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Aaron Gottfried, Jay Bilas, and how perception becomes reality

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It’s tough to fight the uphill battle national media describes while they’re helping build the hill.

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Duke v Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Mark Gottfried’s son, Aaron, sent out this tweet on Thursday. Understandably, he’s defending his dad. You or I would do the same thing in this situation. Aaron points out that NC State has won five NCAA tournament games during his father’s tenure, while State won five NCAA tourney games over the 20 years prior to Mark’s arrival. That is true.

There is more here, and this is obviously a superficial inspection of NC State basketball, but my quibble ain’t with Aaron Gottfried. He thinks his dad has been done wrong. That’s fair. And his brother, Cameron, is on the basketball team. I understand their frustration about what has transpired this week.

But look what magically appeared from Jay Bilas Friday morning:

Literally every single nugget of information Bilas turned into a freaking lecture is taken from Aaron Gottfried’s tweet. All of it. And understand this, too: Bilas recently appeared on a podcast that is hosted by current NC State players. He hears things when he’s in this area covering games—he no doubt can count on those bench guys to be sources if need be. So he gets a certain perspective, if he wants one, and it’s not complimentary to making a coaching change.

Now here is Fran Fraschilla earlier this afternoon:

Fran I can forgive because his beat is the Big 12/midwest, not the east coast, so he’s always out of the loop on ACC stuff during basketball season. He’s based in Texas and hopping all over the region covering that league’s games. He legit probably had no idea that he’s only regurgitating a factoid from one of Gottfried’s kids.

Bilas should know better. He’s smarter than his actions today, those actions being him telling on himself over and over. He even managed a radio hit this afternoon in which he said NC State is a “mid-tier” ACC job.

(“He” is Bilas, if there is any confusion.)

Jay is in town to cover UNC-UVA on Saturday. That’s it. Like Fraschilla, he’s travelling a lot during basketball season. He’s a Duke alum and covers a lot of games in North Carolina, but he neither understands nor has the time to understand what is happening at NC State.

This is my point: these national ESPN/media folks are not all insiders, do not all have great sources on everything they’re covering. They are as human as the rest of us, which means some posturing pseudo-expertise any time there is a noteworthy event in their perceived area of expertise, and especially when there is an already established train of thought regarding a certain school’s position in college basketball.

It’s so easy at this point to make State out as a lunatic crazy town, none of these guys are going to take a deep dive into the situation. Hell, none of them are ever here, almost literally!

These guys are not here every day, they don’t understand the smaller dynamics involved, and when the time comes, they’re taking the lead from Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, and other national guys who are perceived as the true insiders. It becomes a cycle of overdone takes that hurts NC State’s reputation because whether any of it is true or not, it becomes an almost singular message, because these guys don’t have the time/don’t care to dig deeper.

They don’t have to care, either. That’s not an indictment. They’re busy. They’re covering a lot, they’re all over the place, there’s not a lot of time to sit down and contemplate every single job opening that happens. NC State is an obscure school with a unique basketball history, which always piques attention. It rarely gets further than the first layer, though, which is the part that ends up being detrimental to State’s rep.

Parrish thinks he has a scoop by talking to a so-called “second-tier” candidate for NC State’s job. This anonymous individual says he would not touch the NC State gig, but you know what, and I’m just spitballin’ here, maybe there’s a reason he’s anonymous and a “second-tier” option and obviously not getting the job? (Really sorry about that, whichever guy it is stuck in some place with terrible weather.)

So understand that these things can build themselves with no foundation—and just as you might dismiss some random on a message board, understand that national guys can basically morph into Random Message Board Guy during a coaching search. It’s not that there’s a vendetta going on here—there isn’t one, this ain’t a conspiracy—it’s simply that these guys have large audiences, they’re trusted experts on college basketball, and therefore are asked about every single college basketball thing that happens.

They have to say something about whatever the thing is that happens, and many, like Fraschilla or Bilas, end up aping stuff from elsewhere. In our case, that is really not helpful. Comes with the territory now, though, and it has ever since Herb Sendek left for Arizona State MORE THAN A DECADE AGO.