N&O: 15 Reasons for 15 Losses

SFN will have a lot of analysis regarding the 2007-2008 NC State Basketball season and the future of the Wolfpack Basketball Program when this season mercifully comes to a conclusion.

Today, the News & Observer‘s Chip Alexander chimed in with a very good look back at 15 reasons why the Wolfpack stunk it up this year. The article is a quick read despite its thoroughness.

The 15 individual points can be grouped under three primary categories that we discuss below:

(1) Point Guard
Alexander specifically mentions the key injury to starter, Farnold Degand, in the 10th game of the season as point #4 but more than half of Alexanders points have some relevancy to the point guard position.

There is NO DOUBT that Degand’s injury took the Wolfpack off course for the season; there is also no doubt that Degand’s injury did not take the Wolfpack as far off course as the ship ended the season.

If Degand can stay healthy, the Wolfpack’s prospects at the point guard position improve next year as both Degand and Javi Gonzalez have shown flashes of skills and all indications are that in-coming recruit Julius Mays can provide stability and leadership as a combo-guard. If everyone remains healthy, I don’t expect Marques Johnson to see any time in a Wolfpack uniform for the foreseeable future. See the third category – Personnel – for more on this topic.

(2) Coaching
Alexander’s comments politely address the significant coaching problems that came to the surface in obvious ways this season. He addresses some of the ‘macro’ (organizational) issues in point #15, and discusses some of the ‘micro’ (execution) issues with points #9 – Scheduling and #13 – Smarts.

Alexander hints, but doesn’t go as far as to be as blunt as we will – the coaching job for this season was nothing short of atrocious. It was an unmitigated disaster. As we stated in the previous paragraph – State’s problems are both macro and micro in nature. Not a good combination. There are fundamental problems that stem from a horrendous organizational framework as well unprofessional execution.

The problems started the moment the Wolfpack lost in the NIT to West Virgina. Most of the staff spent most of the summer lobbying for money and spending inordinate amounts of time alumni. The team ultimately reported for the season in the worst collective shape of any NC State Basketball team in memory. That was just the beginning….

We will have A LOT more on this key piece of the problem in the future. In short, Coach Lowe CAN improve the leadership and coaching within this program; but, it will require tough decisions and a lot of organizational changes.

(3) Personnel
Personnel is a key component to our woes that a lot people don’t like to discuss because they feel like they are being tough on the kids. Alexander chooses to discuss this topic in the following points:

* (7) N.C. State doesn’t have good overall team quickness. The Pack’s reaction time in rebounding, recognizing screens and providing help defense has been too slow.

* (10) – Player regression. Looking at the returning players from last season, a good argument can be made that Costner, Ben McCauley and Dennis Horner took steps backward this season in terms of player development and improvement.

* (11) – Limited offensive options. The Pack doesn’t have enough guys who can slash to the basket or break down the defense off the dribble, nor is it a good running team. That means State must execute its set halfcourt offense extremely well to win.

* (12) – Leadership. Does the Pack have a leader? If so, it was hard to discern.

It is perfectly fair and accurate to use this issue as a reason for optimism in the future for State fans.

Coach Lowe inherited a program that ONE player who had ever seen significant playing time (Engin Atsur) and only six or seven total scholarship players. This general dearth of scholarship players was accentuated by the 2006 recruiting class basically did not exist (Dennis Horner); no true point guards behind Atsur inside of the program; and players with skills that were more suited for Sendek’s deplorable offense.

This is the primary issue that warrants the need for fans to have patience and give Coach Lowe a full cycle of three to five years to see what kind of program he can build. By all accounts, Julius Mays and CJ Williams are both athletic players who can fill three positions on the floor and who have solid basketball IQs. Add a recovering Johnny Thomas to this mix and the general composition of the Wolfpack’s roster is undergoing a transformation that needs another year to complete.

Of course, with increased athleticism and talent Coach Lowe will need to improve his staff’s intensity and commitment along with their teaching of fundamentals, rebounding and defense. If all of these things can come together in the future, then the points that BJD made in this entry from last month will mean that 2007-2008 actually was a “learning year” as opposed to a harbinger of things to come for NC State Basketball.

I hate to say it, and it makes me mad as hell to do so. But 2007-08 must be written off as a “learning year” for Sidney Lowe. Despite being an ACC school with all the institutional infrastructure needed to win, NC State is employing yet another head coach who has to learn on the job…

Guys take plays, or even whole games off. Sid shakes his head in frustration (Note to Sid – that won’t accomplish squat) – he doesn’t seem to know what to do. I don’t know if it’s a question of preparation, motivation, or both. But it is Sid’s job to fix it. And it sucks to waste an entire (once promising) season because our coach isn’t ready and is learning on the job.

