Former AD Debbie Yow reminisces on some of her past hires
Former NC State athletics director Debbie Yow was no stranger to high-profile coaching searches, and she did a stroll down memory lane Tuesday with The Wolfpacker on some of them.
Yow took part in The Wolfpacker’s weekly podcast at Amedeo’s Restaurant and reminisced about the hiring process of football coach Dave Doeren and men’s basketball coach Kevin Keatts, and also the amusing approach that women’s basketball coach Wes Moore took to get the job.
From the time the previous coach leaves or gets fired, it’s an intense period.
“AD’s are different with how they manage searches,” Yow said. “I can only speak from my own prior experience. In the modern age, in the last 20 years in a revenue sport, I always wanted a search firm involved. I think the caveat to that is that if you know exactly who you wanted and where they were and pretty much inclined to accept the position.
“We don’t have that set up, then [the search firm] do some of the background work and find out information that you can’t get as an AD.
“In this day and age in social media, it’s very, very challenging to hire quietly.”
Yow also needed to coordinate different ways that people at NC State could be involved in the coaching search, including the players.
“At least for us, there has always been a type of a search committee that pulls together the faculty athletics representative, so that the faculty had a part in this, along with senior staff members,” she explained
The opportunity to get feedback from the team can help in the transition because they feel invested in the next coach.
“We always talk to the team,” Yow said. “Teams, at least when I was AD, didn’t interview the candidates because you didn’t want to create an issue for those that you didn’t end up hiring. They would talk about the attributes they wanted to see in their new coach.”
Doeren was in the midst of leading Northern Illinois to the 2012 Mid-American Conference title Nov. 30. He edged Kent State 44-37 in double overtime to improve to 12-1 on the season and an eventual berth to the Orange Bowl.
Yow and NC State formally introduced Doeren as its new head coach Dec. 1.
“In Dave’s case, I just asked that we be first,” Yow said. “That’s the only thing I asked for. Just tell me the moment you are available, and I’ll be there.
“The only thing I asked is that I’m first, and no other AD has a chance to be there first.”
The reason Yow wanted to be first is to prevent another school from being able to make that strong first impression.
“We did have a moment with University of California during that particular search where the agent called and said, ‘Cal wants to go in first,’” Yow said. “I said, ‘No, you told me I could go in first. For you to change at this point would be you reneging on what you said to me.’
“We did get in first, and there was no second. When I came home that night [on the plane], they came with me, the whole family.”
The stress of the men’s basketball search centered around when Keatts would be finished in the NCAA Tournament at UNC-Wilmington. It wasn’t that Yow was hoping Keatts and UNCW would lose against Virginia on March 16, 2017, but the Wolfpack’s chances were aided by a first-round exit.
Who knows what would have happened in NC State’s coaching search if Keatts and UNCW had topped Virginia and then perhaps upset Florida in the second round.
“I wasn’t going to have any control on whether he beats Virginia,” Yow said. “I was watching like everyone else. I just wanted to be there first. There is something to be said to be able to share the vision of NC State at that time first.
"I was able to do that when he lost out West in Salt Lake City or somewhere like that. The next afternoon I was with him as soon as he got home [to Wilmington]. He was hired by 7 p.m.”
Yow recalled having dinner with Moore in Cary, N.C., when he was going through the coaching search process. Yow still laughs at Moore’s forwardness.
“Dinner ends and I turn to Wes and say, ‘I enjoyed getting to know you more,’” Yow said. “I knew the next day he was still going to be here interviewing.
“He said, ‘Are you going to offer me the job or not?’ I had not had anyone say that to me in an interview. I said, ‘Right now? I’d like to think about what we talked about.’ He said, ‘I figure if you don’t offer it to me now, you are never going to offer it to me.’ I said, ‘That’s not true, I just have to think about it.’
“He has his version of what was said, and that’s my version. And my version was accurate.”
Yow had targeted two other women’s basketball coaches, but they projected some rebuilding years on the horizon at NC State and wanted to be paid at least $700,000 a year. Yow had aimed to find the best female basketball coach in the country.
Moore was willing to tackle the rebuild at $400,000 and prove that his success at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“I think he’s a program turner and I think he is the real deal [that] never had this opportunity at the Power Five level,” Yow said.