Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe met with athletic director Debbie Yow today, after which he resigned, ending a five-year tenure at N.C. State. They weren't a good five years, either, resulting in no NCAA appearances, and a 1-10 record against UNC, the fewest wins since Leroy Jay in the pre-ACC era. As a Carolina fan, of course, I'll miss Lowe, who was always great for comparing his words to reality, and provided the greatest title in this blog's history. Man, I used to be witty.
Oddly enough though, this interview with C.J. Williams' father draws a similar parallel for me to Matt Doherty. The criticism for Lowe is that he didn't adjust to his players enough:
So I’ve been around the team and it’s clear the coaches worked extremely hard and the players tried hard. But it just never clicked. And I think the biggest thing is that there was such an emphasis on execution as opposed to just sometimes letting the kids play and letting them learn from just playing. College kids are going to make some mistakes. And over the last year, Coach Lowe showed a little bit more tolerance for mistakes when a guy didn’t execute the way he wanted. But I think he was fighting an uphill battle. He was really fighting an uphill battle because of the system he runs. Being so focused on execution of every little detail, it’s hard to back off and just let the guys play.
They all felt that with the upgrade in the talent this year that they were going to be able to go out there and just play. They knew there was going to be a learning curve, especially the younger kids. They knew there was going to be a learning curve at this next level. But they thought they’d be allowed to play through their mistakes a little more and learn that way. And the mindset was that by the ACC season, they’d be acclimated to the college level and they’d be in position to have a lot more success than what they had.
I don't know about you, but "back off and just let the kids play" doesn't really seem to be the philosophy that, say, Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski takes. Which is where the comparison to Doherty comes in. One of the reasons for his exit from UNC, record aside, was that the players who would become the 2005 championship team were in full revolt, unhappy with the style of coaching and the harshness of practices. So Roy Williams returns, and has Jawad Williams throwing up on the first day of practice. As Williams wrote in his book:
My second day back at North Carolina, I wanted to watch the players work out for a few minutes, just to see what I had. I brought them in to do a little run-and-shoot workout. It lasted 28 minutes. Thats all it was. Two guys threw up. I mean they were pathetic.
I walked through the locker room and I overheard Byron Sanders talking to a teammate. "I know one thing," he said. "We're going to be in shape because he tried to kill us."
It was 28 minutes. I was just dumbfounded that kids who wanted to be good college basketball players were that out of shape.
Needless to say, if I was a State player, I wouldn't expect the road to be easy if they get the right coach. As Julius Hodge tweeted,
I hope the next coach has the Wizard of Oz # bcuz a few of these kids are COTTON SOFT mentally!
But who is the right coach for Raleigh? The names being listed are, by one source, Sean Miller and Mark Turgeon, and by another Miller, Rick Barnes and Tubby Smith. Barnes is the pipe dream he was five years ago; if it's true that he's at the top of their list, the State athletic department is as screwed as it ever was. I don't see Tubby Smith stepping in to the same an expectations he fled from at Kentucky, and I still can't understand the appeal for Sean Miller. He had a front row seat as Herb Sendek's assistant for how bad the fan base can get, while he can restore a powerhouse and write his own ticket at Arizona. (And if he can't, why does State want him?) There's no reason for him to leave.
Not to put any more pressure on the Wolfpack, but if they hire a coach of Herb Sendek's longevity, that coach will almost certainly be around for both the retirements of Williams and Krzyzewski. He'll have the best chance to take State to the top of the ACC in a generation, or he can permanently ensconce the program as an also-ran. So choose wisely, Wolfpack. You're shopping for the Everett Case of a generation.