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Things Didn’t Go As Expected

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Grading the Accuracy of Expectations During Our Coaching Search

CAA Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

When rare events like a coaching search emerge we can only use precedent as a basis for our expectations. Our last 2 searches for a basketball coach were a disaster in various ways we’ve discussed at length. And although Debbie is 3-1 in her handling of the coaching search process for the Big 4 (FB, MBB, WBB, Baseball), there were definitely doubts coming in on how she would handle this one. So me being a teacher, lets grade the accuracy of our expectations this time around:

Expectation: Firing Gottfried Early Gave Us Little Advantage

When Coach Gottfried was fired with about a month left in the season, folks wondered why not just wait until the end to see what happens. Media members lambasted State for this as well as Yow allowing Gott to finish out the season with the team. Some even openly mocked State’s predicament if they went on to win the ACC title with a lame-duck coach. The thing we can surmise is that firing Gott early did two things: 1) it allowed the media to tire themselves out when criticizing this job and 2) it likely allowed Yow time to gauage interest of top choices like Archie while parsing through the differences between Keatts, Wade, Kelsey etc. While the first one eliminated the issue of being compared to other open jobs at the end of the season, the second one may have been happening behind the scenes anyways with just less certainty Gott was gone. Ultimately the advantage may not have been great but it apparently played a factor in how the search ended up.

Accuracy of Expectation: C

Expectation: No Solid Candidate Wants The Job

We’ve seen and discussed the articles written by media members regarding our job. Mileage may vary but I found Parrish’s article where he claimed that its not likely a rising star with a good job would want to come here to be the most offensive. Parrish implied we would be unhappy with our search overall, possibly referencing how the past 2 fell apart. Well by reading between the lines of the reporting it sounds like Archie (or his people) did listen but various factors swayed him away from it. Other media members would report that Chris Holtmann may have been interested and as we know it appears the final 2 came down to Wade vs Keatts, both anointed by the media as rising stars or special talents. Also note, there were ZERO reports of a candidate turning us down for the job which was problematic the last go round. Parrish was wrong, as were many of his colleagues, unfortunately do not expect that mea culpa article anytime soon.

Accuracy of Expectation: D

Expectation: State Would Eventually Hire A Less Than Desirable Coach

Another point media members implied was that the coach we would end up with would not be someone of desirable quality. I am sure you personally heard this from friends/family whether they be State fans or not. Yet if you take a look to the reception Coach Keatts has gotten it is overwhelmingly positive. The media is nearly universal its praise of Keatts as are the same coaching circles they cited as having a negative view of our job. Of course there are some in our fanbase have reasonable doubts, but those problems are mostly singular (Def Eff) as opposed to the numerous issues related to our last few coaches. Biggest sign that we hired a coach that was being sought after? Both the Illinois and Indiana SBnation sites took the time to specifically acknowledge State’s hire of Keatts, noting that a potential candidate was now off the table for them. So while this doesn’t confirm that Keatts WILL be a great coach it does show that he was a sought after quantity or a desirable one, if you will.

Accuracy of Expectation: F

Expectation: The Search Would Last Well Into The NCAAs

Again, precedent was a major factor in this assumption. We knew the possibility that the candidate pool could push past the first weekend. Jobs opening up at LSU, Illinois and especially Indiana made the prospects of finding a new coach more complicated. Yet Debbie struck quickly and as soon as her realistic primary targets were out of the NCAAs, she went to work. Multiple openings could’ve made calls to Keatts or Wade during even the short time it took before our predicted “Pack Bowl” between Dayton & Wichita State took place on Friday. Waiting for Dayton to lose only to get a widely predicted “no” from Archie could’ve turned into same mistake she made with Shaka (except Shaka might have taken the job). Where would we have been if Keatts had decided to listen to Illinois and Wade chose to decline the offer. Heck even crowd favorite LeVelle Moton was being discussed at Arkansas State soon after his loss in the tourney. Just note when Yow hired Wes Moore and Dave Doeren, they weren’t long protracted processes either, a candidate was identified and a move was made quickly. Seems more and more like 2011 was an outlier for her while being familiar to us.

Accuracy of Expectations: F

Expectation: State Would Look To Hire A Defensive Minded Guy

It’s common that when a coach is fired, ADs often swing the pendulum to the opposite side looking for a coach that checks the boxes the last one didn’t. Sometimes this works out, other times the attempt at immediate gratification leaves some good candidates off the short list. We saw this first hand when Lee Fowler got cold feet by not hiring John Belien because fans complained he was Herb 2.0. At Michigan Beilen changed his style up a bit, won titles and has gone to a National Title game while State has been twisting in the wind ever since. Wade and Holtmann have superb defensive numbers especially compared to Coach Keatts, and if defense was the ultimate factor that ended Gott’s tenure most ADs would’ve easily preferred one of the two. Yow, for better or worse, stuck with her guns, her M.O. of hiring a young potentially dynamic recruiter with high-major experience. This is the type of hire she made with James Franklin as the coach-in-waiting at Maryland, the one she attempted to make with Shaka Smart, and what she did when plucking Dave Doeren out of the NIU. We can be sure defense was a major focus of the interview with Keatts so while we know he has a defensive philosophy, only time will tell if that translates. Still, it is a bold move to stick to your guns rather than do the conventional thing that the fans screamed for in the first place.

Accuracy of Expectation: D

Expectation: Debbie Wont Pay Top Dollar

$2.2 million over 6 years is a solid contract for any coach but especially for one who only made $5-$700,000 at their previous stop. Time will tell if Debbie overpaid but she’s always been conservative when it comes to salaries. She is big on these guys hiring assistants that can strengthen the program and using that money for that purpose. Yet looking at the market and what other high-major programs have paid, Yow toke a risk that could be a reward if Keatts can be successful. Mizzou paid Cuonzo Martin 3.5 million putting him in the Top 10 of coaches paid in this sport. Cuonzo has been to the same amount of NCAAs as Keatts in 9 years at 3 different stops compared to Keatts’ 3 years at 1. Keatts also has more conference titles. Illinois, willing to pay Tony Bennett nearly $5 million, hired 4 year head coach Brad Underwood after 1 year at OK State and you can bet they won’t be paying him less than $3 million. Some fans definitely wanted Debbie to consider that supposed $5 million Marshall wanted or 3.5+ to entice Archie, but there’s nothing to say it’d have been a guarantee or that Yow ever really wanted to do that. We got an accomplished coach with a comparable salary to his ACC peers but didn’t break the budget to do it. Whether that was the way to go, we’ll find out soon enough.

Accuracy of Expectation: B