Steve Lavin and N.C. State’s (possible) coaching search

Steve Lavin passed on a chance to coach N.C. State after Herb Sendek left in 2006.

With the ACC regular season coming to an end, N.C. State fans — including the IoT crew later this week — are debating the future of the basketball team, specifically whether Sidney Lowe should be fired and who should replace him if he goes. While some Wolfpack fans are already making their wish list of possible Lowe replacements, St. John’s coach Steve Lavin may have set the expectations for a possible coaching search on Monday.

In an interview on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption (start at the 1:59 mark), Lavin, who’s leading maybe the hottest team in the country right now, was asked whether he worried he’d ever get another chance to coach after being fired by UCLA in 2003. During his response, Lavin said this:

“I had an opportunity to go to N.C. State in April of 2006. While I was flattered and came very close to taking the job, at the end, I didn’t feel it was the right fit. And to be totally honest, I was still regenerating, kind of healing so to speak, in terms of having been fired. I think sometimes coaches make mistakes by just coming back too quickly, and you have to make sure it’s the right fit and the right time so, when you do return, you’re at the point where you can really give the energy, the vitality, the commitment it takes to be successful … .”

Nothing that Lavin said about 2006 is new. But depending on how you look at it, that statement has implications for State fans in 2011.

From the “Glass Half Full” approach, it’s a good thing Lavin passed on the job if he didn’t believe that he could fully commit to it. From the “Glass Half Empty” approach, State got turned down by a well-known coach looking for work. While Lavin left UCLA after a miserable 10-19 season, he did go to six straight NCAA Tournaments — and five Sweet 16s — at one of the elite programs in the country. And let’s not forget that Rick Barnes and John Calipari also said no five years ago (although that probably wasn’t a bad thing in Calipari’s case given how frequently his programs end up in trouble with the NCAA after he inevitably leaves).

For anyone dreaming of Barnes or Jamie Dixon or Sean Miller standing on the sideline at the RBC Center next season, it doesn’t hurt to make a run at those guys, especially with a new athletics director. But if you’re a “Glass Half Empty” kind of guy, it’s hard to imagine the State job drawing any of those three coaches away from their current gigs if it wasn’t attractive enough to lure Lavin back to the bench from ESPN five years ago.

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