North Carolina State firing its men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried Thursday didn’t kick-off what many term as “the silly season,” which is the carousel of coaching changes that spins wildly each spring. That was actually kick-started shortly after the New Year, when South Florida fired its coach, Orlando Antigua.
Gottfried wasn’t the first to have his employment terminated and he certainly won’t be the last this spring.
The description of “silly” can be applied in multiple ways and to multiple parties. The fired coaches often get blamed for a seeming lack of success at programs that have never achieved better, which is silly. But there are no more irrational people in this process than the athletic directors, who haphazardly throw, not just caution to the wind by firing one coach in hopes of landing a better one, but millions of dollars, as well.
This column is not to suggest that a university such as North Carolina State doesn’t have the means to pay the reported $7,500,000 left on Gottfried’s deal, in addition to many millions more to hire its next coach. It does or the Wolfpack leadership wouldn’t have made this move.
The universities at the highest level have so much money flowing in from various revenue streams that they can afford to get “silly” with it. And they do.
Clemson University just built a “nap room” for its football program. That sentence isn’t a typo or an alternative fact. If constructing a nap room for athletes that already live in luxurious apartments doesn’t qualify as “silly,” then I don’t know what does.
Well, that isn’t true, because the money that the newly-hired coaches are going to ask for – and receive – is just as silly as a nap room being built at a football complex Or a laser tag facility (Clemson built that for its athletes too).
I find the salaries that universities pay their coaches absurd, not just because of the amount of money being handed out, but mostly because the basic law of supply and demand is oblivious to those involved in the negotiating process.
There are infinitely more qualified coaches than job openings, yet athletic directors all over the country act entirely to the contrary.
Every. Single. Time.
And it isn’t just at the highest levels.
Ball State is paying its men’s basketball coach (James Whitford) $275,000 annually, but the absolute truth is, the Cardinal leadership could have hired a number of proven head coaches (Stan Gouard, Greg Tonagel, Jeff Reckeweg, Tony Jasick, Jon Coffman, just to name a few off the top of my head) at half that salary.
Ball State, which has an athletic department that often speaks of needing to be frugal, has purposefully chosen to spend approximately $125,000 every year that it really didn’t have to.
I don’t cite this example to be critical of Whitford. He has done a great job in leading the Cardinal program in every way. All he did was accept the offer. My point is, and it isn’t even debatable, Ball State could have hired a very qualified coach for a lot less money.
As is the case with every university in the country.
Athletic directors act as if they are being held over a barrel by the coaches, but the reality is, the coaches desperately want the job, and if they choose to turn it down, so what? There is an endless supply of qualified coaches that will take (fill in the blank) job and they’ll do a comparable job.
Gottfried’s supporters will point to the fact that he led North Carolina State to four NCAA Tournaments and a pair of Sweet 16 appearances. The latter is impressive, but 68 teams make the NCAA Tournament each March, so let’s not turn that into some unfathomable achievement for a program in North Carolina State’s situation.
An undeniable fact is that Gottfried’s Wolfpack teams, in league play, were mediocre to bad in five of his six seasons in Raleigh. You don’t think you could’ve hired someone less expensive that could have guided the program to five mediocre to bad league seasons in six years? Of course you could have.
Each of the past two springs, Butler coach Chris Holtmann has been courted by other programs and each of the past two springs, Bulldog athletic director Barry Collier has relented and enhanced Holtmann’s deal with the university.
But as great as Holtmann is, and he is absolutely fantastic, my advice to Collier is the next time the coach knocks on his door to discuss another offer, I’d tell him best of luck and go hire someone else.
Again, I think Holtmann is great on and off of the court. But I refuse to believe that experienced and proven coaches such as Mike Rhoades (Rice), Mitch Henderson (Princeton), Michael Lewis (Nebraska assistant), Brad Brownell (Clemson), John Becker (Vermont), James Jones (Yale), King Rice (Monmouth), Dan Muller (Illinois State), Pat Kelsey (Winthrop), Jon Coffman (Fort Wayne) or Nathan Davis (Bucknell) would just be complete flops in guiding the Bulldog program.
Butler has survived losing arguably the best coach in the world (Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens), so that should serve as a clear example to Collier, as well as every other athletic director in the country, that they are the ones holding leverage in this matter, not the other way around. So don't be "silly" and act as if they don't.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.