RALEIGH — Pulling the plug on the Sidney Lowe Experiment was a no-brainer at this point, no matter who actually made the decision. Here's another no-brainer: The first name on Debbie Yow's list of candidates to replace Lowe should be Brad Stevens.
The Butler basketball coach may not be interested in N.C. State right now, but there's 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 aren't very good.
Tom Crean has the recruiting pipeline open at Indiana. Purdue's Matt Painter isn't going anywhere. John Beilein is hanging on at Michigan. So while Stevens may prefer to be patient, he shouldn't wait until his moment has passed.
Butler, after all, didn't 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 teams 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.
It's 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 ACC's next Krzyzewski or Roy Williams as anyone coaching right now, and there's no better way to prove it than by taking them on.
No one ever questioned Lowe's love for the Wolfpack. But Lowe, despite his college playing 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 Lowe's 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 didn't work, and worse, it set N.C. State basketball back five years. That's why Yow absolutely, positively has to get his replacement right.
Yow is a big believer in "experience," so don't be surprised if she goes for an older, established coach with a long résumé. But she has an opportunity here to bring in the ACC's next great coach, even if he isn't a great coach yet. Stevens is on the verge. He's ready to make the next step.
Stevens may not be interested, and that's fine - there's nothing wrong with moving on if he passes. There are other good coaches out there who may fit just as well at N.C. State, and Yow doesn't have to hire Stevens to make a great hire.
There are any number of directions she can go, but if her first step isn't toward Stevens, it's the wrong one.