RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The very first question asked to North Carolina State University head basketball coach Kevin Keatts at Tuesday’s ACC Tip-off in Charlotte got a bit of a rise out the usually mild mannered Wolfpack mentor.
“I hate… I don’t like the bronze medal thing, I can tell you that now, because we’re not bronze medal to anybody,” Keatts said with a forced smile when asked about the Wolfpack’s pecking order in the Triangle.
But Keatts is well aware, the area basketball landscape is changing.
As Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski will retire at the and of, this, his 42nd year at the helm for the Blue Devils, and six months ago University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Roy Williams shocked the college basketball world when he stepped down after 18 years.
For years, those two coaches dominated the conversation when it came to Triangle, and North Carolina, basketball.
“As far as the opportunity, we looked for opportunity from the day that I got here,” Keatts said. “We’re N.C. State, we don’t try to be Duke, we don’t try to be Carolina.”
He continued explaining that both those universities have their own programs and the Wolfpack fights for State basketball and no one else.
“They have their own programs and we fight for us. I like the brand that we are building. We’re getting there. I like the direction that our program is going in,” Keatts said.
Still, Keatts had nothing but good things to say about the two titans he had to go head-to-head with.
“What Coach K and Roy Williams did for college basketball is probably second to none,” Keatts said. “When you look at those guys, between the two of them, they have eight National Championships and Coach K has six (Olympic) gold medals.”
And after this season, both will be gone.
It’s hard to imagine that next year, Keatts could become the dean of Triangle coaches. The last time an N.C. State coach held that title was Everett Case, who ruled the Triangle basketball scene from 1946-64…more than five decades ago.
“When I took the job here at N.C. State is wasn’t based on the fact that Coach K or Roy Williams were going to retire,” Keatts said. “It’s just obviously building a program that we could be constant and win championships. We’re excited about that, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
A direction soon to be unimpeded by two of college basketball’s greatest coaches.