Hardly a day has gone by, Warren said, that someone doesn’t bring up the 1983 NCAA championship in conversation. Everyone, it seems, remembers where they were when Valvano, scarcely believing the game-winning shot, raced around the court, looking for a player to hug.
Gottfried’s hiring last April, following the modest success of Herb Sendek and a disappointing run under Lowe, was hardly a slam dunk.
Even Yow implied he was a compromise choice, publicly claiming that Maryland Coach Gary Williams “has tried to sabotage the search.”
“When she first decided to hire Gottfried, no one was really excited,” said Amer, the N.C. State junior. “I hadn’t really heard of Coach Gottfried. I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know about this.’ But she proved us all wrong.”
Gottfried, a former head coach at Alabama and assistant at UCLA, set to work with vigor. He beefed up the Wolfpack’s nonconference schedule in hopes of toughening the squad and raising its national profile.
Having inherited a talented but underperforming roster, he shifted shooting guard Lorenzo Brown to point guard, urged 6-foot-8 forward Richard Howell to pare down and tone up and persuaded often inattentive C.J. Leslie, a McDonald’s all-American, to buckle down.
And to spark interest as the season neared, he vowed to skydive into Carter-Finley Stadium during an N.C. State football game in September. Bad weather scuttled the jump, but the bit of huckster-ism succeeded.
Today, the coach is hailed campus-wide as N.C. State’s “Gott-father,” revered for his bold tactics and bullish expectations.
“We always talk about how we have such great history at State,” Gottfried said after toppling Georgetown. “But it’s time to build some new history.”
Said Warren, the former N.C. State player: “What I like so much about what Mark has done, he has reminded these kids that they should have confidence. He has given them that confidence. They are good basketball players; there’s not one on that team that some other school didn’t want pretty badly. And he has reminded them of that.
“He has reminded them that not only are they capable, but they belong. And that’s the one thing that N.C. State, over the last 20-plus years, we sort of forgot that we belong. It’s good to be there again.”