Chuck Amato wanted to coach at N.C. State for the rest of his life.
He hopes to become a head coach somewhere else again. And during a revealing conference call with reporters Friday, he defended his sometimes tumultuous tenure with the Wolfpack.
Amato, 62 and an N.C. State alumnus, said the program had just scratched the surface of what it could have accomplished under him before he was fired after the 2006 season.
“I'm proud of what my teams did, and how they played – hard and competitive,” he said. “They were in every game just about, except one or two over a seven-year period. People know that. And I'm grateful for the way those people treated me.”
Amato now is an assistant to Bobby Bowden at Florida State, which visits N.C. State on Thursday night.
It will be Amato's first game at Carter-Finley Stadium since he was fired with a record of 49-37 over seven years.
In his final season, N.C. State was 3-9 with seven losses by eight or fewer points.
The disappointment of those numerous, narrow defeats hasn't left him.
“There were games that came down to the last play that we could have won,” Amato said. “And had we won that Wake Forest game, we may have been the team to represent our division in the conference championship.”
That 25-23 decision against Wake Forest in 2006 started a seven-game losing streak that concluded Amato's tenure.
Amato mentioned that N.C. State averaged seven wins a season in his tenure, a number he said a lot of teams across the country would like to achieve.
Without elaborating, he also said he knew what was wrong with the team in 2006 but didn't want to fix it in the middle of the season.
He said that Miami Dolphins executive and former New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells recently told him that the coaching community understands and appreciates what he accomplished at N.C. State. Amato said his Class of 2007 recruiting haul would have been one of his best, and expressed pride at building the excitement that led to substantial renovations at Carter-Finley.
“It's going to be tough to walk out of that locker room onto that field and see what a big-time stadium it is and what a great place it is,” Amato said. “Those fans come to games, and those fans were the reason we won that Boston College game and that Florida State game (in 2006).”
Acknowledging problems at quarterback following the departure of Philip Rivers after 2003, Amato said N.C. State had more talent at the skill positions last year than Florida State did. Amato said he didn't hold any grudges, but said he aimed high with a program that didn't have much of a championship tradition.