Lowe staying put at NC State

April, 23, 2009
NC State coach Sidney Lowe said he expects he'll get a phone call from new Washington Wizards head coach and good friend Flip Saunders about being an assistant on his staff.

He said he has already heard from another team, offering a similar position.

It makes sense, given Lowe's background in the NBA. He was an assistant in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves three different times, twice for Saunders. He was also an assistant with Saunders in his last season in the NBA in Detroit in 2005-06. Lowe also served as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was the head coach of the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies during 2001-03 and did a one-season stint as head coach of Minnesota in 1993-94.

But that may be where the flirtation ends as far as returning to the NBA is concerned for Lowe, who is entering his fourth year as NC State's head coach.

At least that's certainly the perception Lowe is giving at this juncture. He's passionate about turning his alma mater back into an elite NCAA program and competing with nearby ACC rivals North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest.

"I know I'm going to get the phone call," Lowe said. "But this is where I am. [Saunders] is not the only one who is going to call. One has already called. But there's so much here. I love working with young men, teaching them and preparing them for the world."

Lowe said he received another year on his contract so that means he has four years left on the original six-year contract with the Wolfpack.

"Flip is my guy but I've got a contract here and this is my first time really starting over here," Lowe said. "We've got a great opportunity now and we're moving in the right direction."

Lowe said he has found gratification in hearing from former Wolfpack players, including going up to Philadelphia to see former NC State forward J.J. Hickson play with the Cavaliers on April 15. Hickson didn't play but Lowe enjoyed being there for him.

"I surprised him that I was there," Lowe said, "That's rewarding for me, to see him go on and do well."

Lowe was a fan favorite to replace Herb Sendek four seasons ago because of his ties to the Wolfpack's dream run to the NCAA tournament title in 1983. His first season started out with a 5-11 record in the ACC that ended with a run to the ACC tournament title with wins over then-ranked teams Duke and Virginia before losing in the title game to North Carolina.

That run got the Wolfpack an NIT berth and they reached the quarterfinals before finishing with a 20-16 record. NC State has struggled since with injuries to its rotation of point guards and then the odd chemistry mix two seasons ago with a star in Hickson and returning players Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley. The Wolfpack finished 4-12 in the ACC, 15-16 overall, losing in the first round of the ACC tournament in Lowe's second year. This past season, NC State ended 6-10 in the ACC, 16-14 overall before losing in the first round of the ACC tournament to Maryland.

McCauley and Courtney Fells were seniors and are gone. Costner has another year of eligibility but graduated. He declared for the NBA draft and Lowe said Costner isn't returning.

"He said he doesn't want to stay around since he graduated," Lowe said. "He told me he wants to get on with his life."

The Wolfpack now have one player, rising senior forward Dennis Horner, who wasn't recruited by Lowe's staff. Returnees Julius Mays, Kendall Smith, C.J. Williams, Johnny Thomas and Javier Gonzalez were Lowe's players. The Wolfpack knocked off Miami in overtime at home last season on Mays' 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left. The freshman guard ended averaging 4.7 points a game, but had 18 points in the loss to Maryland in the ACC tourney in Atlanta. NC State also beat Wake Forest and Boston College at home later in the season.

Lowe is expecting newcomers Lorenzo Brown (ninth-ranked shooting guard on ESPN's Scouts Inc.), Scott Wood (34th-ranked shooting guard) and Richard Howell (20th-ranked power forward) to contribute immediately.

"I'm excited to get these young guys in here and see how much better we're going to be, see how more mature Mays will be who led us in the ACC tournament game," Lowe said. "We were winning games down the stretch with great play from Julius, C.J. [10 points in Wake win; 16 in a win over Virginia] and Dennis [11 points in BC win]."

Lowe said in practice the reserves consistently beat the starters toward the end of last season. "I feel good about that," he said. NC State is still in the John Wall sweepstakes, too. The Raleigh point guard out of Word of God Christian Academy is a program-changer and consistently lists the Wolfpack in the group of schools he is considering.

"We're going in the right direction to compete at the level with the schools down the road from here," Lowe said. "To do that you have to have multiple players who can put the ball on the floor and we're getting that. In our conference, Duke and North Carolina have at least three guys on the floor who can handle the basketball without turning it over. You've got to have that."

Lowe is trying to upgrade the schedule. The Wolfpack host Florida in a return of a home-and-home series and do return a game at rebuilding Marquette and start a series at Arizona, which is going through a makeover project. Even though two of these three schools likely aren't headed for the NCAA tournament, the Pack need confidence early before ACC play begins. Lowe said he is also committing to the inaugural Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu in December with headline teams USC and UNLV.

Xavier Henry's commitment to Kansas put five of the top 15 players in the latest ESPNU top 100 in the Big 12 next season, including No. 1 Avery Bradley (Texas), No. 3 Henry (Kansas), No. 8 Jordan Hamilton (Texas), No. 11 Keith Gallon (Oklahoma) and No. 15 Wallace Judge (Kansas State).

If you stretch it out to the top 50, the list includes No. 24 Tommy Mason-Griffin (Oklahoma), No. 28 Elijah Johnson (Kansas), No. 40 Thomas Robinson (Kansas) and No. 50 Karron Johnson (Oklahoma State). A total of 20 players in the top 100 are off to the Big 12.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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