How Long is Long Enough? Opinions Are All Over The Place…

badgeHow long should a team give a coach to turn a program around?

It’s an interesting question, and one that seems to be on the lips of many an NC State fan after the past couple of basketball seasons.  Me, I am not saying one way or the other that State should “do something” about head coach Sidney Lowe, as I think that will be decided by next year’s results.  I think that’s only fair, to let a coach build his own team according to his designs.  But I do think that next year will be the proverbial fish-or-cut-bait season for Lowe, and that his tenure will be decided about this time of year in 2010.  One thing is for sure — other schools are not waiting that long to come to a conclusion about their own coaches.

Opinions are of course all over the NC State map on this question, with some saying fire Lowe now, others saying fire Lowe, Fowler and Chancellor Oblinger now, all the way to folks who think Lowe should get a raise and a contract extension.  I guess with a family as large as Wolfpack Nation, a range of opinions that wide is to be expected.

Here’s something I found today that I think is interesting.  I’m guessing that this was written by one of our younger fans, someone who probably never witnessed the  days of NC State being highly competitive in ACC basketball.  It’s a comment I found about Kentucky potentially firing head coach Billy Gillespie after the Willdcats have underperformed for the past two seasons under his guidance.

“Kentucky is not NC State. They have won 3 SEC championships since 2000 and 7 more during the ’90s. How many ACC championships did we win during that time span? The rebuilding job is not the same so they can’t be held to the same standard, imo.”

On the surface, this is true — the UK program’s heritage, both recent and historical is far deeper than NC State’s.  Facts are facts.

But some other facts jump out that are equally interesting:

  • “Along the way Gillispie grew more publicly critical of his players, often foisting the blame onto their shoulders.”
  • “Playing time for some players rose and fell seemingly on a whim.”
  • And most damning, the Wildcats record was 22-13 with only a .500 conference record in the sub-par SEC and no NCAA bid for a team that considers these bids to be a birthright.

If the first two don’t sound familiar, they should. Sounds like a movie we just saw…I forget the name, but I think it was a disaster movie.

More to the point, however, let’s take a look at how long it can take a good coach to turn a marginal team around.

  • Sean Miller is in his fifth season at Xavier  and has made the NCAA four of those years, with an Elite 8 and a  Sweet 16 to his credit the past two years.
  • Mike Anderson is in his third season at Missouri and is going to the Elite 8, after defeating #1 seed Memphis last night.  Keep in mind that Mizzou was on three years NCAA probation until 2007.
  • Travis Ford took Oklahoma State to the NCAA second round in his first season.

In other words, it doesn’t take twenty years, ten years or even five years to turn the ship on a major D1 program.  And if you don’t think NC State is a major D1 program, have you noticed the size of the University and the investment it has made in its basketball facilities?  Indeed, NC State may not be Kentucky, but then again, neither is Mizzou, Xavier or a host of other schools.  They turned around quickly and to say that NC State cannot do so it utterly ridiculous.

Schools like Kentucky and UNC don’t wait long to fold losing hands — we saw that with Mat Doherty and we are seeing that with Billy Gillespie now.  Gillespie will probably be shown the blue door in the next few days (my suspicion is during the Final Four. UPDATE: It’s official)  People may ask, what is Kentucky waiting on?  I would guess buyout considerations and maybe ensuring that they have someone to step in immediately.  Schools like UK don’t tend towards coaching searches conducted in secret bunkers on Kerr Lake in a bass boat where there is spotty cellphone coverage.  Most importantly, schools like Kentucky DO take decisive steps to protect their perceived place in the college basketball world and there, WTNY doesn’t cut it.  Maybe that’s why a Kentucky is a Kentucky?

At the end of the day, I think that the author of that comment is drinking Fowler-flavor Kool-Aid.  And I am certain it doesn’t take five or ten years to turn around a mediocre and underperforming hoops program.

09-10 Basketball NCS Basketball Quotes of Note Sidney Lowe

184 Responses to How Long is Long Enough? Opinions Are All Over The Place…

  1. packbackr04 03/27/2009 at 10:29 AM #

    memphis was a #2 seed/

    interesting post. my only thought is….. with CJ leslie’s decommitment, what do we gain by waiting a yr on Sid. If we can get Sean Miller now, you get him now and tell Sid to resign. simple as that.

