Facing the Facts – BJD Writes Off 2007-08

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. After last night, there’s really no room for debate.

Go back to our post from a few weeks back, where we made clear that the offseason was handled very poorly:

It is time to call it as we see it — I honestly believe that the members of this program could not have done less in the offseason to prepare for the 2007-2008 Basketball season and everyone involved in NC State Basketball from Lee Fowler to the student manager owes Wolfpack Nation a huge apology.

I said it multiple times in the early season and I don’t understand how so many people in the media and on the internet don’t grasp it as they continue to wait for a big change &/or predict a turnaround. Our problems are fundamentally systemic. There is NO SWITCH to flip here to get things fixed. Players don’t just have epiphanies and start playing exponentially better when your problems include significant breakdowns of fundamentals like not playing defense, not boxing out/rebounding, not being able to shoot, not having a point guard or an offensive system that flows. We SUCK at the basic things that a team must do to compete in COLLEGE basketball.

More specifically, we told you:

At the start of this season I spoke with a few folks who are historically close to our program and two specifc comments in struck a chord with me at the time.

The first comment was related to conditioning (or the lack thereof). One gentleman shared that he “hadn’t seen bodies this out of shape on an NC State team since his relationship started with Coach Robinson almost 20 years ago.”

I knew what he meant the moment the team stepped on the court against William & Mary in November and it has manifested itself during the season. I have rarely seen a college team look more lethargic, slow, and disengaged than what we are witnessing this year.

…A poster on Pack Pride’s message boards astutely commented today “If you look at the muscle definition on the UNC and Clemson players and then look at our guys, you will see the difference. Other teams pay the price in the weight room. We clearly do not. Our guys, with the exception of Hickson and Tracy, physically look like a pick up squad of off-work bankers.”

Last week, I laid out a scenario to get to 8-8. Presently, one section is particularly relevant – it addresses the 50/50 road games left on our schedule. All 3 games are against inferior teams on a talent basis, that don’t present bad matchups. Here’s what I said:

Getting 2 out of 3 here would be huge, and probably necessary. Let me clarify what I mean by inferior – on a neutral court, I would expect NC State to be favored against all 3. Of course, if we play poorly (like we did in the home matchup against Wake), all bets are off. But I like our roster better than each opponent’s, and there are no bad matchups for us (no great outside shooting or multiple, dynamic guards).

If Fells can shut down or at least suppress Rice, Singletary, and Teague – then State is better at the other positions. I also expect momentum and motive to work in NC State’s favor – Boston College is in freefall, and Virginia is showing signs of weariness (due to their coach being a raving lunatic in the mold of his asshole mentor, Jim Calhoun). These two also have a somewhat lackluster home-court advantage. BC is worse than their record indicates, and UVA is better (3 of their ACC losses have come in overtime).

I haven’t changed my mind about BC – they are worse than their record indicates. I still think they only have one good player. But note my caveat – if Fells can shut down or at least supress Rice.

In what can only be described as a bizarre decision, Lowe decided to task his undersized, true freshman PG with guarding Rice. By the second TV timeout, Rice had eleven points. I suppose Fells guarded whichever stiff the Eagles had on the court at SG. There was no rational reason to expect this to work. And anyone could see, that it wasn’t working. But aside from a handful of first half minutes when Grant guarded him, Lowe stubbornly left Javi and MJ to deal with Rice. Naturally, he went on to tie his career high of 32 points, accounting for 39% of BC’s scoring (not counting assists related to shaking off Javi and forcing the defense to rotate). Even if Fells was destined to play in a haze, Rice at least couldn’t have shot over him at will.

Last night was a microcosm of the many problems within the program. 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.

1) Significant Objective Improvement Next Year, Despite Losing Our Two Best Players. Yes, this is a tall order – but that’s just too bad. Another bad season means defining NC State as a losing program. An NCAAT bid would meet this criteria, maybe less than that if we earn an A+ for item #2 below.

2) Consistent Effort on Both Ends of the Floor. That likely requires more sticks and fewer carrots. This isn’t the NBA, where the players make more than you and have to be handled with velvet gloves. Guys that don’t want to play hard for 40 minutes should sit on the bench, then be forced out of the program. Despite what I’ve written above, I’m not trying to micromanage here – whatever motivational strategy Sid wants to use is fine with me. As long as it works. He has to figure that out starting with the 2008-09 season.

