Those shoes worn by NC State’s Kevin Keatts
The cigarette smoke is gone and so are a good chunk of the red wooden seats but the Longines clock is still up in the corner and you can almost see 1983 from here, if you look hard enough.
The lights are brighter, and the new coach has Gucci loafers, but the spirit of Reynolds Coliseum remains the same.
Especially when N.C. State is winning, and winning big, like it did on Wednesday, 100-67 over Western Carolina in a special night even by the usual nostalgia tour standard.
“It was a great night,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “I’m glad that we could be a part of it.”
Jim Valvano’s name was officially added to the title of the historic building. Keatts looked good in all red and his Wolfpack team looked even better.
Keatts wore a red suit but his shoes — black Gucci loafers with a wolf head — were the true highlight.
“He was flexing,” is how guard Blake Harris, who had season-high 15 points, described his coach.
Keatts was feeling good and so was the energetic crowd. PNC Arena has mostly been empty for N.C. State’s first six home games of the season. With capacity down to 5,500 (from 12,400 in its heyday) after a $35 million makeover in 2016, Reynolds is smaller and louder and just more alive.
“The fans are right on the court and there was a lot of energy in the gym,” said Devon Daniels, who led the Wolfpack with 21 points. “I think we all felt that.”
Daniels was N.C. State’s best player but the real star of the show was the Old Barn. The men’s team left here in 1999 for the off-campus arena next to Carter-Finley Stadium but to many N.C. State fans, this is still home.
This was where the ACC was born under Everett Case. This is where the best player in ACC history, David Thompson, walked on air. This was the home of Valvano’s 1983 team, which won the school’s second national title and gave life to the concept of March Madness in the process.
Twenty-eight years after Valvano’s last win here, and 25 after his death, he was honored. It’s now James T. Valvano Arena at Reynolds Coliseum (and don’t forget Kay Yow Court). N.C. State has covered a lot of historic bases.
The present is looking pretty good, too, for Keatts. Wednesday’s win pushed the Wolfpack to 8-1 with a visit from Auburn on the horizon (Dec. 19) and ACC play soon after that.
Daniels, who was regarded as one of the best players on the team last year — when he had to sit out after transferring from Utah— finally got some of his footing.
He had 16 points in the first half and finished 8 of 12 from the floor with three 3-pointers for a season-best 21 points. Daniels had 12 total points in two important games last week —a close loss to Wisconsin and a 15-point win over Vanderbilt.
With some early-game jitters, N.C. State started relatively slow. Daniels’ mid-range game was enough to carry them through the lulls. His 3-pointer at 5:21 in the first half gave N.C. State a 40-28 advantage. It was 45-33 by the half.
N.C. State’s defense took over from there holding the Catamounts (2-8) to eight points in the first eight and a half minutes of the second half.
The Wolfpack forced 33 turnovers for the game with 13 steals. Senior Torin Dorn had a game-high four steals, to go with 12 points. Freshman Jerricole Hellems added 16 points to give N.C. State a 17-1 record in Heritage games at Reynolds.
By the time Markell Johnson dunked at 10:09 in the second half, N.C. State’s lead ballooned to 75-43. The crowd couldn’t have asked for more. Neither could Keatts.
Before the game, Keatts said he told his players to embrace the return to Reynolds, the honor for Valvano and everything about the moment.
“This was my second chance to coach in this building and what an electric building, what a great place,” Keatts said. “Then you add on the dedication to ‘Jimmy V,’ and it was unbelievable.”