But our situation is what it is. There’s no way anyone should remotely consider tossing Sid (or any coach) overboard in their first two years of a rebuilding situation. It would be unfair, expensive, and definitely make our program look bad. We hired a guy who has to learn – so let’s see if he can do it. That does not mean SFN is handing out free passes. Writing off one year for “learning” is all that I’m willing to do. We need to see evidence of maturation in three categories next year. The mileposts are difficult, but necessary.

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73 Responses to N&O: 15 Reasons for 15 Losses

  1. packgrad2000 03/11/2008 at 10:12 AM #

    Coach Lowe is going to have a Javi Gonzalez kind of improvement next year to make me want to keep him around after next year. If we still have the same issues next year as we did this year (not injuries and things he has little control over) then I see no reason to give him a 4th year. I hope he gets this ship turn around over the off-season though.

  2. Packer17 03/11/2008 at 10:15 AM #

    I don’t follow West Virginia too much, but it looks like Huggins is doing a hell of a job with Beilein’s players. He and Herb recruited similar players, which makes me question Sidney’s credibility. Now, I don’t know if WV was left with an experienced point guard, but I am tired of hearing the argument of waiting for Sid to get his players here. I think that applies more to new football coaches. Huggins won at K-State right away and now is winning at WV in his first year. But, I guess comparing Huggins and Lowe is like comparing Williams to Doherty.

  3. wufpup76 03/11/2008 at 10:20 AM #

    ^Good, fair analysis above … I also agree that Chip probably “walked on eggshells” as much as possible in his article … The article came across to me as ‘polite’ yet informative

    He could have been a LOT more blunt on some topics … I thought it was a good article and fair

    Thanks for the link …

  4. howlie 03/11/2008 at 10:22 AM #

    “SFN will have a lot of analysis regarding the 2007-2008 NC State Basketball season and the future of the Wolfpack Basketball Program when this season mercifully comes to a conclusion.”

    Looking forward to Friday’s article.

  5. StateFans 03/11/2008 at 10:24 AM #

    packgrad2000,

    We’d like to avoid going down the premature path of discussing terminations if we can.

    I will say that if Coach Lowe signs a recruiting class of Brown, Wood, Wall and another stud in November then I think that you will see reason to keep him around.

    I am a FIRM believer that you do NOT keep a coach around because of recruiting classes. I think that it is stupid and the kiss of ignorance.

    But this November will only be Sid’s third recruiting class…meaning that it is unfair and far too premature to pull the cord on a coach before you give him a chance to build his program. (I caveat this statement by saying that we MUST see improvement in his coaching staff and the organzational structure and management of the program off the court.)

    Sid’s recruits: Hickson, Smith, Degand, Gonzalez, Thomas (athletic but injured), Johnson (a bust…but, a bogey in light of the precarious PG position that he inherited), Mays and Williams.

    ^ That is pretty good, IMHO. If this nucleus is enhanced with a stud ’09 class then I think we have the recruiting prowess to be successful and must improve on the other aspects of the coaching staff.

  6. Girlfriend in a Coma 03/11/2008 at 10:25 AM #

    I wish I could say I was optimistic.

  7. DeputyDog 03/11/2008 at 10:26 AM #

    I’m willing to give Sid the benefit of the doubt about needing his own players, but I hope we don’t see some of the fundamental breakdowns we saw this year. Things I expect no matter who the players are:
    1) The players are in good playing condition
    2) We play hard
    3) Players don’t come out of timeouts with no idea what to do
    4) We play hard
    5) We have an offense that isn’t just based on one-on-one iso’s
    6) We learn how to defend a ball screen
    7) We learn how to set screens
    8) We play hard

  8. wufpup76 03/11/2008 at 10:27 AM #

    ^Packer17 –

    In fairness, Huggins kept a lot of Belien’s offensive principles in place for this season’s WVU team rather than installing an entirely new system … There was/is some decent talent on that team coming into this season, and Huggins maybe thought keeping similar offensive schemes for the guys Belien recruited might help WVU get to the NCAA’s this year

    It would have been real interesting to see how WVU looked had Huggins completely changed everything … They even still play some of Belien’s 1-3-1 defense

  9. packgrad2000 03/11/2008 at 10:42 AM #

    SFN-
    I think we are basically saying the same thing. I just want to see some improvement (maybe Javi kind of improvement is too optimistic). And not necessarily wins, though I’d welcome that. I’m with you: we need to see organizational and fundamental improvement and obviously better effort. I’m not expecting us to win much more next year, but I am sure hoping that Sid learns really fast what needs to change. There’s certain things he has little to no control over – like our quickness, GG’s turnover propensity, and talent or lack thereof that was here when he arrived. Other things he has some control over, and that’s what needs to change for next year, even if it doesn’t show up immediately as wins. I think most of us here can see through to what is coaching and what’s out of his control.

