New NC State coach juggling Pistons, schoolwork
NC State will get an early impression of Sidney Lowe's time management skills over the next eight weeks. He is trying to manage a schedule unlike any other college coach.
Currently, Lowe is plotting game plans to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and could be faced with two more playoff rounds beyond this. He's also finishing three classes online to earn his business administration degree. He needs to learn the phone-book-sized NCAA rule book for an exam that he must pass to recruit this summer. He's holding daily conference calls with his new staff. He is re-recruiting current NC State players, is preparing a list of targets for summer recruiting and, if there is time, he might talk a little bit about moving from Detroit to Raleigh.
So, Sidney, got a minute?
"This will be interesting," Lowe said Tuesday as he prepped for Game 2 against the Cavs in Detroit.
"It's better for me that we're in the playoffs and only playing one team," said the Pistons assistant who on Saturday was announced as head coach at his alma mater. "We're just going back and watching the film and seeing the adjustments made. I'm only focusing on one team. If this were during the regular season, when there is a new team, it would be more difficult because you can't just watch one or two tapes."
Lowe already has begun to establish a routine. He spends the time around practice working on his game plan to assist Pistons head coach Flip Saunders. He's blocking off from 2 to 6 p.m. for NC State time, and in the evening when there isn't a game, he's working on his course work to finish his degree at Saint Paul's College (Va.).
NC State is doing everything it can to make his life easier, and compliance director Jon Fagg is planning on making a trip or two to Detroit in the next month to tutor Lowe on NCAA rules.
When it comes time to take the open-book test Lowe needs to pass before July 6, though, Fagg will need another person to administer it. The NCAA relaxed the rules against a school's athletic department personnel administering the exam, but the ACC stayed with the old rule. Fagg said if Lowe takes the test online, Lowe will need someone with him in Detroit to witness it.
Soon-to-be named associate head coach Monte Towe, who still is finalizing the details of his $450,000 buyout as head coach at the University of New Orleans, said he wants to visit with Lowe in Detroit for a few days. Towe said Lowe and assistant Larry Harris, who just returned to NC State after a month-long stay at Arizona State as an assistant under former Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek, had their first staff conference call Monday. Harris was in the office Monday, Towe was en route (he was in Raleigh late Monday night) and Lowe was in Detroit. Lowe said he plans on hiring former Coastal Carolina coach Pete Strickland as his third assistant.
"I'm communicating with the guys during the day, and then it's my own [school] work at night," Lowe said of his degree requirements. "It's time consuming."
Lowe's start date at NC State has been set for July 1, but that is based on the Pistons going deep into the playoffs and the requirement that Lowe earn his bachelor's degree before officially starting. Lowe said he could earn his degree a few weeks earlier than that.
"I'm almost finished with one and just need to take a final to get it down to two," said Lowe, who was a senior in 1983 when the Wolfpack won the title but left for the NBA. "[Getting the degree] is first and foremost because I have to get that done."
Lowe said he appreciates all of the assistance he's getting from NC State. He said he always viewed the Wolfpack program as his family and they're coming through for him.
Lowe is allowed to contact his current players. The Wolfpack return 11 players (including walk-ons). That also includes sophomore center Cedric Simmons, who declared for the NBA draft but hasn't signed with an agent. Lowe has spoken to Simmons on multiple occasions. If there is any current college coach with a pulse on what NBA teams want, it would be Lowe after looking at this draft from an NBA perspective.
"I told him, 'Can you get drafted? Absolutely, but where no one really knows," Lowe said. "We're hearing mid-to-late first round, but I asked him, 'Do you want to just get drafted or be the best player in the draft? You're not a mid first-round player.' If you go into the draft, you should be in the lottery and he could be the first player picked so why settle on coming out now?"
Lowe echoed what other coaches, like Florida's Billy Donovan, have said recently, which is that the big money is in the second contract in the NBA. If a first-round pick isn't playing much in the second and final guaranteed year of his initial contract, it will be hard for him to land a more lucrative second contract.
"Bottom line is that it isn't self-serving for me, but rather for him," Lowe said.
If Simmons returns, Lowe will focus the offense more on him. He wants to run and will be looking to recruit in that manner, but he said he wouldn't have his team run without Simmons' touching the ball. The other major issue is whether sophomore forward Andrew Brackman will return to the team or stay with baseball, but as one NC State official has said, "This issue comes up every year with Brackman and he's still playing hoops."
Also, an immigration hearing for sophomore forward Gavin Grant has been pushed back seven weeks after his attorney requested more time to prepare. Federal officers claim Grant came to the United States illegally 12 years ago from Jamaica.
Towe said he expects that he will handle some of the speaking engagements that could be slated for Lowe in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Towe and Harris will be organizing camps as well as getting recruiting planned for July so that Lowe is ready to go once he's officially on board.
"Everything is happening so fast," Towe said.
Towe's schedule is on warp speed, too. He spent last Friday and Saturday in his previously water-damaged house for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit. His wife, P.D., is now getting it ready for an open house this weekend.
"Any house that is livable in New Orleans is sellable," said Towe. "We're one of the few houses that is livable in our neighborhood right now.
"This is an unusual situation," he said. "[Lowe's] working hard to help the Pistons win the championship. He's got a bunch of stuff on his plate and we're here to help him get it all done."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.