By Kevin Sweeney
Only a little more than 24 hours since his UNC-Wilmington team fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Virginia, Kevin Keatts appears to have a new destination.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN is reporting that NC State has agreed to a deal with Keatts to become the next head coach of the Wolfpack following a highly successful run in Wilmington in which he went 72-28 with 2 NCAA Tournament berths in 3 seasons. Keatts will replace Mark Gottfried, who was fired in February as the Wolfpack endured a disappointing season.
Goodman has since reported that Keatts will receive a six-year deal that will pay him $2.2 million per year. Gottfried was reportedly making approximately $2.5 millionj, according to WNCN in Raleigh.
Ever since the job opened up, Keatts was wrumored to be a candidate. However, the search seemed to increase its focus on Keatts in the last 24-48 hours, as more jobs opened up and UNCW’s season concluded. Things moved quickly from there, as Keatts was reportedly meeting with NC State AD Debbie Yow this morning.
The move is the latest step in a meteoric rise to the top of college basketball for Keatts. After a successful tenure as the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, a prep school, Keatts took an assistant coaching position at Louisville under Rick Pitino in 2011. After 3 seasons at Louisville, he moved on to UNCW, and is now the head coach in the ACC.
Should the majority of the current roster stay put, Keatts stands to inherit a strong core right away. While Dennis Smith Jr has already entered the NBA Draft, players such as Malik Abu, Markell Johnson, Torin Dorn, Maverick Rowan, and Omer Yurtseven all could return and contribute right away for the Wolfpack.
Now, UNCW has to fill a void as it looks to continue its run atop the CAA. They could look to hire from within, but have a very young staff behind Keatts. External candidates could include a pair of UNCW alums in Georgia Southern HC Mark Byington and Michigan assistant & former Wright State head coach Billy Donlon. Other candidates could include UNC-Asheville head coach Nick McDevitt, NC Central head coach LeVelle Moton, and even former Seahawks head coach Brad Brownell, who is currently on the hot seat at Clemson.