  10. Rochester 03/11/2008 at 10:45 AM #

    wufpup76, that’s a good point, but it gets to the concept of coaching to the strengths of the players you have. If our team would have been stronger by incorporating a few principles of the former regime, it would have been worth doing. We all groan when we hear the words “Princeton offense,” but I sure don’t mind a nicely executed back-door cut when it works.

  11. pack80 03/11/2008 at 10:45 AM #

    Ddog, don’t forget learning how to BLOCK OUT and get a rebound.
    Oh, and play hard.

  12. cwcanady 03/11/2008 at 10:55 AM #

    First thing Sid needs to to is implement a strength and conditioning program. If that means a staff deletion and or addtion so be it.

  13. Rick 03/11/2008 at 10:58 AM #

    There is no doubt about some changes needing to be made.
    Most of it is off court stuff – S&C, fundamentals, etc
    This is stuff that is handled differently from the NBA. I hope Lowe makes the changes needed to improve our club

  14. McPete 03/11/2008 at 11:24 AM #

    some ideas for the offseason training and development:

    hickson and fells stand 15 feet apart and just pass the ball to one another. this would expand their game (and maybe get to like one another); good thing gavin will be gone – he’d teach them to pass to one another’s feet.

    horner just needs to get into some pick-up games…and get TASERED every time he tries a pump fake.

    Costner. since he airballed at least two free throws, he should learn to shoot with his right hand.

    javi justs needs to work on his jab and hook, in preperation for 2 more rounds with paulus next year.

  15. boonami 03/11/2008 at 11:25 AM #

    ^^agreed cwcanady… Strength and conditioning are a major factor for improvement next year and I think Lowe needs some help with new assistant coaches. If he is learning the college game, then the onus is on the assistants to help bridge the learning gap. SFN–do you hear of any talk of replacing any assistants? Thx.

  16. Dr. BadgerPack 03/11/2008 at 11:26 AM #

    I think the first point of emphasis should be “score more points than your opponent.” :)

  17. Ed89 03/11/2008 at 11:31 AM #

    ^^^That’s the secret Doc!! Any if you turn it over before you ever get a shot, you have a 100% chance of NOT scoring on THAT possession!!

  18. McPete 03/11/2008 at 11:35 AM #

    someone needs to tell MJ that he misses 100% of the shots he doesn’t take. and, statistically speaking, 99% of the shots he does.

  19. MrPlywood 03/11/2008 at 12:00 PM #

    Read the article. Didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. At least the issues are confirmed in traditional media by a respected commentator and not just by the fringe on the interweb. I can imagine LF reading the morning sports saying, “Really? I had no idea it was this bad.”

  20. ktoh 03/11/2008 at 12:03 PM #

    Chip in and send Sid and his staff to a coaches clinic! They don’t run an out of bounds play ever………In grade school throwing the ball over half court while under our basket is always the 5th option not the first……………….agree with conditioning also we need a Defensive system,fundementals,keeping your eye on the ball when geting back on “D”. Basically most things I learned while at St. Anthony’s Grammar School in Greenwich Village when I was 8 years old………And I wanted to get out of the city to go to school down south……………Geez get to watch my school experiment once again next year. Sids no kid nor is he an intern so lets give him one more chance……

  21. Ismael 03/11/2008 at 12:07 PM #

    i just can’t get that wave-off that Fergie did and then got the ball stolen, its like etched in my mind.

  22. blackdom 03/11/2008 at 12:11 PM #

    Fair you say wulfpup? He made some good points but still a homer article …….jj huffed and puffed all year and took his time getting back a great deal.Sid is and was pretty clueless and that could never be hidden.Any and all teams we played exploited our weaknesses we never adjusted and most games we lost we were destroyed at the end…….(conditioning? no system?) who knows if you all want him back well you got him back lf ain’t gonna help nor are the bot. Sids got 3 point guards here now and not a one will be able to lead us upward next year.Again losing most can deal with if you work and try hard and give an honest effort thats on the coach and staff as well.

  23. robopack 03/11/2008 at 12:16 PM #

    Looking at our rebound stats they read as bad as I thought they would. Watching not our players not follow a shot is hard to watch, and the coach must see it to. How is that not correctable?

  24. choppack1 03/11/2008 at 12:17 PM #

    The quickness point is a problem – however, Lowe doesn’t seem to do much to alleviate this. I’ll never understand why Grant didn’t get time at the PF, w/ Fells at the 3, Johnson and/or Fergs at 2 and Javi at the PG spot.

    I’m just concerned based on what I’ve seen from 2 years of his coaching that “playing hard” and “being tough” won’t be trademarks of Sidney Lowe teams.

  25. robopack 03/11/2008 at 12:25 PM #

    ^Good point chppack, that line up would be interesting. I used to think we had to find minuets for all of our good big men but that argument went out the widow in light of what good big men it seems.

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