3) Sign Top Ten Class for 2009. This class must include a superstar, ready from Day One PG (likely Wall, other targets may exist) and another dominant player, such as Favors or Brown. The talent level on the roster is Les Robinson-caliber without a stud class for 2009. More role players aren’t going to cut it. You need multiple stars and a top-notch PG to have any shot to win in the ACC.

That’s pretty much it. Let us know your thoughts.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

07-08 Basketball Sidney Lowe

127 Responses to Facing the Facts – BJD Writes Off 2007-08

  1. tobaccordshow 02/15/2008 at 10:44 AM #

    I’m scared…. 🙁

  2. lush 02/15/2008 at 10:49 AM #

    depressing. that sums it all up. if there is no “switch to flip” this year, why will there be one next year?



  3. senez 02/15/2008 at 10:53 AM #

    well, we also have johnny thomas and tracy smith back

    we get mays and williams

    thought not exciting, at least one of the four is better than horner

  4. pacman23 02/15/2008 at 10:56 AM #

    I don’t think Fells could guard Rice, not enough quickness, I’m afraid. Who has honestly stopped him all year? He’s the leading scorer in the ACC. At least Sid, did try some different strategies against him, but it was HIS night. He wasn’t going to be stopped last night.
    Sid from last night (something we’ve all been needing to hear out of him-sooner I know, but at least it’s now being said in public)
    “The bottom line is we have to play better defense and be tougher and stronger,” said Lowe. “We need to be tougher physically and mentally. We can’t let guys go off on us and then let the secondary and third guy score and get rebounds. We just have to take on the challenge. I told the guys from this point on, I’m playing guys that are going to defend. If you can’t defend, I’m going to take you out of the game. I don’t care if it’s two minutes into the game I’m going to take you out. I need somebody that’s going to get stops for us.”

    BJD: I heard that comment, too. It’s a good idea, but far too late to save THIS season. He should have been doing this in December.

    I’m not writing off the season yet, although it’s very tempting to do so and I surely know the coaches have not done so. But what about the players, who have to read and hear this kind of thing? I sure hope not.
    I suspect Saturday’s home game against Clemson will tell the tale for the rest of the season.
    Are we finally ready to stand up and FIGHT?

  5. 44legend 02/15/2008 at 10:59 AM #

    Maybe one week too soon (?), but unfortunately agree wholeheartedly with that entry. I sure hope in a month and a half I’ll feel like I did last year that time instead of the way I do now.

    Wow, never saw this coming this year.

    Another factor to consider here is the administration. I doubt Lowe’s superiors are going to be holding him to the standard here (although I think it’s spot on correct).

    Last night was tough in many ways.

  6. LRM 02/15/2008 at 11:01 AM #

    My opinion has always been that if the only way we can win is to always have Top 10 recruiting classes then we have the wrong coach.

    And while it was likely a necessity this season, transfers aren’t the answer, either. There’s a reason Marques Johnson wasn’t playing at Tennessee (same as Harrison Beck not playing at Nebraska).

    My fundamental problem with Sid is that in his second season, he has shown little indication he understands either the college game or how to manage a college team. In the ACC, that tends to translate to losses.

  7. Rick 02/15/2008 at 11:01 AM #

    I had such a rosy outlook at the beginning of the year.

    And as I have said before, the point guards are not that far from where I thought they would be. The problems are the Costners, Horners, Fells and McCauleys not performing even as well as last year much less better.

  8. Noah 02/15/2008 at 11:02 AM #

    I’m not sure which infuriates me more: That NCSU is paying $800,000 to some doofus who doesn’t think twice about throwing away an entire basketball season to laziness and stupidity…or that we have a significant portion of the fan base that can’t wait to enable such behavior.

    BJD: Who is enabling? What specifically do you take issue with in my post?

    I’ve paraphrased Point Break before and it’s appropriate to do so again. “Special agent Utah! This is not some job, flipping burgers at the local drive-in! Yes! – your surf board bothers me! Yes! – your approach to this whole damn case bothers me! And yes! – YOU BOTHER ME!”

  9. tppack12 02/15/2008 at 11:02 AM #

    ^I think you just wasted your time writing that piece. I’ll guarantee half of Rice’s points were uncontested, and why in the hell would we choose Saturday to stand up and fight when we’ve had our fingers up our asses for 24 games.

  10. 44legend 02/15/2008 at 11:03 AM #

    I’ll add in that mentally I wrote us off after the history made at EZU. My heart will unfotunately be in it until we’re pounded 2x in the coming week. I’ll be forced into submission, but hopefully get some enjoyment out of a 6 hour drive planned to watch the last game vs. Duke. Uggh.

