Lowe enjoying Wolfpack's NCAA success

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2012 

Sidney Lowe celebrated two wins Sunday – one by his current team, the NBA’s Utah Jazz, and one by his former team, N.C. State.

Before the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Lowe – an assistant coach now with Utah after a five-year stint as the Wolfpack’s head coach – watched the end of N.C. State’s 66-63 NCAA tournament win against Georgetown to advance to the Sweet 16.

“I’m very happy for them,” Lowe said Monday during a phone interview. “That’s what I always wanted for those players, and my school. I said that group would do something special for N.C. State, and they did.”

Lowe, the starting point guard on the Wolfpack’s 1983 national championship team, wanted to be the head coach to return the program to national prominence. After an 86-78 record in five seasons that featured no trips to the NCAA tournament, he resigned last March. N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow hired Mark Gottfried the following month to replace Lowe.

Lowe remains disappointed, and somewhat frustrated, about how his tenure at N.C. State ended, but he said he’s not bitter. In November, he returned to the NBA, where he worked for 16 seasons before replacing Herb Sendek in April 2006, and joined Tyrone Corbin’s staff with the Jazz. Utah had a 23-22 record after Sunday’s win and began Monday a half-game out of the playoffs.

“It’s never easy when you leave a job, but things worked out,” Lowe said. “It’s good all the way around. They are good there, and Mark and the staff have done a great job, and I’m happy here.”

That doesn’t mean Lowe doesn’t think about what was or what could have been. Even after a 15-16 finish in the 2010-11 season, he felt N.C. State’s program had the talent to turn the corner.

The final two recruiting classes he landed included starters Richard Howell and Scott Wood, both juniors, and current sophomores Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie, a McDonald’s All-American.

Lowe also signed Oak Hill (Va.) guard Tyler Lewis, who made this year’s McDonald’s All-American game and who will be a freshman next season.

Before the start of Lowe’s last season, he tried to alleviate any extra pressure on his trio of freshmen – Brown, Leslie and guard Ryan Harrow, who transferred to Kentucky after Gottfried was hired – but he often said the class would be “special” for N.C. State.

“It’s normal as a coach to look back,” Lowe said. “You know your players are going to get better with experience, and that’s what we felt when we recruited them, but it’s part of the business.”

Lowe recalled how Wolfpack coach Norm Sloan recruited his class at N.C. State and then left for Florida. Jim Valvano won the 1983 title with Lowe, Dereck Whittenburg and Thurl Bailey.

Lowe hopes history can repeat for the Wolfpack. He’s already happy his school has some bragging rights with Sunday’s win in the Midwest Regional over Georgetown. Lowe chirped at Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe on Sunday, when he saw the former Georgetown star at the Staples Center. He had some words for former Wake Forest guard Chris Paul, too.

The Jazz will play the Denver Nuggets on Friday, at the same time as N.C. State’s regional semifinal game with Kansas, but Lowe will be keeping tabs on the Wolfpack.

“I’ll be rooting for them,” Lowe said. “I just want what’s best for them.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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