RALEIGH — The first name on Debbie Yows list of candidates to replace Sidney Lowe should be Brad Stevens.
The Butler coach may not be interested in N.C. State right now, but theres a persuasive sales pitch to be made.
Stevens will have his pick of jobs when he decides to leave Butler. Taking a Horizon League team to the national title game while basking in the effusive praise of Mike Krzyzewski will do that. And as much as the Indiana native would prefer to remain in the Midwest, the odds of a top Big Ten job opening up soon arent very good.
Tom Crean has the recruiting pipeline open at Indiana. Purdues Matt Painter isnt going anywhere. John Beilein is hanging on at Michigan. So while Stevens may prefer to be patient, he shouldnt wait until his moment has passed. Butler, after all, didnt win the Horizon regular-season title this year and had to win its way into the NCAA tournament. The mid-major pyramid is not a stable one; the team at the top can topple at any time.
So if not the Big Ten, where? Why not the ACC? Why not N.C. State?
While the national media continues to denigrate the N.C. State job, for the right guy it has everything: glorious, if faded, tradition; resources and facilities; the challenge of coaching in the ACC and going head-to-head with two giants of the game on an annual basis. Its a great job for someone willing to embrace that challenge.
Herb Sendek never had the personality for it. Lowe did, but lacked the ability. Stevens has as much of a chance to be the ACCs next Krzyzewski or Roy Williams as anyone coaching right now, and theres no better way to prove it than by taking them on.
No one ever questioned Lowes love for the Wolfpack. But Lowe, despite his college success, was an NBA guy, and his teams played like NBA teams: They played hard in spurts, stood around watching the ball on offense and were forever in the .500 neighborhood good enough to make the playoffs in the NBA, but unacceptable in the ACC.
To Lowes credit, by the end, he had clearly awakened to the every-single-possession level of effort required to win at the highest level of college basketball, but it was simply too late. A hire born of bad circumstances and the best intentions just didnt work, and worse, it set N.C. State basketball back five years. Thats why Yow absolutely, positively has to get his replacement right.
Yow is a big believer in experience, so dont be surprised if she goes for an older, established coach with a long resume. But she has an opportunity here to bring in the ACCs next great coach, even if he isnt a great coach yet. Stevens is on the verge. Hes ready to make the next step.
Stevens may not be interested, and thats fine theres nothing wrong with moving on if he passes. There are other good coaches out there who may fit as well at N.C. State, and Yow doesnt have to hire Stevens to make a great hire.
There are any number of directions she can go, but if her first step isnt toward Stevens, its the wrong one.