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Profile of a Possible Savior REDUX: Sean Miller

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Your soul...is mine...
Your soul...is mine...
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Spring 2011, after years in the wilderness, NC State parted ways with Sidney Lowe and were in the business of finding someone to save us. The media portrayed us as being rejected numerous times, so eventually Mark Gottfried ended up answering the call and has experienced positive-to-mixed results over his 5 year tenure. This series will take a hop in the TARDIS and theorize whether or not we would have been better (or worse) with another candidate from Backing the Pack's famed, award-winning* Profile Of A Possible Savior series or POAPS for short.

*validity of statement under question

(All stats & figures from Wikipedia, KenPom, & Scout.com)

Mark Gottfried's tenure at NC State:

Layman Stats

Overall Record

108-69 (.610)

Conference Record

44-44 (.5)

NCAA Appearances

4 (2 Sweet Sixteens)

Conference Titles

0

4/5 Stars Signed

13

Geek Stats (KenPom)

Average National Rank Overall

48

Average Adj O / Avg National Rank

112.6 / 24

Average Adj D / Avg National Rank

100.1 / 115

Next Up

Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller

In The Beginning

Whenever there is a coaching change every team in every sport has a dream candidate. This person may not have the best accolades of any of the other candidates but they just seem to check off all the proverbial boxes. Whether its familiarity with the school/region, accomplishments, personality or experience...these candidates represent it all. Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart would've been home runs, but Sean Miller would've been a grand slam for NC State. Miller spent time at State as an assistant, is a phenomenal recruiter and has shown that he could take pretty solid programs and maintain (or expand upon) their success. State's ever so reliable rumor mill expressed that there may have been some interest from Sean in the job even though he was just 2 years in at a high-profile program like Arizona. The rumors were unfounded and another case of false hope (Billy Donovan is ON CAMPUS!) that gave the appearance that our coaching search was a failure. Miller was so desired that some folks speculated that his unproven younger brother and NC State alum, Archie, should've been considered. Boy...we all were taking crazy pills weren't we? Hell at least we weren't the only ones...(Hiya Twerps). In the end, Sean's only knock at the time was an association with some guy named Herb Sendek...did folks have strong feelings about that guy at the time or something?

5 Years Later...

Layman Stats

Overall Record

142-38 (.79)

Conference Record

67-23 (.74)

NCAA Appearances

4 (2 Elite 8, 1 Sweet Sixteen)

Conference Titles

3 (2 Reg, 1 Tourny)

4/5 Stars Signed

18

Geek Stats (KenPom)

Average Rank

18

Average Adj O / National Rank

113.3/ 29

Average Adj D / National Rank

92.5/  27

Sean Miller wins games folks. While he missed the NCAAs in his third year (Gott's first) not only has he made it 4 straight times but has made deep runs, just missing out on that elusive Final Four twice. A near 80% win percentage overall and winning ¾ of your conference's games in the Pac-12 are Hall of Fame worth numbers if Miller can keep that streak going. He's been so close that he feels almost like a Jay Wright-type...a guy who's level of success makes you wonder when, not if, he'll win a national title.

Would He Have Recruited Better Than Gottfried?

At the end of last year this would've been a landslide of epic proportions. But then June happened, and Gottfried re-upped his great reputation as a recruiter. Still, what Sean Miller has done at Arizona is phenomenal. UA is definitely a great job but not only has Miller been able to wrangle numerous 5 star recruits there, Arizona has commonly had Top 5/Top 10 classes. With an average of over 3 high-level recruits per year, Sean Miller proves that he is still a significant step above Gottfried.

Advantage: Miller

Would He Have a Better Offense Than Gottfried?

When I first started putting this series together there were some assumptions I made. One was that Sean Miller would be leaps and bounds above Gottfried in all of these categories. I was wrong. Both Miller and Gottfried missed the NCAA Tournament one year out of the 5 we've been reviewing. In that year their offenses struggled mightily BUT during the other 4 they performed quite well. Look, comparing the average offensive rank of 24 to 29 gives Gottfried a small edge. Comparing the average Adj O gives Miller a silk thin leg up over Mark. So in this category it's pick your poison and there really isn't a definite conclusion to be made. Bias makes me want to say "Advantage: Gottfried" but this is just really the best example of a "wash" this series.

Advantage: A Wash

Would He Have a Better Defense Than Gottfried?

Arizona had back to back years ranked #2 in defense. WELP!