  11. BillyVest 02/15/2008 at 11:03 AM #

    Despite Losing Our Two Best Players

    I could be wrong, but I’m not convinced Hickson’s one and done.

  12. packer74 02/15/2008 at 11:03 AM #

    I watched another dismal defensive effort by State last night against BC. Nothing has changed during the season. These guys are slow footed and don’t block out on the boards. They throw dumb passes, take poor shots and make the same mistakes over and over again. I am pretty sure only of one the Pack players would start for any ACC team other than maybe UVA. I wouldn’t be surprised if State manages to drop their game with the Hoos in Charlottesville next week. Sidney and his staff must get some ACC caliber players in this next recruiting class. We can’t continue to live in a dream world that what we have on the roster is anywhere near what is needed to compete with middle level teams let alone the Dookies and Ewes.

  13. Par Shooter 02/15/2008 at 11:04 AM #

    Welcome to 1998. Learn on the job doesn’t really work. You’ve either got it or you don’t. You either know how to get through to kids or you don’t. Based on the results to date, Sid doesn’t. We’ll do it the “NC State way” and take several years to reach the conclusion that is obvious now – Sid just doesn’t have it. He’s another guy in a long list that schools hired out of desperation because he is an alum and wouldn’t say no. Les, Doh, Bunting, Amato, Drexler at Houston, etc, etc. If he didn’t play PG here there is no way in hell that Sid gets an interview for our job 2 yrs ago. Most folks probably would not have even known who he was.

  14. BillyVest 02/15/2008 at 11:06 AM #

    sighThe one reason I pray Lowe succeeds is because he wants NCSU to win as much as fans do and won’t be content with anything less than championships. If he can’t get it done, though, through him overboard and start over.

    Oklahoma’s current head coach would be a good choice, in my opinion.

    We have talent and anyone who thinks we don’t just doesn’t appreciate how badly we are underachieving.

  15. Wulfpack 02/15/2008 at 11:10 AM #

    For me, I knew we were in deep when Carolina absolutely annhilated us in the first 10 minutes of that game. There was no passion, no energy, no desire, no game plan, no effort, and no fight in our team on the home floor of our hated rival, then #1 at the time if I recall. I have never, ever, seen a beat down like that. It was flat out embarassing.

    If you can’t get up for that game, you have issues. And indeed, there are serious issues 9 games later.

  16. choppack1 02/15/2008 at 11:12 AM #

    LRM – excellent point. 6 or 7 years ago, Lee made the decision to keep a head coach who had brought in an excellent recruiting class in spite of never being to the NCAA’s in his 5 years at NC State. While the decision yielded some gains – 5 straight NCAA bids – it really tore our fans apart.

    BJD: You don’t need a Top Ten class every year, but after poor-to-fair classes in 2006 and 2008, and a shallow class in 2007, it’s necessary. Role players don’t cut it in the ACC. And note that I said we need to see a Top Ten class AND objective improvement AND consistent effort next year. It’s not just recruiting – that would be terribly short-sighted.

    Interesting point on the work ethic: There is definitely a perception of those out there who are close enough to the program to know the difference that there is a “laziness” or more laid back approach to work from this staff. There’s also other issues – with promptness and attendance – and those who know will understand what I mean.

  17. tppack12 02/15/2008 at 11:13 AM #

    I love Sid and what he did for this school 25 years ago. I know he really cares about the school and the program. But for the life of me I cannot see his coaching style and philosophy taking us anywhere. This team is so predictable it’s pathetic. Have they ever learned from any of their mistakes? And GodAlmighty what a waste of talent. I think Coach K(as much as I detest his ass) could have taken these boys to at least the Sweet 16.

  18. mwcric 02/15/2008 at 11:14 AM #

    What’s astounding to me is the performance of the coaching staff from top to bottom. Go back into the archives of this blog and read the entries when the staff was being assembled. Five of the seven members of the staff are alums. Lowe, Towe and Strickland all had previous head coaching experience. I just don’t understand the lack of passion and lack of preparation.

    BJD: Not going down the Sendek path here. Thanks.

  19. old13 02/15/2008 at 11:14 AM #

    ” . . . everyone involved in NC State Basketball from Lee Fowler to the student manager owes Wolfpack Nation a huge apology . . . Our problems are fundamentally systemic.”

