Only obstacle for Towe is buyout at New Orleans
University of New Orleans head coach Monte Towe told ESPN.com Saturday that he has accepted an offer to be Sidney Lowe's associate head coach at NC State, barring any unforeseen problem with the buyout in his current contract.
Towe, 52, said he told Lowe that he would be in Raleigh on Tuesday to get things up and running for the new Wolfpack coach.
The 46-year-old Lowe, currently an assistant with the Detroit Pistons, was scheduled to be introduced as the new men's basketball coach at NC State at a Saturday evening news conference.
Towe was a guard on the 1974 NC State national championship team. He recruited Lowe to the Wolfpack when he was an assistant in 1979. Lowe was a guard on the 1983 national champion Wolfpack.
"It hasn't been an easy decision, but I'm going to go to NC State," Towe told ESPN.com. "The issue making it hard for me is how much I love this team, this city. But all things being equal, this is probably best for me and my wife to go."
Towe has a buyout in his current contract that calls for a $450,000 payment to UNO. He has three years remaining on his deal. UNO athletic director Jim Miller said he has no legal right to negotiate the buyout since the school is part of the Louisiana State system and the buyout is a state asset. But he said there could be wiggle room to make it all work out. Miller said he understands Towe's desire to return to NC State.
Towe said he anticipated some sort of deal worked out between NC State and UNO that could equal the value of his buyout, such as a portion being financial along with guarantee games for UNO at NC State and an NC State road game at UNO.
When Georgia hired Dennis Felton away from Western Kentucky, Felton had a buyout in his contract of $200,000. Georgia reportedly agreed to make payments over four years to finish the buyout. The Bulldogs also had to visit the Hilltoppers twice in a four-year home-and-home series as part of the deal.
NC State is also making the financial numbers work quite nicely for Towe. He was being paid a base salary of $150,000 at UNO. NC State is offering a three-year contract at $165,000 a year, making Towe one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the country. The long-term security is also rare. He would receive the title of associate head coach.
"There is an uncertainty here with the university," said Towe of UNO, which saw its enrollment decrease from 17,000 to 11,000 in the post-Hurricane Katrina mess.
The hiring of Towe is considered to be critical for Lowe and NC State considering Lowe's lack of college experience. Lowe, who is reportedly going to finish his college degree 23 years after ending his playing days sometime next month, has been in the NBA as a player and coach for the past two decades.
Lowe will finish the playoffs with the Pistons, meaning he won't be in Raleigh or able to recruit. That put even more pressure on NC State to land a top assistant who knows the current landscape as well as being familiar with the school.
Towe would join Larry Harris, who was an assistant under Herb Sendek at NC State and for the past month with Sendek in his new job at Arizona State. NC State announced Saturday that Harris would be in place immediately. Other names being bandied about as potential assistants are Coastal Carolina coach Pete Strickland, former Wolfpack and NBA guard Vinny Del Negro and former NC State player Quentin Jackson, who, like Del Negro, played for the Wolfpack in the four years after Lowe.
"I would only do this for Sidney and for NC State," Towe said.
Towe, 70-78 in five years at UNO, is leaving behind a contending Sun Belt team with the anticipated return of lead guard Bo McCalebb. McCalebb, who was No. 5 in the country in scoring in 2004, broke his hand five games into last season. UNO was 10-19 without him. It was his worst record of his five seasons but the Privateers were displaced due to Katrina, spending the fall semester at the University of Texas-Tyler, a Division III school. The team moved back into temporary housing in New Orleans for the second semester. They were a respectable 6-9 in the Sun Belt West.
Last month, Towe's top assistant, Mark Downey, left to become the head coach at Division II Arkansas Tech.
Towe faces an immediate test of helping Lowe lure back sophomore center Cedric Simmons, who declared for the NBA draft and is a possible first-round draft pick. The Wolfpack return 11 of 13 players on the roster, including walk-ons, but some could decide to bolt. Also, there are three fall signees who haven't asked for their release yet as they waited the month to see who would succeed Sendek.
"Sidney wants me in there as fast as I can," Towe said. "So, hopefully I'll be there Tuesday if we can work everything out and get started."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.