  2. JasonP 03/27/2009 at 10:46 AM #

    Mike Anderson > Sean Miller

  3. Ed89 03/27/2009 at 10:46 AM #

    Sid ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. Gillispie, if fired, it will be because of off-the-court issues, not the on-court product. We’ve still got two scholly’s for next year. It will be a great class. Sid will have us turned around next year. I’m liking the Georgia pipeline. Below is impressive. 3 of 5 on the first team are NCSU bound.

    Class 5A All-State 1st Team:

    Lorenzo Brown, SR, G, Committed to NC State

    Trae Golden, JR, G, Uncommitted

    Ryan Harrow, JR, G, Committed to NC State

    Glen Rice Jr, SR, F, Committed to Georgia Tech

    Richard Howell, Sr, F, Committed to NC State

  4. timswar 03/27/2009 at 10:48 AM #

    I’m getting tired of our basketball team’s situation. Lowe raised a little excitement by getting his name on a few high-profile recruits’ lists, but hasn’t been able to land any of them and has actually seen a recruit decommit as a result of the season.

    If another program starts seriously going after Sean Miller this off-season we need to jump in, let Lowe go, and bring Miller in here. I don’t necessarily think he’d be the NC State Messiah people are looking for but he’s done well at Xavier and I think he could do very well here.

    But if nobody’s really looking at him this off-season then there’s no reason not to give Lowe another year on the bench to try and turn it around.

    But it’s frustrating, and I’m not sure I’d be able to stomach next season looking at the direction it’s taking.

  5. amphibian 03/27/2009 at 10:48 AM #

    Just curious, but when Sean was an on Sendek’s staff was he very involved in recruiting? I’m just curious because it seems to me that the ability to recruit talent should be a major consideration regarding the next coach of the program, whenever that time comes.

  6. codebrown 03/27/2009 at 10:48 AM #

    Fair point about the coaches turning around marginal teams. However, none of them had to do it in the ACC.

  7. Alpha Wolf 03/27/2009 at 10:51 AM #

    ^ Mizzou is in the Big 12 — where Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas are.

  8. burnbarn 03/27/2009 at 10:52 AM #

    Lowe is not going anywhere. We just need to cool all this talk for a year…. it ain’t helping anything.

  9. JasonP 03/27/2009 at 10:54 AM #

    The Big 12 is and has been playing better than the ACC lately. Of course the Big East has as well, and down the stretch the Big 10 played better this season.

    Look at these teams: BC, Miami, Vtech, MD, UVA, Clemson, FSU, Wake

    Mediocre to downright awful!

    I see absolutely no reason for NC State not to consistently rank in the top 5 in this conference for basketball.

  10. NeverGiveUp 03/27/2009 at 10:54 AM #

    I completely agree with points here.

    I’ve seen no dramatic improvement over the last 3 years. Someone please point them out if I missed them.

    How long is long enough? 3 years. Let’s hire a consultant and move on. I love Sidney, but I can’t wait 10 years for another sweet 16. It doesn’t HAVE to take that long.

  11. choppack1 03/27/2009 at 10:56 AM #

    Alpha -I’ve stated this before, but I did some research on the coaches that made the tournament from BCS conferences, and I got as far as the ACC coaches – and here’s what I found:
    1) Of the current coaches that made the tourney this year, only Roy Williams and Dino Gaudio made the tourney in their first 3 years.
    2) Coach K, Gary Williams, Seth Greenberg (even though he didn’t make it this year), Al Skinner, Oliver Purnell and of course, Leonard Hamilton didn’t make the tourney in their first 3 years.
    3) I know Letaio and Hewitt made the tourney in their first 3 years…So making it in your first 3 years isn’t exactly an indicator of future performance either.

    *This did help me soften my stance somewhat on Lowe. However, I have concerns about his scholarship allocation, player rotation and his refusal to accept responsibility for his team’s poor performance.
    *On the positive end, I think that this year was Lowe’s best in terms of preparation, substitution and motivation.

