the last loss comes in a game where you played well, led most of the game, and had a chance to tie with 8 seconds left. Then Keatts called a timeout.
When people criticize a coach it’s usually from a high level. Meaning, it’s usually a critique on style, or discipline. It’s hard to ever point to one particular play and blame the coach for a loss since it’s the player who is actually out there playing the game. But when a coach decides to take a controversial timeout, on a play where a majority of the fans wanted to let them play, with the game riding on a bucket, the coach is putting it on his shoulders alone.
This is what Keatts did, and as we know, it didn’t work out. Now he faces the fallout.
A frustrated fan base, sick of losing, sick of being led on by early leads, and now this? For some, this will feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Those who were on the fence about Keatts, may now, for the moment, ready to go in another direction.
If you’ve been following here at PI, you know me. I’m not holding back. I’m not here to write puff-pieces about kids who aren’t pulling their weight because they’re 18 years old. I’m not here to pander to these coaches or spin negatives into positives because I want access. In fact, f*&ck access. It’s 2022, players and coaches take classes on how to deal with media. It’s canned answer after canned answer these days. I was brought on because I know basketball and because I don’t know when to shut my mouth.
With that said, I know you want me to go off on Keatts. I know you want me to tell you he’s not the right fit. I know you want me to confirm what you’re feeling.
But I’m not gonna.
Kevin Keatts isn’t perfect. In fact, I’ll give you a little of what you want before I give you a bunch of what you don’t.
- Keatts teams play poor position defense as a whole. His guards are always getting beat, and it puts pressure on his bigs to make too many decisions.
- Keatts isn’t a great in-game X’s and O’s guy.
- Keatts’ offense is extremely reliant on having a tall dual-threat PG with leadership skills, yet he hasn’t landed one over his first 5 years. Despite that, he hasn’t done a ton of tweaking to the offensive philosophy to fit his personnel.
I know a lot of you are reading that and saying ‘Yea, Joey, and this is exactly why we need to move on.’
That’s where you’re wrong.
See, these are problems, but they are all fixable. Bring on a defensive specialist as an assistant and the defense can be fixed. Bring on an X’s and O’s guy and sit him next to you on the sideline.
Sure, some of this is going to have to be Keatts swallowing his pride a little bit and admitting that the style of play he was trying to bring over from UNC-W isn’t exactly taking the ACC by storm, but if he does that, these things can easily be cleaned up.
The reason you stick with Kevin Keatts is that, despite all of those things listed above that he doesn’t do well, there are a group of more important things that he does do well.
- Keatts motivates his guys to play 100% every time they take the floor.
After years of fans complaining that Herb Sendek didn’t motivate his team enough or bring enough energy, we got Sidney Lowe. Lowe’s tenure was plagued by a lack of discipline and a lack of focus on the court. Then came Gottfried and while his teams played hard at times, they certainly looked lethargic and disinterested when it wasn’t a big game (especially late in his tenure). You can’t say that about Kevin Keatts. I can’t think of a single game over the past 5 years that his teams didn’t show energy or interest. The man can motivate and demands his guys play hard. If you know anything about 17 and 18-year-old kids, they aren’t all that easy to motivate. Just look around college basketball. Few teams play with the overall energy of NC State for a full 40 minutes.
- Keatts gets and keeps his guys in shape.
If you’re going to play hard for 30 minutes a night in the ACC, you have to be in serious shape. Kevin Keatts is the first NC State coach I’ve seen that seems to take this seriously. His guys almost always go through a body transformation when they enter his program. They all get better stamina as they progress, and they all add serious muscle to their frames. Again, this speaks to being able to motivate these kids every day. Whether the bright lights are on or not.
