Keatts leaving UNCW Seahawks for NC State Wolfpack

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Kevin Keatts is leaving UNCW and heading to NC State to lead the Wolfpack. (Photo courtesy of UNCW sports)
Kevin Keatts is leaving UNCW and heading to NC State to lead the Wolfpack. (Photo courtesy of UNCW sports)

RALEIGH After three years, Kevin Keatts is leaving the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Keatts is heading to lead the Wolfpack at NC State.

NC State Director of Athletics Debbie Yow made the announcement on Friday.

Related: UNCW names Siddle as interim Head Coach of the Seahawks following Keatts departure

In three seasons as coach of the Seahawks, Keatts had a record of 72-28 (.720) and a 41-13 (.759) mark in Colonial Athletic Association play.

Yow said Keatts’ “success in building programs, of competing at a championship-level in every stop of his career, his commitment to player development and priority in academics make him a tremendous hire for us.”

“When we set out to hire our next men’s basketball coach, we wanted to identify someone with the pedigree, vision and plan to serve as the architect of NC State basketball,” Yow said. “Kevin quickly emerged as the perfect fit in each of these areas.”

Prior to his tenure in UNCW, Keatts coached as a member of Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville. During that time, the Cardinals competed in a pair of Final Fours, a Sweet 16 and the 2013 NCAA title.

“I have an incredible respect for the history and tradition of NC State University, and am honored by the opportunity to lead the Wolfpack,” Keatts said. “There is an unbelievable commitment to basketball in Raleigh, and I share a vision with Debbie Yow and Chancellor Randy Woodson on what NC State can achieve.

“From incredible fan support to high-level academics, first-class facilities and the ability to recruit at the highest level, everything is in place at NC State to build an elite program. My family and I are honored to become a part of Wolfpack Nation, and I look forward to adding to its storied history,” Keatts said.

“We welcome Kevin and his family to the NC State community,” NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said. “We’re confident he has the character, leadership and vision to lead our men’s basketball program to great heights.”

Keatts led the Seahawks to postseason play all three years he was in Wilmington after taking over a program that went without a postseason berth in the previous eight seasons.

The Seahawks went to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) in 2015 before making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017. The 2016 NCAA Tournament appearance was the school’s first since the 2005-06 campaign.

A native of Lynchburg, Va., Keatts guided the Seahawks to CAA regular season titles all three years in Wilmington and was named CAA Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016. He was the first coach in conference history to earn Coach of the Year accolades in back-to-back seasons.

The 2016-17 UNC-Wilmington team won a school-record 29 games as the team led the conference and ranked 10th in the nation in scoring heading into the NCAA Tournament, averaging 85.2 points per game.

In 2015-16, the Seahawks were predicted to finish sixth in the CAA prior to the season, but UNCW tied the then school-record with 25 wins as Keatts piloted the team to its first CAA tournament title since 2006.

Keatts took over a program that finished last in the CAA in 2013-14 and led them to a share of the regular season title for its sixth regular season conference championship in 2014-15.

He came to UNC-Wilmington after three seasons as an assistant coach on Pitino’s staff at Louisville and was elevated to associate head coach in January of 2014.

While on staff at Louisville, Keatts and the Cardinals went 96-21 (.821), including the national championship in 2013 as Louisville won a school-record 35 games.

Keatts helped the Cardinals compile two straight top-10 recruiting classes en route to a pair of Big East Conference championships and NCAA Final Four appearances in 2012 and 2013.

In July 2013, after surveying more than 200 collegiate coaches, ESPN.com named him the third most respected/feared assistant coach in the nation.