    *Finally, I’ve weighed in on Miller and the Xavier factor before but I’ll do it again. In the past 20+ years, the previous 4 head coaches before Miller have gotten jobs at major conferences.
    1)Bob Staak – fired at Wake after destroying their program.
    2)Pete Gillen – fired at UVa after 1 tourney appearances in 8 or 9 years.
    3)Skip Prosser – did a good job initially, but finished w/ 2 straight losing seasons. Left Dino an excellent base to build on.
    4)That Matta – Doing a very solid job at tOSU – w/ one championship game appearance. He’s probably been one of the best recruiters in the country, but attrition has kept tOSU from being a consistent power.

    Obviously there are factors present at Xavier which gives it an advantage over it’s Atlantic rivals and has created an atmosphere that has produced good results. To Sean Miller’s credit, the program, has at the very least sustained these results, if not improved upon them. (I believe his winning % is below Thad’s.)

    Simply put, the situation Sean Miller is walking into does not remotely resemble the situation he’d walk into at NC State. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a good coach, just that 1) Success at Xavier doesn’t mean success at your next job and 2)he’d have to build a program instead of sustain the results.

  12. Alpha Wolf 03/27/2009 at 11:01 AM #

    ^ Fair enough, Chop and great points. Like I said, I think any assessment of Lowe must come after next year, at the earliest. My larger point in the article is that it’s not a ten year mission to build a program.

    Last point, you need to add Mike Anderson and Travis Ford to your BCS Conference coaches making NCAA Tourney within three years list.

  13. Wolf Dog 03/27/2009 at 11:03 AM #

    Every situation is different. No hard and fast rule. Did Synder have Mo. more prepared for the next coach to succeed. Was Ky going downward before the new coach arrived? Roy inherted what some call the best recruiting class in history when he took over. Doherty had put UNC back on the recruiting map. Kansas won it all after Roy left, was that a coaching upgrade? Many of their fans think so now.

    No doubt we would like better results than the past 3 years. We all knew we would stink in Lowes first year. Herb left a mess. Slow players that were disigned for an offense no one could stop we were told when excuted! Herb was an upgrade at ASU and even he was smart enough to hire an AAU coach to get the recruit and change his offense.

    I think the blog is right though. This time next year few fans will be sitting on the fence regarding Lowe.

    One thing I notice about the sweet 16 the majority of the teams have coaches that been around a long time and they didn’t have short term fixes for their programs most all took time to build.

  14. Wulfpack 03/27/2009 at 11:03 AM #

    The issue is one of proactivity. IF web had a better alternative lined up (Miller, Capel, Grant, Anderson) then I think it’s a no brainer.

    But LF is not proactive, and furthermore he’s too chickenshit to make a phone call due to the backlash he’d receive.

    To put it simply, some schools create there own success. Others don,t.

  15. ncsu96 03/27/2009 at 11:05 AM #

    Sean Miller inherited a program in great shape and one that he was already a part of and helped build. You just can’t compare that to what Sidney walked into, that’s just flat out dumb. Just to be 100% clear, I’m not saying Sean Miller isn’t doing a great job at Xavier (b/c he is).

    Sidney completely changed our style of BBall, this takes time. Most of us were very happy to kiss the Princeton style good-bye. IMO, it’s hypocritical to say you’re happy to see that style go and not give Sid (or any other coach) 4 or 5 yrs to put in their own system with their own players.

    Sidney has shown he’s willing to change and adapt each year so I’m still cautiously optimistic that he’ll get us there.

  16. Alpha Wolf 03/27/2009 at 11:06 AM #

    “Did Synder have Mo. more prepared for the next coach to succeed”


    ESPN: “Snyder, who played on three Final Four teams at Duke and was an assistant to coach Mike Krzyzewski, was hired to replace the retiring Norm Stewart and take Missouri to national prominence. He helped the Tigers earn NCAA bids in his first four seasons, including an appearance in the final eight in 2002.

    But the Tigers were only 42-42 since then, and attendance has dropped despite a new arena that opened last season.”

