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April 8, 2013

Wes Moore embraces his return to NC State

Wes Moore was only an assistant coach at NC State for two seasons, helping the Pack reach the Sweet 16 during one of those years, but his time in Raleigh left an unmistakable impact on him.

Starting with the influence of former women's hoops head coach Kay Yow to the care he saw from many in Wolfpack nation for its athletic programs, Moore felt like in a short time that he had become a part of the NC State family.

He left after the 1994-95 season to become a head coach at Francis Marion before moving up to the FBS level as coach at Chattanooga in 1998. During his 18 years as a head coach he was his conference's coach of the year seven times and guided his teams to 11 NCAA appearances and four more women's NIT berths.

Through all that time he at least occasionally would keep one eye on Raleigh. So when the Wolfpack head coaching job opened up in March, Moore knew it was an opportunity for him to try to seize. On Monday, he was formally introduced as State's new coach.

"It's a humbling day, I can say that, and it's a proud day," Moore stated. "Almost 20 years later and hundreds of games later, back with the Pack. It's a great honor."

Moore acknowledged that leaving Chattanooga is tough, especially considering he almost had the job on "cruise control." He noted that on the recruiting trail that he had the next couple of classes essentially lined up for the Lady Mocs. The easy thing for him to do would have been to continue upon his recent successes there.

This past year Chattanooga defeated perennial national power Tennessee in the season opener for both teams and won a school-record tying 29 games with just four defeats.

"It had to be a situation where I feel like I could be successful," Moore said. "You work so hard in this business, it's such a grind. I just can't imagine putting that much into it if you didn't feel like you could get something in return. I really felt like we could compete and have success on a national level.

"NC State is a special place. That's exactly what it took to get me out of Chattanooga."

Moore returned to Raleigh with a task that even he acknowledged is challenging. The ACC has emerged as one of the premier conferences in the country, and it's set to get even stronger with the additions of Louisville and Notre Dame over the next two years.

Notre Dame was a Final Four team this season, and Louisville will play for the national title against Connecticut Tuesday night. They will join a league that includes a potential preseason No. 1 team next season in Duke, and a North Carolina squad reloading with arguably the top recruiting class in the country.

"I understand the challenges ahead of us, but that's what makes it fun," Moore said. "You can either get in an inner tube and coast down one of these lazy rivers or you can get in the kayak and shoot the rapids, and we're going to shoot the rapids."

Moore also comes into the job with a plan. He saw the success the program had under Yow firsthand, and plans to apply some of those principles in his approach at NC State. Chief among them is using several of NC State's best assets.

That starts at the top with athletic director Debbie Yow. Moore did not know Kay Yow's sister well before accepting the job at NC State, but his research convinced him he will work for an AD that will give him the necessary support and resources to be successful.

He is also excited about the planned renovations for historic Reynolds Coliseum that will modernize the home of women's basketball. And Moore wants to connect with a network of Wolfpack supporters across the state to help rebuild the program.

"There are just so many people in this state that care about you and are willing to help your program, so I think we have to tap into that," Moore noted.

Moore knows that his ultimate success at NC State will depend on the players. He joked that he had not grabbed a rebound or scored a point in over 20 years. That was when he was a point guard at Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tenn.

When he finished getting his master's at Tennessee, Moore was faced with two choices: become a high school boy's basketball coach and teach biology or coach the women's team at Maryville, which was coming off a 1-25 season in 1986-87.

"The only reason I was certified in biology is because as a P.E. major we had to take a lot of those courses," Moore joked. "I would have been studying more than the kids. I was done with that."

By year three, Moore had Maryville in the Division III NCAA Tournament for the first of five consecutive trips for the school. He was then hired by Kay Yow to be her assistant.

"If it wasn't for Coach Yow, I don't have a doubt I probably wouldn't be standing here today for a lot of reasons," Moore said. "Coach Yow is in every basketball Hall of Fame there is, but she was an even better person. She's really meant a lot to me throughout my career."

And if Yow taught Moore anything while they worked together, it was to believe in NC State.

"It's going to be a great challenge," Moore said. "I know what can be done here. I've seen it done. You can say what you want about times have changed. NC State, basketball is what this university is known athletically whether it's the women going to the Final Four, the men winning a couple of national championships, the [ESPN] 30 for 30 program, we've got a lot to sell.

"We just got to get busy and do it."


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