Mark Gottfried and Debbie Yow didn’t need a lot of time to get to know one another.
NC State’s new basketball coach and its athletics director have been friends for nearly three decades. They met when Gottfried was a freshman on the Oral Roberts men’s basketball team and Yow was the women’s basketball coach. Gottfried, who happened to be dating one of Yow’s players at the time, spent hours at the gym.
Yow took notice of the freshman All-America guard and began following his career. She watched him help Alabama advance to three consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances after he transferred into the Crimson Tide’s program.
She followed as he became an assistant coach at UCLA, where he helped the Bruins win the 1995 NCAA championship.
She congratulated him when he took over his first program at Murray State soon after that title, leading the Racers to three consecutive Ohio Valley Conference championships in his three seasons with the team.
And she was proud to see Gottfried win as the head coach of the Crimson Tide, where he guided his team to a No. 1 national ranking and the 2002 SEC regular-season championship.
So the get-to-know-you portion of the interview when Yow began talking to Gottfried about becoming NC State’s 19th head coach didn’t take too long.
“The advantage for me was having known him since he was 18,” said Yow, who officially hired Gottfried on Tuesday to lead the Wolfpack men’s basketball program. “I knew about his passion and his work ethic.”
Yow also cited Gottfried’s tenacity and focus.
“He shares the vision of returning State to national prominence. He has the qualities we value at State. He develops talent, he values graduation, he respects the personhood of the players and he motivates them to achieve. He has a fiery attitude and a can-do spirit and that is exactly what State needs at this time in our program.”
Gottfried looks forward to working for someone he knows well and to returning to coaching after two years as a college basketball television analyst. He considers those two seasons of working more than 100 basketball games as an opportunity to mature, as he attended practices, broke down film, considered strategy and learned from some of college basketball’s brightest minds.
He scribbled more than 100 pages of thoughts and ideas he gleaned from others into a notebook, knowing that one day he would return to the sidelines to lead another program. When he received a phone call Monday night from Yow, asking him to leave the Final Four in Houston and be in Raleigh on Tuesday morning to talk about the job, he jumped at the opportunity.
After a brief flight to Pensacola, Fla., to drop off his three sons, Gottfried and his wife Elizabeth flew to Raleigh to start talking about his future. At 5 p.m., Yow introduced Gottfried to a room full of reporters, supporters and the current members of the Wolfpack basketball team.
It was the players that Gottfried addressed most frequently in his introductory remarks, telling them candidly: “I became the head coach at Alabama at 33 years old. It was a challenge. We had a phenomenal run there and did some great things there, like get a No. 1 ranking and go to the Elite Eight. Those were things that had never been done before at that school.
“But I have to tell you, that ain’t enough for me. I’m here today because I want to play for a championship. That has to be your goal too. That will be the goal and the mindset we have as a team.”
Gottfried knows well that NC State already has two national championship banners hanging from the rafters of the RBC Center and that the school has won 17 conference championships. When he was at UCLA, he came to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack in a game that featured a reunion of the 1974 team.
“I’m very familiar with the tradition here. I understand it. I want to cherish it with the fans. I know what you want – to play for a national championship.”