Mark Gottfried has an aura about him. He is the type of person who get looks from others in a crowded room. He has a terrific personality. His educational and employment background, along with family history in coaching have prepared him well.
For all of Gottfried’s strengths and background in coaching and communication, he is a terrible actor.
When N.C. State loses, he makes no pretense of his hurt, disappointment or even anger. He stews when the Pack suffers a tough loss, and all of the ACC losses have been agonizing so far. The fact that he is in an ill mood after defeat is not entirely helpful for the writers who use Gottfried’s quotes to help put food on their table--— the members of the media gorging on pregame buffets notwithstanding.
But Gottfried’s terseness after tough losses should not be considered a negative. It is in fact a poetic symmetry to the hunger of the N.C. State fan base. When the Pack loses, its supporters are usually in no mood for looking on the bright side of life.
It is also a stark contrast to post-game mood often displayed by Gottfried’s two predecessors over the previous 15 years before he arrived in Raleigh from his sojourn at ESPN before last season.
Herb Sendek would often show a remarkable detachment from human emotion after games, regardless of the outcome. Sendek’s normal demeanor was akin to a doctor in an emergency room—whether it was the joy of birth or the sorrow of death, he was stoic. There was a logical explanation for everything.
Sidney Lowe’s post-game press conferences would have the former point guard steering seamlessly between complete befuddlement as to why his teams were mediocre and hope to a brighter future that somehow only he could see.
On Saturday Gottfried dealt with Lorenzo Brown’s injury with aplomb. Even with a victory against Miami, the Pack would have been unlikely to win the ACC regular season title. The objectives now must be to learn and improve over the course of the second half of the conference season, and to finish in the top-four of the league standings to avoid a Thursday game in the ACC Tournament.
It will be interesting to see how State uses freshman guard Tyler Lewis for the remainder of the season. Lewis’ play Saturday has almost undoubtedly earned trust among the coaching staff and his teammates.
When faced with a similar situation his final season, Lowe turned to Brown to play point guard against North Carolina in the Smith Center. Brown shined in his new role, tallying 20 points and seven assists in an 84-64 loss.
Brown accounting for over half the points scored by N.C. State against a ranked arch-rival on the road simply would not suffice for Lowe. He never let Brown play point guard the remainder of the season as the Pack continued to slide. That is the stuff ex-coaches are made of.
Gottfried will not have that problem. If Brown is healthy, it is his job. But the emergence of Lewis does give him something to think about, especially as it pertains to Brown’s health.
State is entering a tricky part of the season. At 16-6 overall and 5-4 in the ACC, things could shift either way. Losses at Duke and at Clemson, neither being implausible, would see the Pack fall below .500 in league play and headed for a double-digit loss season.
The games afterward seem manageable though. The possibility of State going on a roll in February is real. There will be a balancing act to the next few weeks. The Pack have to look to March, while also making sure there will be some meaningful games to play when that time arrives.
Gottfried will also have to find that balance, maintaining excitement for the season while also keeping the hatred of losing. So far, he is doing it well.