College Sports

What NC State’s Kevin Keatts has to say about his new team and his old coach

N.C. State men's basketball coach Kevin Keatts, left, laughs with head football coach Dave Doeren during the N.C. State Wolfpack Club Coaches Caravan at Reynolds Coliseum on April 27, 2017.
N.C. State men's basketball coach Kevin Keatts, left, laughs with head football coach Dave Doeren during the N.C. State Wolfpack Club Coaches Caravan at Reynolds Coliseum on April 27, 2017. ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said when Louisville coach Rick Pitino hired him to be his assistant in 2011, Pitino told him over the phone, that he doesn’t hire assistant coaches, he hires “future head coaches.”

That stuck with him, Keatts said during the Triangle Men’s Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon on Friday.

Keatts said Pitino had a great influence on him.

He said during the first week of practice after he arrived at Louisville, the team looked good. After practice Pitino called Keatts and another assistant coach into his office.

“I’m thinking he’s about to praise us. He’s going to tell us man, you guys are the best. You guys are the best assistant coaches,” Keatts said. “But it didn’t go that way.”

“He jumped on us about not being involved.”

He said what makes coaches like Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino special, is they allow their assistant coaches to coach and be who they are. He said that why he’s in the position he is in today.

Keatts also talked about now being a coach at N.C. State. He said if you talk to his players, they’ll tell you they are not having basketball workouts, they’re having track workouts.

Keatts, who was hired from UNC-Wilmington in March, is known for having teams that pressure the ball and get up and down the floor.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “The biggest thing is I’m challenging the seniors, when you talk about Malik Abu, you talk about a guy like Lennard Freeman who has been in the program for four years, I’m trying to get those guys to step up and take some ownership of their own program.”

Keatts said not only do those players have to step up, but they have to bring their teammates along with them.

Keatts added six new players, including two recruits and four transfers to its 2017-18 roster. Two of those recruits will be eligible immediately.

“I’m excited about the opportunity, I like the group,” Keatts said. “The biggest thing is getting everybody on the same page.”

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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