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LeVelle Moton dazzles every March, so why is he still at NC Central?

Coach LeVelle Moton is the pride of Lane Street

North Carolina Central University basketball coach LeVelle Moton talks about growing up outside downtown Raleigh and playing basketball at Lane Street Mini Park.
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North Carolina Central University basketball coach LeVelle Moton talks about growing up outside downtown Raleigh and playing basketball at Lane Street Mini Park.

Regardless of how Wednesday night goes for N.C. Central, head coach LeVelle Moton knows what comes next.

It’s inevitable. Moton, in his 10th year leading the Eagles, likes to say that you become a victim of your own success.

And he’s had plenty of success since taking over as the head coach at his alma mater.

Regardless of whether the Eagles lose, and especially if they get the first NCAA tournament win in school history, Moton already knows what the following weeks will bring. His name will be connected with some job opening, even if there is nothing to it. Social media and message boards will make sure of that.

In the past Moton’s name has been connected with openings at East Carolina, Arkansas State and even Georgia Tech.

And he’s still at N.C. Central.

“What I’ve found is a lot of times when your name is floating around on social media for a job,” Moton said, “that school or you are not interested in that job.”

Moton is 173-134 at N.C. Central with four MEAC tournament titles and a 15-4 record in the conference tournament, including 4-0 in the title game. Over the weekend, the Eagles became the second MEAC school to win three consecutive tournament titles and the first since North Carolina A&T won seven in a row from 1982-88. He’s one of just three coaches to win their last three conference tournaments, joining Jay Wright at Villanova and Tim Cluess at Iona.

Since 2014, he has led the Eagles to the postseason five times. When N.C. Central (18-15, 10-6) takes on North Dakota State (18-15, 9-7) in the First Four Wednesday (6:40 p.m. truTV), it will be its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Moton led the Eagles to three straight 20 win seasons from 2013-15, becoming just the third coach in school history to do so. The home court they play on, McDougald-McLendon Arena is named after alumnus and civic rights leader Richard L. McDougald and legendary coach John B. McLendon. If his career stays on this trajectory, Moton will surely have something named after him at the school.

But even before the team even landed in Dayton, his name had already been linked to openings at Appalachian State and Elon.

Are they true? Doesn’t matter these days. With every win, every MEAC title, each NCAA Tournament trip, the questions become “How long will he stay at NCCU?” or “Why hasn’t a bigger school swooped in and made the 44 year-old an offer he can’t refuse?”

The chatter starts on the Internet, but more times than not, there hasn’t been a lot to it.

It got pretty close last year. Moton was in the running to head down to Greenville and coach at East Carolina. At the last minute he took his name out of the list of candidates.

“I understand other schools are calling him and they should,” senior John Guerra said. “If anything it should be looked at as a huge compliment, for his talent and coaching ability is unmatched, especially in the MEAC.”

The school did its part years ago to make sure Moton sticks around. After N.C. Central’s first trip to the Big Dance in 2014, Moton signed a contract extension through 2022, with an annual salary of base salary of $250,000. That was after Moton’s name was tossed around with openings at Marshall and Florida Atlantic.

In 2012 Anthony Evans led Norfolk State to the NCAA Tournament the Spartans got a win, defeating Missouri in the second round. The next year NSU went to the NIT and following that postseason trip Evans took over as the head coach at FIU, with a base salary of $225,000, a $50,000 pay raise from his NSU job.

Moton, who went to high school in Raleigh, said money won’t be a determining factor if he makes a jump.

“You know my background, you know where I’m from,” Moton said. “So I get paid to coach basketball. I never in a million years thought I would do that.”

The real offers, Moton says, the public doesn’t even know about. His athletic director knows, and so does his agent. But those conversations have happened. The public speculation, there’s nothing he can do about that. It comes with the territory, especially when you win. Especially when you are the face of the program and a Twitter video can generate millions of views in less than 24 hours.

The noise will come, but will rise to new levels if Moton is able to do the one thing that’s escaped him in Durham - win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Three MEAC teams have done it before: Coppin State (1997) and Hampton (2001) over No. 2 seeds, North Carolina A&T (2013) in the First Four.



Moton has the wins, the MEAC rings, the name recognition. So what makes him return each year?

“It’s not about me,” Moton said. “It’s about my family’s quality of life. I have younger kids. So at the end of the year we go back and assess the situation. And anything to put my kids and my wife in the best situation possible, that’s what I’ve always done. But I’m always grateful that I do have a job because it didn’t have to end up this way as well neither.”

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.

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