Advantage: Miller

Conclusion

It is fascinating to consider where Sean Miller's Arizona program is compared to NC State. Arizona has recruited at a high level with a couple of deep runs in the NCAA, commonly ranked highly in the polls, and a few conference titles. When the "The Musician" Lute Olsen left Arizona it had a recent winning tradition with a national title under its belt and a Pact-10(12) that didn't have a wide-range of competition. Miller successfully maintained that but the State job would've been very different to start from with 5 years of missed NCAAs and 1 Sweet Sixteen in 20+ years. What would've made Miller more successful here than anyone on this list, in my opinion, is his familiarity with the area and the culture of the school. While Herb failed to fuel much fire in our rivalries with U*NC and Duke, Miller would at least recognize how the fanbase felt due to his time here as an assistant. Not only is he a perfect fit in that sense, but he has recruited at an elite level and maintained Top 30 offenses and defenses over his tenure at UA. It's not a stretch to believe that a conference title or an Elite 8 (or more) would be hanging from the rafters had Miller come here. We are fine right now that State "may be near when it seems so far" to these goals but Sean Miller would have been the perfect hire for State in 2011.

Post-Mort on POAPS Redux

In general I am supportive of the job Gottfried has done here. The transfers are worrisome as is our inability to play competent defense but overall I am satisfied with where we are as a program. That's where doing this series worried me a bit initially. Mainly, I worried because this was my first foray into really researching and digging somewhat into advanced statistics for comparison purposes. I assumed that many of these candidates would shine over Gottfried in multiple categories, which as I look back, was more than likely a reflection of this past year than his overall tenure. This did lead to some revelations as we look to next season:

1) Gottfried's offenses are near-elite. Others have highlighted this in the past but it's now more stark when compared to various other coaches. Some take exception to this point because the UCLA High-Post has often been abandoned over the past 3 years with reliance on one spectacular player scoring for us. Why is that a problem? Every one of those guys Gott recruited here and instead of forcing an offensive system, like some past coaches would do, he allowed his players and teams to do what's best to win. Some coaches get praised for making adjustments, others fit a narrative that makes folks skeptical.

2) Gott recruits better than most. June was funny when writing these because the section on Gott's stats had to be updated over and over again. The only name on this list that out-recruits Gottfried is Sean Miller. Shaka & Cuonzo both showed promise but Gott is showing something amazing in bringing in these guys to a team that hasn't won anything in decades.

3) Our defense has to get better. Almost all the candidates we've reviewed have had better defenses than Gottfried. Even some of the poor ones have had flirtations with Top 30 defenses while we've been nowhere close. This doesn't imply just a deficiency; it implies a level of neglect considering the talent we have had here these past 5 years. In comparison with other candidates, Gottfried could elevate his reputation if he found an answer to that question and truly make the program elite.

4) Projecting the future success of a coach is hard. While dodging Steven's assassination attempts over the less than flattering portrait of Tim Miles, it was curious to see how hard college basketball really is...even for good mid-major coaches. Miles, Chris Mooney, & Cuonzo Martin were guys whose numbers and acumen implied they'd have great success on the high-major college level. Cuonzo seems to just be finding his footing after a couple of stops, Mooney is just treading water, and Miles is in an unwinnable situation. Guys we didn't revisit like Brian Gregory (WHEW!),  Blaine Taylor (fired 3 years after we hired Gott), and Mike Lonergan (currently um...dealing with some stuff) would've been disasters. Finding a Shaka Smart or a Tony Bennett to make that transition successfully is the exception and not the rule.

5) We made the right hire. Miller wasn't leaving Arizona & Marshall, Smart were just fishing a bit. After an awkward coaching search Debbie landed on Gottfried which is exactly what State needed at the time. We hadn't hired a coach with previous high-major coaching experience since Norm Sloan. And of the 4 we did hire, 2 were catastrophes, one did solidly before he wore out his welcome, and the other was Jim Valvano. Hiring Gottfried, a re-tread, was outside the box from what State had done in the past. Plus, hiring guys who have resigned or been fired from their previous job raises concerns and dampens the excitement of a fanbase. Yet in Coach Gottfried we found a competitive guy with a strong personality who knew the region and had something more to prove. Other options like Tubby had nothing left to offer and Miller had a great thing going in Arizona. So while Gottfried may never win another national title here, in retrospect, his coming here in 2011 compared to all the other candidates shows he may not have been the BEST hire, but he was the RIGHT hire for that time.