Jay Bilas not optimistic about State coaching search

"The top targets Im seeing in the paper I dont think are coming"

ESPN College GameDay host Jay Bilas is a member of the national media with an intimate view of Tobacco Road basketball.Bilas played for four years at Duke, coached on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff for three seasons, and his son is on Wake Forest’s team.In addition, Bilas has made frequent trips to the area in his work for ESPN, including GameDay stops at Duke and North Carolina this year.As a player, Bilas scored a total of 47 points in his eight games against NC State. He went 8-7 against the Pack in his playing and coaching career. The Wolfpack won the 1983 national title during Bilas’ freshman year at Duke.So it’s natural that Bilas would have strong opinions on the Wolfpack’s decision to fire coach Mark Gottfried, and on the status of the head coaching job at NC State.”I’m a realist,” Bilas said. “We all serve at the pleasure of our superiors. So I understand the decision. I do think it’s interesting that if you look at Mark Gottfried’s tenure there—he got to State at the same time as Jim Larranaga got to Miami. Put their records side by side, and, if you didn’t know who’s who, you’d pick Mark’s record.”Bilas stopped short of saying that State made a mistake in firing Gottfried, but he said he would have done things differently.”But it’s different everywhere,” he said. “People’s sensibilities are different. What they want is different. But it just seems like every five years, we’re going through this—NC State’s going through this. To me, at some point, you’ve got to say, ‘Well, who’s making the decisions there?’ Because that’s part of it too.””This is pro sports,” Bilas continued. “Players go to school, but it’s pro sports. Guys are going to get fired. They’re making a lot of money, but they’re going to get fired. I may not agree with it but …”Bilas refused to accuse NC State of having unrealistic expectations, however, just because he wasn’t on board with the move.”Expectations can be whatever they want,” he said. “I don’t care what their expectations are. That’s their business. But when you look at it objectively, I’m a big believer in what (former Florida A.D.) Jeremy Foley said—’What you will do eventually, you should do immediately.’ So I’m not out there saying, ‘Hey, give him another year.’ If they want to fire him, fine. I’m not arguing with the decision. Somehow, when somebody says, ‘I would’ve done it differently,’ it’s like you’re saying, ‘You did a bad job.’ Do what you want. I don’t care what they do. But the numbers are the numbers. In the 20 years before he got there, they went to 5 NCAA tournaments, and he went to four in six yrs. That’s pretty good. In 20 years, they won five NCAA tournament games. He won 5. They went to one Sweet 16 in 20 years. He went to two. He’s had a couple rough years. I’m not going to argue with that. I’m not storming Raleigh with torches and pitchforks. I just have a different view.”His view on the head coaching job at State is also going to be unpopular with Wolfpack faithful.”NC State’s a good job,” he said. “It’s not a great job, but it’s a good job. I do think that last time, when they went through the hiring process, their top candidates all said no. I would be prepared for that again.”Compared to the rest of the ACC, Bilas views NC State as a middle-of-the-pack job.”I’d say middle,” he said. “Look, it’s not a hard analysis. Is it a better job than Duke? Is it a better job than Carolina? Is it a better job than Louisville? Notre Dame? Miami? Is it better than any of those? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ve got my feeling, and I think it’s in the middle.”With the competitive level of the rest of the ACC, Bilas thinks that the middle is not a good place to be.”It is a very different league now than it was in the 80s,” he said. “You can be really good and finish ninth in this league, now. You couldn’t finish ninth back then. There were eight teams in the league. But that can happen. And so I think that’s factored in. There are other jobs out there that are a lot better. People don’t want to hear that. Especially if you’re a fan in red, you don’t want to hear that. But it’s true. The top (head coach) targets that I’m reading in the paper, I don’t think are coming.”Part of the problem, Bilas thinks, is having Duke and Carolina so close. While that doesn’t impact a team’s success directly, it offers a different prism through which to view accomplishments at State.”It’s part of the equation, when you’ve got that down the road,” Bilas said. “You’re kind of going, ‘Why not us?’ Absolutely, that’s part of it, but the bigger picture of it is where do you fit in to the entire league? Because, if they’re finishing third to Duke and Carolina the entire time, that would be okay. That would be pretty good. But that’s not all that’s there. You’ve got to play Syracuse. You’ve got to play all these teams that are perennial contenders and top teams.”Climbing from the middle to the top of the new expanded ACC is significantly tougher than it was just a few years ago, when Virginia—whose most recent coaching change is being held up as the one for NC State to emulate—made the climb.”The best of the Big East and the ACC basically merged, and now you’re fighting that. It’s a different league for Pittsburgh now than it was. PItt was a better fit in the old Big East than they are in the ACC, and that’s going to be a struggle. There’s going to have to be an adjustment made. It’s hard. It’s really hard, especially if you’re building in this league. That’s why the best positioned for the new league was probably Virginia. Because Tony Bennett came in there and got the program going. We’re getting to the point in the next several years—I don’t know the timetable, but coaching jobs are going to turn over in this league. Virginia is in a very good position to go forward.”