Gottfried era ends with NC States first-round bounce in 2017 ACC Tournament

NC State ousted in first round for first time under Gottfried in his final game with the Wolfpack

Brad Penner—USA Today Sports
NC State Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried coaches against Clemson Tigers during the first half of an ACC Conference Tournament game at Barclays Center.

BROOKLYN — NC State’s stay in Brooklyn is over, and so is the Mark Gottfried era in Raleigh.The 2017 ACC Tournament lasted just one game for the Wolfpack (15-17 overall, 4-15 ACC) with a 75-61 loss to Clemson (17-14, 7-12) in the Barclays Center. It marked the second straight loss to the Tigers in a six-day stretch after the Pack dropped its season finale in Clemson.”I loved coaching our guys,” Gottfried said in his final press conference. “We got caught this year. We were really young and playing against a really good conference league that just kind of the way if falls has a lot of veteran teams.”Gottfried’s tenure with the Wolfpack ended with one of the biggest collapses ever in Raleigh, concluding the season with losses in 10 of the final 11 games. That losing streak wrapped up a season that included the most losses to ACC opponents in the regular season (14) and overall (15) in NC State history.Despite the direction of the program in the final two seasons, losing in the opening round was not a common theme for the Wolfpack under Gottfried. In the first three seasons under Gott, the Pack went 2-1 in the ACC Tourney and went 1-1 in the last two years before heading to Brooklyn.In the last three years, those lone losses came against Duke — which would have been NC State’s next opponent.The loss was also NC State’s 17th of the season, finishing at 15-17. It marks the first time since the Les Robinson era (in 1991-94) that the Pack has finished with at least 17 losses in consecutive seasons after going 16-17 last year.Dennis Smith Jr., who finished with with seven points (3-for-12 shooting) and eight rebounds in his lone game in the ACC Tournament, shared his thoughts on the loss.”It was very deflating,” Smith said. “It was just rough for everybody. Nobody wanted it to end like this. We had high hopes coming into it, but it’s been a rough year. … I was an NC State fan before I got here. I’m still a fan. I believe they can be really good in the future.”So how would he summarize his freshman season in Raleigh in three words?”Fun and family, but unfortunate,” Smith said. “I wanted so much more.”While he wouldn’t say whether he would declare for the draft, it already seems like a given that Tuesday was his final appearance in the red and white.Pointing out the negatives is easy with this year’s team, but there are plenty of positives moving forward.If they decide to return, both Markell Johnson and Ted Kapita have the look of centerpiece players for the Wolfpack’s next head coach. The two freshmen showed growth throughout the season and, while Johnson was unable to play Tuesday with a knee injury, bringing high energy and effort to NC State.Torin Dorn is another part of that equation. While his play tapered off near the end in the ACC, he was another key part of starting out the season strong in the non-conference portion. The rising junior spoke with confidence about returning to NC State next year and where the program is heading into the offseason.”I think the future’s bright,” Dorn said. “We get a fresh start and that’s all you can ask for in life is chances. We’re going to have another chance to lace it up next year. All of the guys that are coming back are going to have a positive attitude, meet the new coach and get ready to roll. We just want to turn the page.”Gottfried didn’t end his tenure on a positive note, but can still rest his hat on where he led the program in the first four years. After months of a positive attitude about his six years in Raleigh and optimism about the end of the year, Gottfried left with a parting shot before heading home from Brooklyn.”NC State’s a wonderful place,” Gottfried said. “Different than every other job in this league. You look around at all these banners right here, all these other schools. Nobody else is compared daily the way our guys and our program is to North Carolina and Duke. They’re just not.”I think it says the fact that in six years, four [NCAA] Tournaments, two Sweet 16s, two years they missed the tournament — they’re hunting for a new coach. Not sure that’s happening at about 50 or 60 percent of the rest of the league, quite honestly. So in that regard, I’ve said it many times: Tough neighborhood.”