College Basketball

Sidney Lowe enjoying Pack’s success: ‘That’s my school’

Former North Carolina State head coach and player Sidney Lowe.
Former North Carolina State head coach and player Sidney Lowe. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Sidney Lowe said he will not be watching Friday when N.C. State faces Louisville in the NCAA tournament.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Lowe won’t watch because he’s an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have a road game Friday against the Houston Rockets.

“Oh, I’m absolutely pulling for the Pack,” Lowe said this week. “It’s great seeing that ‘N.C. State’ jersey. That’s my school.”

For five years, N.C. State also was his employer. The point guard on the Pack’s 1983 NCAA champions, Lowe spent many years coaching in the NBA – nearly all as an assistant – before being hired as N.C. State’s head coach in 2006 when Herb Sendek left for Arizona State.

The Pack reached the ACC tournament championship game in Lowe’s first season and won two games in the NIT. There was another NIT appearance in 2010, but Lowe couldn’t get the Pack in the NCAA tournament, and he and N.C. State parted ways in 2011.

Mark Gottfried succeeded Lowe and also inherited a group of players – Richard Howell, Scott Wood, Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie –recruited by Lowe. Gottfried took them to the Sweet 16 his first season, beginning a string of four straight NCAA appearances that again has the Pack in the Sweet 16.

“I knew when I took over as coach it would be a process, and I wanted to go out and get a group of guys and let them grow together,” Lowe said. “I wanted to get the kids we liked and we wanted and do that.

“I only had all those kids for one year, but I knew they would make it. I was happy for them. It was a good feeling to see them make the (NCAA) tournament and see the smiles on their faces, having that experience. I knew what that was like as a player.”

Lowe and Dereck Whittenburg grew up as players together, first as the backcourt at DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., and then for four years at N.C. State. Whittenburg joined the Wolfpack program in the fall of 2013 as senior assistant to Gottfried and director of player development.

“I’m happy he came back to State, and he deserves to be there,” Lowe said. “And at some point I think he should be a head coach again. He’s got a great foundation. He knows the things that he would do differently and the things not to do – just like me.”

Whittenburg, after several years as a college assistant, was the head coach at Wagner for four years. He left in 2003 to coach at Fordham but was replaced early in the 2009-10 season.

Whittenburg said he does miss being a head coach, noting, “I like having a lot more responsibility, and it’s not off the table, but I’m not necessarily in a hurry because I like being back at my school.”

Lowe, 55, also hopes to one day land another head coaching job, whether in college or the NBA.

“It’s certainly the goal,” he said. “I hope to get the opportunity again. You learn from your past experiences and past mistakes. I’m not ruling anything out.”

For now, Lowe is hoping to keep winning some friendly NCAA wagers. Timberwolves center Justin Hamilton is a former LSU player, so there was that. Now there’s former Louisville center Gorgui Dieng who’s chiming in. On Lowe’s side: Lorenzo Brown, a guard for the T-Wolves.

“We have the upper hand for now,” Lowe said, laughing. “It’s been fun.”

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