Setup: How excited is NC State to have a good basketball team again?
Punchline: So excited the school just made coach Mark Gottfried the third-highest paid coach in the ACC.
OK, so that wasn't really a setup-punchline joke. It was more like a question and a statement of fact. The important part is it's true: On Friday, the school announced it was raising Gottfried's salary to $1.95 million per year for the next six years, meaning UNC's Roy Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski -- both winners of multiple national titles -- are the only coaches set to make more per year than Gottfried:
His annual salary remains at $750,000, and his supplemental compensation was boosted from $450,000 to $1.2 million. That moved Gottfried from ninth to third in the ACC in annual guaranteed compensation. NC State's appearance in the NCAA tournament last March triggered an automatic two-year extension through 2017-18 for Gottfried, who led the Wolfpack to 24 victories in his first season.
Athletic director Debbie Yow says Gottfried's "competitive and recruiting success has accelerated our vision of excellence in an impressive way."
Ms. Yow is hardly wrong. In fact, "accelerated" is the perfect word for Gottfried's success at the school thus far. Of course, to be fair, he inherited an excellent class of players from former coach Sidney Lowe, who landed C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow in his last-ditch attempt at keeping his red sport coat out of the family storage unit. (Though one imagines Lowe still finds occasions to bust that thing out. Seriously, it's almost impossible to find a photo of him not wearing it). Harrow wound up transferring to Kentucky, but Gottfried kept the recruiting momentum going with this year's class -- the star of which, shooting guard Rodney Purvis, was recently cleared for competition by the NCAA.
In just his second year, Gottfried got NC State fans back into the tournament. Now, the Wolfpack are primed for a big season. Believe it or not, the Wolfpack -- whose die-hard fans have been as anguished and hungry over the past decade as any in the country -- might be the favorite to win the ACC.
This is a fan base that desperately wants to compete with its hated foes. Gottfried has them in position to do just that. NC State made a vigorous -- and that's putting it lightly -- investment in a man it hired just two seasons ago. But it's not difficult to figure out why.