clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Mark Gottfried in Close Games

New, 45 comments

Let's take a closer look at this close games business.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

NC State has lost five straight games decided by five points or less. Such a streak naturally engenders doubts about Mark Gottfried's ability to successfully manage late-game situations, but examining the numbers with a cool head reveals that this recent trend is likely an anomaly. Chalk it up to bad luck.

I examined every game Gottfried has coached in his career and isolated the winning percentage of all games decided by five or fewer points or that went in to overtime, as those games were obviously tight at the end of regulation even if sometimes the final margin was six or more points. If we assume that Random Coaching Guy would win half of all tight games, Gottfried is above average in his career in close games, having won 16 more than he has lost en route to a .554 winning percentage. Before this recent run of what is likely just bad luck, he had won over 57% of close games.

However, a more nuanced approach might be to compare a coach's winning percentage overall to his success rate in close games. Here Gottfried's results look less appealing. He has won 64% of his games overall compared to 55% of close ones. He's won over 67% of all games considered not close for our purposes here. But 15 of his 18 years as a coach have come at the helm of a program from a major conference, so, while he does have a penchant for scheduling a challenging out of conference slate, cupcakes do skew the winning percentage a bit. It is probably safe to assume that the majority of major conference coaches will have a stronger winning percentage in not close games compared to close games because of the blowouts built in to the schedule.

Regardless, there's nothing definitive in the chart below suggesting Gottfried is a numbskull in nailbiters.

Team/Season

Overall W-L

Winning percentage

Close game W-L

Close game winning percentage

Murray State/96

19-10

.655

3-4

.429

Murray State/97

20-10

.667

3-1

.750

Murray State/98

29-4

.879

2-1

.667

Alabama/99

17-15

.531

5-3

.625

Alabama/00

13-16

.448

3-3

.500

Alabama/01

25-11

.694

4-3

.571

Alabama/02

27-8

.771

7-2

.778

Alabama/03

17-12

.586

2-6

.250

Alabama/04

20-13

.606

8-6

.571

Alabama/05

24-8

.750

6-2

.750

Alabama/06

18-13

.581

7-3

.700

Alabama/07

20-12

.625

3-2

.600

Alabama/08

17-16

.515

4-5

.444

Alabama/09

12-7

.632

2-2

.500

NC State/12

24-13

.649

10-6

.625

NC State/13

24-11

.686

6-6

.500

NC State/14

22-14

.611

6-6

.500

NC State/15

13-8

.619

1-5

.167

Overall

361-201

.642

82-66

.554

One thing of note from the chart is the quantity of close games Gottfried has encountered in ACC play. He had as many close games in his first year at NC State as he had total in three years at Murray State. And only once, '04 at Bama, did he have more (14) close calls than he had in each of the past two seasons at State (12). Hello there, rigors of the ACC. The difficulty of this conference begets numerous barnburners, a fact to which I'm sure our fatty livers can attest. But it's probably this recent run of heartbreak that has us convinced we are cursed, or the coach can't coach, and the odds are in the Pack's favor for some good fortune from here on in.

Let's just hope those close wins are over Virginia, UNC, and Louisville, while the rest of the wins are of the breathe-easy variety. No actually don't get your hopes up, as NC State athletics is kind to neither hope nor logic. It should get better, but keep those expectations in check just in case.

Ultimately, some enterprising young researcher should probably compare similarly-tenured coaches from similar programs to see if Gottfried's peers have had more success in tight contests, even extending the research to play by play data to examine games that were within a possession or two with under a couple of minutes to go. Those often end in losses of more than five points. A little more depth to the research would be more conclusive, but I suspect it would simply confirm that close games are a crapshoot. Gottfried does not appear to have any late-game magic, but my guess is that even Coach K loses nearly half of his games that are decided by five points or less.

To belabor this point: it's probably just bad luck. It might turn around, but don't bet your house on it or anything, because #ncstateshit might really be a thing and might also need a house.