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A new era has dawned for the North Carolina State basketball program, and with it comes new expectations for a fan base that is desperate for something to cheer about.

N.C. State fans are hoping that a fresh face will be the cure for a basketball program whose once proud history seems like a distant memory.

That fresh face belongs to former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried coached the Crimson Tide for 10 years before resigning in the middle of the 2009 season. Gottfried led Alabama to a 210-132 record during his tenure and made five straight NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2004.

Gottfried acknowledges that many Wolfpack supporters might have given up on previous head coach Sidney Lowe, but he is ready to move on.

“I know that a lot of people have probably lost faith in the program, that’s why there was a coaching change,” Gottfried said. “But it’s our turn now and we gotta do the job.”

Gottfried’s job was made a lot easier when McDonald’s All-American C.J. Leslie decided to return for his sophomore season. After averaging 11 points and seven rebounds a game for the Wolfpack last season, Leslie will look to build on a promising freshman campaign that ended with a place on the ACC All-Rookie team.

“(Leslie) is a terrific athlete — speed, jumping ability, quickness,” Gottfried said. “We just have to keep coaching him every day because he has great potential.”

While Leslie may be the most talented player on the Wolfpack’s roster, he is not the most valuable, according to Gottfried. That distinction belongs to sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown.

Because of the sudden departure of Ryan Harrow, who transferred to Kentucky, Brown will handle the full-time point guard duties. As a starter last year, Brown led the team in assists, but he did so as the team’s shooting guard.

Brown was initially recruited to play shooting guard, but he will have to adapt to his new role fast for the Wolpack to succeed.

“Last year I was kind of a shooting guard or whatever; I really wasn’t comfortable at that position,” Brown said. “I’m going to be the main point guard this year and I’m excited.”

Aside from Leslie and Brown, the only other returning starter for the Wolfpack is junior guard Scott Wood. Wood started every game his first two seasons and was the team’s leading 3-point shooter last season. He said that one major difference between the two coaches is the fast pace at which Gottfried wants his players to operate.

“The one focus is go 110 miles per hour but at the same time stay in control,” Wood said. “It starts on the defensive end. Once we get that stop, we’re going to be looking to get out on the break.”

Any time a new coach is introduced to a struggling program, optimism will be at its highest. For Gottfried and the Wolfpack, there is new hope that a return to prominence is on the horizon.

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