North Carolina State University Chancellor Dr. Randy Woodson, left,  and athletics director Deborah A. Yow, right, present a jacket to former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried who was introduced as the school's new head basketball coach during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Gottfried replaces former coach Sidney Lowe who recently resigned. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Gerry Broome

North Carolina State University Chancellor Dr. Randy Woodson, left, and athletics director Deborah A. Yow, right, present a jacket to former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried who was introduced as the school's new head basketball coach during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Gottfried replaces former coach Sidney Lowe who recently resigned. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

LEADER OF THE PACK: Wolfpack turns to Gottfried as next coach

By Aaron Beard

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RALEIGH — Mark Gottfried promised N.C. State fans that the Wolfpack will go toe-to-toe with its highly-ranked rivals under his watch as the new men’s basketball coach.

“Every job in America has different challenges, obstacles, those things that make the job difficult,” Gottfried said. “I’m not backing down from anybody here, period. We want to win.”

Gottfried, 47, looked right at home, sporting a red N.C. State tie and lapel pin on his gray suit during his introduction. But he knows there’s a lot of work to do at a program that struggled in five seasons under Sidney Lowe. High on that list is avoiding repeatedly disappointing finishes in the Atlantic Coast Conference and beating Duke and North Carolina a little more often.

Athletics director Debbie Yow said Gottfried will receive a five-year contract with a guarantee of $1.2 million annually, a deal that includes an automatic two-year extension if he leads N.C. State back to the NCAA tournament in either of the next two seasons.

Gottfried has a career coaching record of 278-155 in 14 seasons at Murray State and Alabama. He took seven teams to the NCAA tournament, including a run of five straight at Alabama from 2002-06 that also featured an appearance in the Phoenix Regional final in 2004. He also led the Crimson Tide to its first-ever No. 1 ranking during the 2002-03 season.

“That ain’t enough for me,” Gottfried said, turning to face the current Wolfpack players attending the news conference. “I’m here today because I want to play for a championship. That’s got to be your goal. You come to work every day, you come to practice, you better come with that in mind because that’s what we want to do.”

The hiring comes exactly three weeks after Lowe resigned from the program he led to a national championship as a player in 1983. He had an 86-78 overall record, but went just 25-55 in ACC play. He never finished higher than ninth in the league and managed a 3-16 record against Duke and North Carolina.

Gottfried was in his 11th season as head coach at Alabama when he resigned in January 2009 amid criticism of the team’s performance and the departure of star guard Ronald Steele. He had worked as a college basketball analyst for ESPN since leaving Alabama.

Gottfried’s hiring comes a day after the school learned that VCU coach Shaka Smart — who had led the Rams to a surprising Final Four run — would remain there after receiving a new eight-year contract. Later Monday, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall — another name linked to the opening — announced on his radio show that he would remain with the Shockers.

The search earlier missed on apparent top target of Arizona’s Sean Miller, the former Xavier head coach who also worked as an assistant to Sendek with the Wolfpack for five seasons. His father, John, said his son had declined to be interviewed.

Yow said the hiring of Gottfried came together in a matter of days, though she originally didn’t believe the coach would want to leave his TV job to return to the sidelines. She had interviewed three other candidates in person and spoke with others by phone, but refused to reveal who she interviewed.

“He develops talent, he values graduation ... and he motivates them to achieve,” she said. “He has a firey attitude and a can-do spirit. And that’s exactly what State needs at this time in our program.”

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