- Keatts is a great recruiter…yeah I said GREAT
Look, say what you want about Keatts, but he’s a great recruiter. I don’t care if things haven’t worked out perfect in his first 5 years on the trail at NC State. The guy was an elite recruiter at Louisville and he was an elite recruiter at UNCW. He’s perfect for NC State. He’s hasn’t cut his teeth in programs where he gets the pick of the litter. He has made his name finding talent where others don’t see it. He did this at UNCW with guys like CJ Bryce and DaVonte Cacok and he’s doing it at NC State.Just look at Dereon Seabron. The kid was a 3 star who wasn’t highly recruited. Now, he’s a superstar. Or Terquvion Smith. Another 3-star when Keatts signed him. Now he’s on pace to be the best freshman scorer at NC State in 20 years. He also signed Josh Hall and Jalen Laque. Both were 3 stars when Keatts landed them, but both ended up getting so good, they skipped college altogether. What about Manny Bates? DePaul and Tulsa were his best offers when Keatts came in and offered. He went on to become a 4-star, and has led the ACC in blocked shots for 2 straight seasons (and was about to break out offensively this year if he didn’t get hurt).
We could keep going on this one, but he’s done it all despite the fact that the program has had a cloud hanging over it over since he got here. Every time Keatts has recruited a kid, he had to fight an unwinnable fight. Other coaches would tell kids to steer clear of NC State because they were about to be punished by the NCAA. They would have a postseason ban, or worse. Keatts would reassure them that they wouldn’t but couldn’t promise anything, because honestly, he didn’t know. Hell, he lost Saddiq Bey, a kid who had already committed, because another coach got in his ear about the sanctions. Bey only ended up becoming an elite scorer for Villanova and going on to be drafted 19th overall by the Pistons.
The point is, Keatts has made his mistakes, but he’s also been fighting uphill. He’s caught some bad breaks and he’s had to deal with the possibility of those NCAA sanctions. He bought himself some time by playing the transfer game early on, but now that the NCAA has ruled that the Pack isn’t getting a postseason ban, he can truly start to show what he can do on the recruiting trail.
Aside from all of that, Keatts has intangibles that are too hard to find. You can’t just turn on him now and let him go. The ability to motivate kids, and to have kids trust you and go to war for you every night, in 2022 is something special. Keatts is about as much a disciplinarian as you’re going to find these days. He doesn’t take sh*t. I know that for a fact. He’s hard on his kids and he demands full buy-in and full dedication. So he’s got some on-the-court issues as far as play-calling and strategy. Those are fixable.
Give the guy some time. I know losing is frustrating, but please trust me when I say this. He has the traits of a championship coach. The output you are witnessing in terms of hustle, buy-in, and dedication isn’t by chance. They are products of Kevin Keatts.
I can’t promise you he’s going to succeed. I have no idea. But I do know that the foundation for creating a champion isn’t about X’s and O’s or when you call timeouts. It’s about creating a culture of discipline, commitment, hard work, and loyalty. Keatts has that foundation laid. Will we let him take the time he needs to build the house?
Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After Pitt: BULLETED
NC State Head Coach Kevin Keatts met with the media in his postgame press conference after the Wolfpack lost their ACC opener to Pitt at home 60-68. You can watch it here, or check out a BULLETED breakdown below.
- We didn’t play well or sharp offensively.
- You can look at the numbers, and I think, at times because the ball wasn’t going in the hole for us, it affected us on the defensive end.
- It was one of those gritty games where you’ve got to figure out how to win the game, especially when the ball isn’t going in.
- Terquavion Smith carried us early in the game, but a couple of our guys never really got into a flow, and offensively we struggled.
- When we struggled, I thought we gave up some easy baskets on the other end.
- Obviously, today’s kids, when the ball is not going in offensively, sometimes it affects you on the defensive end.
- It wasn’t our night offensively tonight.
- When you look at our team, what’s made us special this year is that we’ve been consistent and have 4 guys in double figures, and tonight we didn’t have that.
- We had some good play from DJ Burns. He came in and did a good job.
- We’ve gotta get back in the gym and get better. We’ll work on some things.
- I have to stand up, take accountability, and get us better on the offensive end, and we’ll figure out how to make some shots.
- Not to take away from Pitt’s defense, I thought we missed shots.
- Surely, give them credit because they won the game, and I thought it was a slugfest, and they won the game that way, but I just thought we missed a lot of easy shots that we normally would make.
- I remember looking out there at the game as we played, and some of the shots that he [Joiner] normally would make, even his drives to the rim, he didn’t finish.
