N.C. State's basketball season ended Friday afternoon on a note that should serve as Lesson No. 1 when Mark Gottfried convenes his third team for the start of practice next October.
That lesson: Don't be "Late State" again.
In every sense of the word, the Wolfpack was late Friday in its 76-72 NCAA East loss to Temple in Dayton, Ohio.
Specifically, the Pack was a step late on defense for the entire first half, then late getting senior Scott Wood involved in the offense, late to commit a foul with less than 10 seconds to go and too late to mount a rally.
Down by 18 points at one stage, State rallied and might have won given a couple of officiating breaks during the final minute.
But two questionable calls -- on the block call against Rodney Purvis and the blocked shot by Richard Howell that was clean -- didn't lose the game nearly as much as yet another stagnant, careless first half. Slow starts figured directly in virtually every game the team lost and Temple (24-9) was too solid, too coached-up to collapse under the end-game pressure.
At the end, the Pack walked away from a season of extensive underachievement. Picked to the ACC in preseason, State went 11-7 and then was eliminated by top-seed Miami in the league tournament semifinals.
Gottfried accepted blame but also pointed the big picture -- a 24-11 final record, the two NCAA wins last season and renewed interest in the program.
But assuming juniors Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie do the expected and enter the NBA Draft, their exits, coupled with the loss of seniors Richard Howell and Wood, will mark the onset of a sweeping transition period.
Gottfried will build around returning regulars T.J. Warren, Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis --- all rising sophomores -- but it could take the coach two, three or more seasons to assemble the sort of offensive talent he took into this season.
Unless Brown and/or Leslie decide to return for a senior season, the program will be practically void of all Sidney Lowe residue in 2013-14.
The bridging period ended Friday. It's Gottfried's baby now.