    I said this in response to another article, but it seems like about 95% of the articles at GoPack.com for the past 5-6 years are reporting a loss by some Wolfpack team. I’m sure it isn’t that much. But it certainly seems like it. And I think it goes through Oblinger to the Trustees and even the UNC system board who seem to want to de-emphasize athletics everywhere except Chapel Hole!

    There’s certainly no commitment in Raleigh to have a top athletics department. MAF may have had her faults in dealing with faculty and staff. But she definitely had the commitment to make NC State tops in all areas including, but not limited to, athletics. I’ve seem no such commitment from Oblinger and certainly not from Fowler!

  20. RAWFS 02/15/2008 at 11:16 AM #

    You guys seem to be overlooking that Lowe was State’s fourth or fifth option. Barnes, Calipari, Beilein, Lavin, etc.

    I think that the play doesn’t revolve around coaching the way that it did with Amato. I think much if not most lay at the player’s feet. You cannot convince me that Herb Sendek and Sidney Lowe both haven’t gone over what to do in certain situations with Courtney Fells, and then Fells goes and repeats the errors over and again. Or that neither Sendek and Lowe have tried to get Gavin Grant to play under control. Or that they both haven’t tried to motivate Brandon Costner to play defense.

    If everyone played the game like Ben McCauley, getting nasty diving after loose balls, setting hard picks, making smart passes, we’d be a much better team. But they don’t. It is if they are incapable of learning it.

  21. PackWolf82 02/15/2008 at 11:17 AM #


    I agree with the talent comment. I’ve seen quite a few ACC teams play this season live and I’m surprised with their limited talent in normal ACC terms. It is amazing to see how badly we are underachieving. VT comes to mind as a team with little to no talent IMO but reels of wins somehow. It’s aggravating.

    I also agree with Wulfpack, you should never get beat because you don’t care and don’t show heart and passion. I don’t care who you field on the team. those are necessities no matter what. if they don’t care then something bigger than winning and losing is wrong and that is scary!

  22. EverettBeez 02/15/2008 at 11:18 AM #

    BJD95- I couldn’t agree more with your analysis. We knew going in that Lowe was going to learn on the job – and we could discuss why he got the job to start with, but that immaterial because he has it. Now we’ve got to root for him, and hope he can step it up over the next two years. Man is it painful to watch.

    As a coach (6 yr old soccer, lol) I tell my kids that I can handle loosing (we don’t keep official scores) but what I won’t tolerate is lack of effort. That, right there, is what is killing me about the Pack. Lack of effort, little to no concentration. What is the pre-game locker room like for us? “Dude, lets go hit the court and play some hoops.”?

    I understand that guys play pick up games at the Gardner St court in front of more folks then were at the game last night in Boston – but ACC ball, indeed college ball, is never and should never be treated like a pick up game. Its not like the ding dang NBA where 70% of the games are meaningless. Someone, anyone, needs to explain that to everyone sitting on that bench.

    I am so frustrated that I could spit. Thankfully, in north Alabama, I can easily pretend that there is no NCState, no ACC ball. Though this puts a serious damper on my wife’s planned ACC Tourny Friday part.

    Side note – BC should be booted from the conference for such atrocious attendance. If your team wins, and there are less then 3000 in attendance, does it count? It shouldn’t.

  23. RickJ 02/15/2008 at 11:19 AM #

    “I haven’t changed my mind about BC – they are worse than their record indicates. I still think they only have one good player. But note my caveat – if Fells can shut down or at least supress Rice. In what can only be described as a bizarre decision, Lowe decided to task his undersized, true freshman PG with guarding Rice. By the second TV timeout, Rice had eleven points. I suppose Fells guarded whichever stiff the Eagles had on the court at SG.”

    I disagree with one aspect of this comment. I would trade any guard on our current roster or any that we have signed or committed for the future for Rakim Sanders. Neither Sanders or Rice was in anybody’s Top 100 – Rice is fantastic now and Sanders is good now and will likely be great in the future.

  24. primacyone 02/15/2008 at 11:22 AM #

    ^We don’t seem to have any defensive talent.

  25. Wulfpack 02/15/2008 at 11:22 AM #

    “Lowe, Towe and Strickland all had previous head coaching experience.”

    Fact – Our coaching staff, assistants and otherwise, were not successful head coaches.

    Towe 70-78 (UNO)
    Strickland 70-127 (Coastal Carolina)
    Lowe 79-228 (Grizzlies & T-Wolves)

Leave a Reply