After being spurned by many top coaching choices, N.C. State fans have high hopes for the one they did get.
Sidney Lowe, currently an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons, was introduced May 6 as the program's 18th head coach. The former N.C. State point guard will not take over official duties until July 1, however.
In the meantime, he will have his hands full obtaining his undergraduate degree-which N.C. State requires of its coaches-from St. Paul's College, as well as helping the Pistons chase their second NBA title in three years.
Herb Sendek, head coach for 10 seasons, left April 1 to take the head job at Arizona State. Despite three consecutive 20-win seasons, Sendek left amid much criticism about the program's lack of postseason success-N.C. State advanced to the Sweet Sixteen just once under the new Sun Devil.
The Wolfpack was then turned down by its first two choices for Sendek's replacement, Texas' Rick Barnes and Memphis' John Calipari, who decided to stay at their respective schools. Two other candidates, West Virginia's John Belien and former UCLA head coach Steve Lavin, removed their names from consideration.
Some experts speculated that such public disappointment would lower scrutiny for the new coach. Former N.C. State head coach Les Robinson, however, said Lowe may face even higher expectations, as N.C. State looks to build on its five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, which is tied for the best run in school history.
"The expectations will be fairly high for him, and I think that's what he wants," Senior Associate Athletic Director David Horning said. "He wants to win the ACC and do well in the NCAAs, and he wants eventually to bring home another championship."
The immediate concern for Lowe, who started on the Wolfpack's last national championship squad in 1983, will be much more local than an NCAA title. Much of the criticism directed toward Sendek involved his struggles against his Tobacco Road neighbors, Duke and North Carolina.
"It's a double-edged sword," Robinson said. "Duke and Carolina are always going to be the measuring sticks, but young men want to play the best and compete against the best, and the Triangle is the best place in the nation.
"It may be the only situation in the country where you don't have to worry that much about competing in the conference or in the nation, you just have to compete in your neighborhood. If you can be in the top two in the neighborhood, you're in pretty good shape."
The 46-year-old Lowe, who has already put together a staff of assistants, now must focus on re-recruiting the current N.C. State players, as well as the three signed high school prospects. Horning said Lowe has been in contact with the players, including rising-junior center Cedric Simmons, who declared for the NBA Draft but did not sign with an agent. Lowe cannot officially recruit until he passes a test administered by the NCAA on recruiting regulations.
"Because Sidney was a player here and knows the school, I think the transition will be fairly quick," Horning said. "In terms of understanding N.C. State and how everything here works, he is six months ahead of where anyone else could be."
Lowe already has head coaching experience in the NBA, compiling a 79-228 career record with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies. Despite the less-than-stellar mark, Horning said Lowe's experience made him stand out, and Robinson said he believes it is easier for coaches to make the jump from the professional ranks to college than vice versa.
"I think Sidney is tough enough and smart enough that he will be successful," Robinson said. "We had a long, long talk a week or two before he got the job, and I am convinced he is on the right path."
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