- They [Pitt] did a good job getting back in transition. A lot of Casey’s [Morsell] shots have come with him running the floor and getting out in transition.
- They stayed at home. When you’re shooting the ball as well as he is, they did a good job of staying at home.
- The reason we got so many open looks to our post guys as we rolled, was because they stayed with our shooters a lot.
- No [they didn’t take too many three’s], that’s who we are.
- For example, I thought Jack Clark got some great looks.
- None of them looked good as they came off.
- Certainly, Terquavion was hot early from 3 and made some shots.
- It was a weird night for us offensively, and we weren’t clicking as much as I’d hoped we would be.
- Like I said, we’ve got to get back in the gym, and we’ve got to get some shots up.
- For example, I thought Jack Clark got some great looks.
- We’ve got no choice. We’ve got to move on.
- The great thing about this is that, while unfortunately we lost our ACC opener, we’ve got 19 more of them to play.
- We’ve got to figure out how to get it back on the other end.
- It doesn’t define us. It was a good game. Give Pitt credit.
- We’ve just got to go to work and get ready for our next game and then our next one after that.
- We hope we play better than we have been playing offensively.
- You feel bad for our guys, because everything had gone well for them offensively this season.
- We’ve had great numbers against great teams, when you talk about playing against Kansas, Butler, and Dayton, and tonight, for whatever reason, we didn’t shoot the ball well. We have to make each shot.
- If you look back on all of Jarkel’s shots, he has taken those all year long.
- He just missed some, and he is normally pretty good with his pull-up.
- He didn’t make those, and typically, he would make it to the free-throw line, but he didn’t have many opportunities there.
- He missed his three-point shots.
- I know him, and many guys will get to the gym later on. It’s not a mandatory thing, but I know those guys, and they will be working on their shot.
- He just missed some, and he is normally pretty good with his pull-up.
- We’ve got to flush it.
- We have to figure out what we did offensively and get better defensively.
- We have to get back to work and get ready for Coppin State.
- Our home opener [ACC] here, we wanted to win it.
- It’s an ACC game, and you know how important these are, but at the end of the day, you can’t put your head down.
- We’ve got a lot more basketball to play. We have had a really great start to our season, and as I have told the guys in the locker room, don’t let one loss define us.
- We didn’t let the Kansas loss define us. We moved on, and we’ve got to do the same thing with this one.
- We’re very encouraging.
- One thing about guys that miss shots that normally make them, they’re not trying to miss, and so we are trying to give them as much confidence as we can.
- We’re asking them to do other things to affect the game.
- One thing I told Jack [Clark], because he has been our best rebounder, was ‘go in there and get you an easy basket, or go in there and get you an offensive rebound.’
- It’s something to get you going. It’s amazing how it works.
- You get an easy basket, and then get to the free-throw line to make a shot. All of a sudden, you’ve got your shots going on.
- I’m telling those guys to do a couple of other things to impact the game.
Men’s Basketball: Pitt 68 NC State 60: ACCDN HIGHLIGHT REEL & CONDENSED GAME
Men’s Basketball: Pitt 68 NC State 60: BOX SCORE
Men’s Basketball: NC State’s ACC Stat Leaders Heading into Conference Play
NC State will enter ACC play tonight, hosting Pittsburgh at 7pm. Here’s a look at which Wolfpack players rank in the Top-10 in the ACC in individual statistical categories before tipoff.
Point Guard Jarkel Joiner ranks 3rd in the ACC in Scoring, averaging 17.3. Sophomore Guard Terquavion Smith averages 16.1, which ranks 8th.
Dusan Mahorcic ranks 9th in Rebounds per game, averaging 7.3.
Mahorcic leads the ACC in Field Goal Percentage, making 65.3% of his Field Goal Attempts. Guard Casey Morsell ranks 10th, shooting 53.9%.
Joiner also ranks 8th in Free Throw Percentage, making 85%.
Morsell is shooting an insane 53.2% from deep, and has shot 14 more threes than Hunter.
Smith is tied for 2nd in the ACC in Assists per game, averaging 5.3.
Jack Clark is tied for the lead in Steals per game, averaging 2.13.