Sidney Lowe was introduced as State's new head coach Saturday afternoon, and
immediately made a smart move, hiring former State point guard and current (well
until today) University of New Orleans coach Monte Towe as associate head
coach. That's a really smart move on his part, because Towe is experienced
in all aspects of coaching and can pretty much run things until the Pistons, for
whom Lowe currently toils, are out of the playoffs (actually, Larry Harris, a
Sendek assistant who went to Arizona State with Sendek, will return and manage
things on a day-to-day basis, which will give a lot of continuity).
He also has sent letters to all the top prospects and knows who could be
signed at such a late date, and of course has had his mug at every camp or
tournament in the last several years, so all the prospects have some idea of who
It's clear, though, at least to us, that their first recruit will be Cedric
Simmons. The big man has declared for the draft, of course, and retaining
him will be a big challenge. Lowe addressed that somewhat during his press
conference, saying that State would go to their big man a lot. But
probably not if it's not Simmons, because the options thin out quickly after
As an expert on the league, Lowe can make a reasoned pitch to Simmons, who is
currently expected to be drafted fairly high, since everyone these days seems to
be drafted on potential.
A basic rule should be: if you can't dominate college, you shouldn't be in a
rush to go to the next level.
<!h4>Upon introducing Lowe, A.D. Lee Fowler said "This a great day for the
Wolfpack Nation. Sidney Lowe is representative of the
storied tradition that is NC State basketball. Since his playing days here, he's
gained an unbelievable amount of experience at the game's highest level. That
experience, combined with his love for NC State, makes him an excellent choice
for this job."
He could be right, although if he thought so highly of Lowe, he could have
put him at the beginning of his search rather than at the end. The search
became something of a joke, with one guy writing to the News & Observer to
say that of course Mexicans were going to come to the U.S. to take jobs that
Americans didn't want, like being the basketball coach at N.C. State...badabing!
<!h4>Chancellor James L. Oblinger said something stupider claiming that
"[o]ur new coach understands what NC State is all about, and what the
people of the state expect of us. When we talk about our players, we talk of
student-athletes. Coach Lowe will develop both sides of that equation, the
student side as well as the athlete side. He will help us produce graduates
ready to reach their full potential."
Now, everyone hopes that that is true. But when Sidney was at State, it
wasn't true, and he hasn't bothered to get his own degree until, well, until
later this summer. Given the practices under Norm Sloan, who recruited him
(along with Monte Towe, in his first stint as a State assistant) and Jim
Valvano, whose approach to academics led to serious reforms at State, Oblinger's
comments are almost laughable.
But Lowe as State's coach isn't. We said he would have to be organized
to get off to a good start, and hiring a head coach to pretty much run things
until he is available full-time is a great move. For Towe, whatever he may
have thought of UNO, Katrina changed everything. The town is in ruins, and
the university's future is uncertain. Enrollment has fallen from 17,000 to
about 11,000. Much of the athletic deparment is funded by student fees, so
you can see where they have a problem. It could reasonably expect to bounce back up if all goes
well, but recruiting to the Big Easy can't be easy now.
Lowe also made it clear that the hated Princeton offense was history, and
that State would return to a running game.
This scored some points among his new players. Gavin Grant obliquely
criticized Herb Sendek, saying that "[Lowe] told us he wanted us to be free
and have fun. (Sendek) wasn't focused on having fun. He was more focused
on we've got to win and it was this way or no way at all.
"In the Princeton offense, I don't think that offense fit me and a
couple of other guys on the team as best we could. Now that we have a coach that
understands where we're coming from and played a little bit like some of us
here, things should be a lot better around here...
"Guys have been worrying about who was going to be
the coach. When it was (West Virginia coach John) Beilein, it was like 'Oh no,
it's Herb all over again'. I am a New York City kid, I need the up-tempo ...
getting to the basket and taking shots we weren't able to take last year."
After Lowe pitched some comments at him, Cedric Simmons said "I
felt like the center of attention. But me getting a lot of shots would be a step
up from last year and nine shots a game."
And former teammate Cozell McQueen said this: "Sidney's
strengths are Xs and Os, believe me. And
he lets guys have fun playing the game. He was a coach on the floor. So many
times, especially in '83, Coach Valvano would ask Sidney things in the huddle
during a timeout. Sidney was a point guard. He saw the floor. He saw the game.
He saw what was coming before we all saw it. Man, that's a coach. We got the
right man here."
Historically, of course, Lowe is reconnecting with State's roots:
Everett Case brought the running game to the state, and State fans love that
kind of basketball, even if many of them are too young to remember it.
Norm Sloan had some wonderful running teams, although they usually got run over
by Dean Smith's team, something which led Sloan to eventually head back to
Valvano didn't always run, but he certainly tapped into the passionate
aspects of State fandom. And for all his faults, no one can say that Les
Robinson didn't coach a running game at N.C. State. He basically failed, but he
tried to give State their tradition back.
With fans and now players going after Sendek, things may have worked out as
well as they possibly could have. The questions about Lowe haven't been
answered - they've barely started - but State fans seem optimistic, and more
importantly, so do the players. Time will tell how well things will work out,
but at least for now, a fickle fan base seems mostly happy, and Lowe said all
the right things and is making some smart moves. So congrats all around.