Pistons assistant Lowe returning to NC State
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Lowe has never forgotten the night he helped North Carolina State and Jim Valvano pull off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
Nearly two decades later, he's returning home with hopes of helping the Wolfpack experience some of that magic again.
NC State hired the Detroit Pistons assistant as its head basketball coach Saturday, bringing the former Wolfpack player back to the school he led to that improbable 1983 title under the late Valvano. And Lowe wasted little time embracing that tradition, from talking about "those glory days" to pumping his fists at teammates from that title team who attended a news conference to announce his hiring.
"This is definitely a dream come true for me," said Lowe, who wore a black suit and a red NC State tie.
It seemed as though it was the perfect time for the 46-year-old Lowe -- who has no college coaching experience -- to get the job and end the monthlong search that missed out on its top targets. Herb Sendek left last month for Arizona State after 10 seasons marked by steady improvement, yet Wolfpack fans grew discontent at the end of his tenure with the program's Princeton-style offense and its inability to beat instate powers Duke and North Carolina.
Hiring Lowe brings back a significant figure from one of the biggest moments in NC State's history. He was the point guard on the team that upset Houston and Hakeem Olajuwon on a last-second dunk by Lorenzo Charles in the 1983 final, and ranks second among the school's assist leaders and third in steals.
Now, Lowe is talking about letting his players have fun in an up-tempo offense and chasing after the top-tier recruits that seemed earmarked for those rivals just down the road -- exactly the kind of things Wolfpack fans are yearning to hear.
"I'm here to try to do something even a little more, and it's nothing against anyone else," he said. "We're in the right direction. We just want to continue to grow and go a little further in the tournament and do a little better. That's what you're here for. That's what you set out to do."
Lowe will continue working with the Pistons through the rest of the playoffs before starting work here July 1. Larry Harris, an assistant coach who had left with Sendek, will return to the Wolfpack and lead the program in the interim.
Lowe played four seasons in the NBA before moving on to coaching, rising to become the head coach at Minnesota and Memphis. He has a career record of 79-228 and resigned at Memphis after the team's 0-8 start in the 2002-03 season.
"I have mixed feelings about it," said Pistons coach Flip Saunders, who has had Lowe at his side in the NBA for many years. "It's almost like a parent when the kid is leaving the nest for the first time."
Lowe will have plenty of studying to do before taking the job. In addition to learning the lengthy list of NCAA rules, Lowe is still working to complete his undergraduate work in business administration at St. Pauls College in Lawrenceville, Va. Lowe said Saturday that he is three courses short and expects to finish in June.
The hiring ends a lengthy search for NC State. The Wolfpack's top two targets -- Texas' Rick Barnes and Memphis' John Calipari -- reportedly turned down offers of about $2 million a year to replace Sendek, who went 191-132 here.
Last week, two more men linked to the job -- former UCLA coach and ESPN analyst Steve Lavin, and West Virginia coach John Beilein -- issued statements saying they would remain in their current positions.
Athletic director Lee Fowler said he was interested in Lowe from the start and the two maintained contact throughout the process. He said Lowe became a serious candidate about 10 days ago, and said Lowe's NBA experience would be an asset when trying to lure recruits to Raleigh.
"They like the idea that the guy's been in the pros and they like the idea that he knows what it takes to get to that level," Fowler said. "So I think he will be a home run in recruiting."
Sendek's run of five NCAA Tournaments tied Valvano for the best in school history. But Sendek was criticized by some Wolfpack fans in recent seasons despite that success, often for the program's motion offense and 8-38 record against Duke and North Carolina.
Lowe's return has Wolfpack players and fans hoping for more.
"He told us he wanted us to be free and have fun," said sophomore Gavin Grant, an athletic 6-foot-7 swingman. "[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."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press