Fresh off his team’s opening-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, UNCW basketball coach Kevin Keatts has been named by NC State to fill the opening left by the firing of Mark Gottfried. Keatts, who led the Seahawks to a 72-28 record and two NCAA tournament appearances in his three seasons in Wilmington, was hired Friday after a series of meetings in Raleigh with athletic director Debbie Yow. He met the Wolfpack’s players later in the day before the news was formally announced. “When we set out to hire our next men’s basketball coach, we wanted to identify someone with the pedigree, vision and plan to serve as the architect of NC State basketball,” Yow said in a statement introducing Keatts as the Wolfpack’s new coach. “Kevin quickly emerged as the perfect fit in each of these areas. His history of success in building programs, of competing at a championship-level in every stop of his career, his commitment to player development and priority in academics make him a tremendous hire for us.” The former assistant to Louisville Hall of Famer Rick Pitino led the Seahawks to a second straight berth in March Madness, but was bounced yet again on the first day after winning the CAA Tournament. While it was his third straight loss to an ACC opponent with UNCW, Keatts is open to the challenge in Raleigh. “From incredible fan support to high-level academics, first-class facilities and the ability to recruit at the highest level, everything is in place at NC State to build an elite program,” the new Wolfpack coach said. “My family and I are honored to become a part of Wolfpack Nation and I look forward to adding to its storied history.” Keatts was believed to be one of several viable candidates for the State job with a team playing in the NCAA tournament. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Dayton’s Archie Miller, both of whom are believed to have been high on Yow’s short list, were scheduled to play against one another Friday night. But Yow didn’t wait to pull the trigger, suggesting that both Marshall and Miller might not have had serious interest in the job. Either way, Keatts’ hiring makes sense. While UNCW has some star players returning next season with C.J. Bryce and Devontae Cacok set to lead the team next year, Keatts is losing a wealth of talent. The Seahawks saw three of their top five scorers in Chris Flemmings, Denzel Ingram and Ambrose Mosley run out of eligibility with the loss to Virginia. Wilmington has captured three straight CAA regular season titles under Keatts and won the last two CAA Tournaments. That comes after winning one regular season title in the previous 11 years before Keatts arrived. Suffice to say, losing Keatts would be a massive blow for UNCW and a huge hire for NC State. But with a lot of basketball potentially left to play for some of the Wolfpack’s top targets, this coaching search might be far from over.
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