RALEIGH — At one point during their meeting Tuesday, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said Sidney Lowe was comforting her after the decision was made for Lowe to part ways with the Wolfpack basketball program.
Yow described Lowe, a popular former player, as a good man who is still beloved by Wolfpack fans but as a coach who didn't win enough games in five seasons.
"After five years, wins and losses matter and they matter a lot," Yow said. "They just do."
Officially, Lowe resigned Tuesday, ending his tenure at his alma mater with an 86-78 record, a 25-55 mark in ACC play and without an NCAA tournament appearance in five years.
Lowe spoke briefly with the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer on Tuesday afternoon after his one-hour meeting on campus with Yow.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity," Lowe said in his only public comments.
Lowe, who was captain of the 1983 national title team, upgraded the programs talent and posted impressive graduation and Academic Progress Rate numbers but couldn't gain any traction in conference play at a time when the league has been down.
Under the terms of his contract, which has two years remaining, Lowes buyout is worth about $900,000, and he will be paid "every penny of it," Yow said.
Yow's next step is to hire a consulting firm, she said, and form a four-person committee of university personnel to aid in her national search for Lowes replacement.
Arizona coach Sean Miller, a former N.C. State assistant in the late 1990s, and Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon, a former assistant for Roy Williams at Kansas, are expected to be among Yows targets.
Yow said she has a list of candidates but she will have to wait to talk to potential candidates whose teams are currently in the NCAA tournament. She said there is no timetable for the hire but said it was "unrealistic" to think the search would go quickly.
"There will be an element of patience required to do this and do this right," Yow said.
The win-loss record led to Lowe's departure as did sagging attendance at the RBC Center. State averaged 13,779 per game this season, about 6,000 under capacity. Yow said those unsold seats add up to between $3.5 and $4 million in lost revenue.
The prolonged search that began in April 2006 that yielded Lowe took 34 days. It sputtered on for weeks after big-name college coaches, Rick Barnes and John Calipari, and two other candidates turned down the job.
N.C. State went to the NCAA tournament five straight years under Herb Sendek before Lowes arrival but Lowe inherited a program that struggled down the stretch of Sendeks last season and with only one returning starter.
Lowes first team went 5-11 in ACC games and finished 10th in the conference, same as his fifth team. In the other three seasons that Lowe coached, the Wolfpack never won more than six games in a single ACC season.
On Feb. 3, 2007, Lowe beat North Carolina in his first game against the Tar Heel a raucous 83-79 home win which served as a prelude to a deep ACC tournament run. That State team went to the NIT, but the Wolfpack failed to make any postseason tournament the next two.
On January 20, 2010, the Wolfpack beat Duke, the eventual national champion, by 14 points, and Lowes team finished that season with six wins in the final nine games to return to the NIT and provide hope for this season.
The addition of a top-ranked recruiting class was supposed to push the Wolfpack back into the NCAA conversation, but an early injury to senior forward Tracy Smith, and the learning curve for the teams most talented players, stunted its best chance at building momentum for the ACC season.
After Thursdays first-round loss to Maryland in the ACC tournament ended this season with a 15-16 record, Lowe spoke passionately about his love of the program and the hope for the programs future.
This is my school, I love this school, Lowe said Thursday night in Greensboro. It was my hope and dream to come back here and do something special again.
Assistant coach Monte Towe, who was on Lowe's staff for five years, is the interim coach and he attended Yow's press conference on Tuesday night, about five hours after Lowe had confirmed the news.
"This has not been a fun day," Towe said.
Levi Watkins has been retained as the director of basketball operations, Yow said, and assistant ADs David Horning and Chris Kingston have been designated as temporary assistant coaches in order to communicate with recruits.
Lowe leaves the program with a solid foundation of talent in the freshmen and sophomore classes, and there are three recruits signed for the '11 class and two more committed for '12.
A longtime NBA coach, Lowe turned down an opportunity last spring to be an assistant for the Washington Wizards.
Asked what he would do next, Lowe answered: "I'm going to follow the path the Lord takes me on."
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