  17. ADVENTUROO 03/27/2009 at 11:08 AM #


    Can you set up a CAL Watch…I enjoy the diversion…since BG is NOW (OFFICIALLY..a NC from UK) Personna Non Gratta..person NOT of Interest to UK, the excitement just begins…

    ALSO…many are reporting GREAT INSIDE INFO (based on the UPS driver, who has a buddy that is co-habitating with the FILL IN THE BLANK person that KNOWS everything about Coack K’s staff)…you get my point. ANY REAL SCOOP OR POOP on the Coach K & Curry & Dell & Sid & WHOEVER situation?

  18. old13 03/27/2009 at 11:11 AM #

    I think it’s been well demonstrated in MANY other schools (including those mentioned in the blog article) that at least SIGNIFICANT POSITIVE PROGRESS, if not an NCAA berth, can readily be attained in 2-3 years. But it certainly shouldn’t take over 5 years! As much as I want Sid to succeed, I just can’t realistically consider that the 2006/2007-2008/2009 seasons trended in any way near SIGNIFICANT improvement on the court. And in addition to progressive improvements on the court, JJ should have provided a springboard for recruiting which DID NOT really jump in the 2009 class, although it will obviously, be very good. But the recent misses on the two big guys and probably Wall, plus the apparent loss of Leslie, does not bode well for ramping up in future classes. Whether Sid leaves now or comes back next year, to me, is not a major issue so much as having definite GOALS for him next year if he is back, and acting if those goals are not met. In view of the Oblinger/BOT/Foulup trends that we are all so familiar with, however, this is probably a very moot discussion in any case.

  19. Ed89 03/27/2009 at 11:12 AM #

    No, I agree. It’s not a 10 year mission, but a 5 year one. He gets until after the 2010-2011 season, unless we see drastic problems next year, which I do not think we will. I think next year, we will see that he WAS the right hire, and we’ll be playing a different brand of ball. Every situation is different, but I do not think those other coaches had 6 scholarship players their first year. Mizzou has some great upperclassmen, OSU had Mouton. We had Fells and Costner. I don’t mean to be critical of players, but they are not what I would call senior leaders. Wait til Sid’s guys are juniors and seniors. That is my opinion.

  20. Noah 03/27/2009 at 11:14 AM #

    Just curious, but when Sean was an on Sendek’s staff was he very involved in recruiting?

    Yes. He was considered an outstanding recruiter when he was hired.

    Regarding the larger question of time…I don’t think you can say, “A coach MUST receive X years.” It has to be on a case-by-case basis.

    By Les Robinson’s third year, it was painfully obvious that his teams had no idea how to play defense, had no idea what a set play was, weren’t getting any better on the court and could be outfoxed by a horse apple. He bought himself a little more time, though, with his personality and character. That third year was also the absolute year from hell. If you didn’t have to endure the 1992-93 season, you just don’t know how BAD bad can be. By year’s five and six, you just wondered what we were waiting for. It was like getting hit with a cat o’ nine tails. By the 10th whack, you sort of lose count and just wonder if this will continue forever.

    When Sendek came in, we saw an immediate difference in type of play and in the players we were recruiting. We just couldn’t get over the top. But those didn’t appear to be coaching issues. Damon Thorton’s hip, Schea Cotton’s NCAA woes, Marshall Williams’ knee and mental breakdown, Adam Harrington’s sanity, etc…it FELT like if we could just catch a break, we could bust through that wall. We know how that one ended.

    With Lowe, I thought it was pretty obvious by his second year that he didn’t know what he was doing. He had messed up scholarship allocations, he messed up in recruiting, he didn’t know how to manage his guys, his teams didn’t play defense, and we were a one-trick pony on offense. There was also a consistent stream of lapses in judgement that bothered the hell out of me.

    Some people have talked about Dean Smith and K having early struggles. I didn’t see Smith in the early days, but I remember K very well. In 1982 and 1983, they were a 10-17 team…but they had just pulled in one of the best recruiting classes in the country and they just looked horribly young. You could see that they were well-coached, they were just outmanned.

    By contrast, I remember Bob Staack’s teams. You could tell they had plenty of talent…they just didn’t play well.

    So, I don’t think there is a magic number.

