After 34 days, four outright public rejections from named coaches, speculation on every possible canidate in the book all wrapped up with the slow and torturious flogging of the NC State basketball program by every one with a keyboard and some means of publishing what they write, the Wolfpack finally are set to name a head basketball coach. It is no other than Sydney Lowe, member of the 1983 National Championship team and current assistant coach with the NBA's Detroit Pistons.
Now first and foremost there is no way anyone and I do not care if you have watched every game State has ever played since Everett Case. There is no evidence or signs which will reveal to anyone whether or not this was a good hire or not. Lowe has never been a college coach so there is no record to dissect there. His two NBA head coaching stints involved teams which were possibly worse than whoever played in the NCAA Final Four that same year. We are five years away from knowing whether this coaching search stumbled and bumbled onto a great find in Lowe or whether he was the desperation choice and a repeat of the Matt Doherty debacle at UNC.
Taking what we know right now and considering how badly this seach went, I think this is a good hire. Lowe is an unproven commodity on the college level but the risk level is the same as with any of the mid-majors available. In the NBA all you do is coach and work with players in a manager-subordinate role. There is no recruiting and unless a coach is also a GM, there is little control exerted over the team outside of the game. College is different. Lowe is actually running the program from top to bottom and he must contend with the NCAA, the NC State administration, the fan base, the media, and the boosters. On top of this Lowe has to coach the team, teach the players the game of basketball, recruit players for the team and ultimately answer for every loss. In my opinion I think coaching a college team offers a complexity and challenge not felt in the NBA. And that is the unproven part for Lowe. I think he will be a good game coach and should be a good recruiter especially if he fills his staff with excellent assistants. The rest of the deal which comes outside of the game will be the test and that will be the point where he will have to learn quickly if he ever wants to succeed.
There are just so many questions and so few answers at this point however. The manner in which Fowler and Lowe will be judged should be evident at around the five year mark. After five years Lowe will have his own players and his system will be fully established. Five years will show enough evidence of what kind of program he is running and whether or not a strong recruiting system has taken root. One of three things will be true in five years. NC State will be floundering, NC State will be on the rise and ready for a breakthrough or NC State will have cracked that barrier Herb Sendek hovered around for so long. The first will probably result in serious rumblings from the fan base. I also think if the program is exciting and Lowe makes some good inroads recruiting and with his coaching style then even if they are on the cusp in five years, Wolfpack fans will be patient. If it is the latter then the rest of us may not be able to bear the Wolfpack boasting.
In the end Lowe is a connection to past glory and a time when NC State fans were very proud of their basketball team and all seemed right with the world. If Lowe can recapture the glory of the Valvano title with the integrity of the Sendek program State should be on its way.
Check back in five years and we will see how it has gone.