  21. Texpack 03/27/2009 at 11:15 AM #

    I’m of the 4-5 yr school of thought on how long you should generally give a coach. In our situation, where Sidney took over a roster with 5-6 scholarship players, four years certainly isn’t outrageous. I have noted, however, throughout the NCAA tournament the number of second and third year coaches who have turned around programs with less tradition than ours. I have always considered NC State a basketball school. The men’s basketball program at State should be our flagship athletic program, and I say this with all due respect to those who think our football program can become a national program. I hope they are right.

    My Dad was a classmate of Norman Sloan and spent many hours telling me Everett Case stories. I grew up watching David Thompson and going to Norm Sloan’s basketball camp several summers.

    I am a classmate of Sidney Lowe’s. I watched his career from the seats behind Coach V while I was at State. I saw numerous “national” programs come through Reynolds for Sunday national TV games during the time when there were only one or two college basketball games played each Sunday and those games were somewhat like Monday Night Football. Based on what I saw of Sidney Lowe as a player at State and all of the years he spent in the NBA coaching ranks, I really expected better results by now. I want Sidney Lowe to succeed as much or more than anyone and I know from reading this blog that I hold out more hope for him to succeed than a lot of others do. I just keep going back to the things he did as a player in my mind and thinking that it has to translate into coaching success. That is why I haven’t given up on Sidney Lowe yet, but if I don’t see some significant improvement next season, I’ll probably be ready to pull the plug.

    My 16 year-old said during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, “NC State has never been good during my entire life.” He was dead on. He has watched Texas, where they couldn’t spell basketball when my wife was there, make the final four and a couple of elite eights, but has never seen us win a conference championship. Maybe my frustration would be greater and my patience less if I had to live with all of the blue bellies everyday, so I can’t get too upset with people who want to pull the plug now. Hopefully next season will make the choice obvious, because I’m ready for NC State basketball to matter again.

  22. JasonP 03/27/2009 at 11:15 AM #

    Exactly Wulfpack.

    Here is the positives I see with Lowe (b/c we all know that we’ve got him next season):
    He has the offensive coaching talent to breakdown any defense in the ACC. He has shown this with majority sub-ACC talent each of the 3 years he’s been here, especially with CAA level talent at PG.
    He’s not afraid of any program in NC and the players he’s brought in are not quitters and given high effort on the court.
    *If he can bring someone into the program to develop a better defensive gameplan and bring more intensity to that side of the court, State will be in a much better position in the latter half of seasons. And he’s got to improve the talent level of this program, and do it consistently.

  23. Noah 03/27/2009 at 11:21 AM #

    BTW, I think one of the most frustrating things about Lowe’s time is that the excuses just don’t add up.

    The excuse for his first year was that Sendek screwed him by not leaving him any players. And now the excuse is that Sendek screwed him by leaving him TOO MANY players.

    The excuse was that he didn’t have a point guard. But then he never went out and brought in a point guard. We’re not bringing in a point guard until the year AFTER next…and that kid is 5-10 and 160 pounds.

    The excuse was that he was a great judge of talent, since he came from the NBA. But then he wasted scholarships on Farnold Degand, Bartosz Lewandowski and Marques Johnson.

    Agreed 100% on wasted schollys. Degand was worth taking a chance on, but not so much the others. I would rather have kept the schollys and rewarded a hardworking walkon with a year of free tuition and books instead.

  24. Alpha Wolf 03/27/2009 at 11:24 AM #

    Tex, I think we all want Lowe to succeed. It would be a perfect scenario, a legendary alumnus comes home to take over a program and raise its profile even higher than it had been in nearly two decades.

    Maybe it will be.

    We’ll see, but the defining years are now here, and that cannot be denied.

  25. Wolfman 9806 03/27/2009 at 11:24 AM #

    At this point with Sid, it’s so painfully obvious that he was a bail-out hire when Fowler completely made a mess of the search. We all love Sid and felt good strolling down memory lane and thinking of what might be. But the fact is that Sid is not a good coach. Players quitting on him, questionable game management, etc. I think that if someone like Miller is interested (which I don’t believe he is) then we should make a bold move to erase what has honestly been a mistake. Folks, we haven’t even sniffed the f*&$@ NIT Tournamnet the last two years.

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