Benchmark Sidney Lowe: Can He Recover?

If nothing else, this should be therapeutic for NC State fans after last night’s 75-66 loss to Boston College.

Sidney Lowe finds himself in mid-season at 11-5.  This isn’t necessarily a terrible record (well… it is sort of) unless you consider that our largest winning streak has been a 5-win streak over teams with mostly RPIs of above 200.  Actually, as of last night, the average RPI of teams we have defeated has been 240.9.  Let that soak in for a second.  Now consider that in the ACC, only one team has an RPI worse than 240.9: Wake Forest.  Funny how that works out.  I fully recognize that RPI rankings have poor fidelity until later in the season (please see some of the outstanding work by VaWolf82), but this does give us an indicator of the type of opponent NC State is capable of defeating.

Sidney Lowe, to date, has an overall winning percentage of 0.550.  In NC State’s history, only one coach has coached worse than Lowe, Les Robinson at 0.443. Note that there is only a 20% difference between Les’ figures compared to Lowe’s.  Similarly, Sidney Lowe’s ACC winning percentage is 0.318.  Again, all ACC coaches, besides Les, have risen above this mark.  Here is a rough table of coaches, their overall winning percentages and ACC winning percentages.


Since 1953

Win Percentage

Years Number Overall ACC
Everett Case 1953 1963 11 0.682 0.601
Press Maravich 1964 1965 2 0.736 0.679
Norm Sloan 1966 1979 14 0.682 0.572
Jim Valvano 1980 1989 10 0.628 0.507
Les Robinson 1990 1995 6 0.443 0.298
Herb Sendek 1996 2005 10 0.591 0.450
Sidney Lowe 2006 2010 5 0.550 0.318

Note that previous to the circumstances surrounding 1990, NC State was always at least 50% or better over ACC foes.  Since then, NC State as struggled to keep up.  Sidney Lowe isn’t so much an isolated problem as much as he is a continuation of non-competitiveness against our conference rivals since the departure of Jimmy Valvano.

The problems with Lowe’s squads have been legion, but so far fans have been willing to give Lowe the benefit of the doubt for multiple seasons.

Year 1:

His first season was, all things considered, not too shabby.  He was a new coach with “decent” players (a few great ones) and managed to finish at 20-16, make the ACC Championship game, and making the NIT Quarter Finals.  While this was a step down from the previous year, it was expected and to an extent, excusable.  The one aspect of Lowe’s first season that many did not consider is the easy schedule that was grandfathered in by years of scheduling powder puffs in the 200+ range of the RPI rankings.  If we had played Year 1 with Year 5’s schedule, I doubt NC State would have found itself with 20 wins, in the NIT, but probably still would have made the ACC championship game (since NC State already had no momentum going into March).
Potential Excuse: It’s his first season.  He’s never been an NCAA head coach before so you can’t expect him to come in and win a National Championship on day one.

Year 2:

Sidney Lowe managed only 15-16 (4-12) and was eliminated in the first round of the ACC tournament.  Again, many people excused this due to the personality issues facing the team with a new coach and abrasive situations between Lowe and Grant.  The conference record was only 1 win short of the previous season, so again my question would be how much ease of OOC schedule played into Year 1’s favor (as well as coaching carry-over from the previous coach).
Potential Excuse: He’s still learning and having to manage personalities that were recruited by a different coach.  When there is strife inside the team, it’s always going to be hard to win.  Lowe is also having to completely change the team from the Sendek-esqe offense to a faster-paced style of ball.  Give it time.

Year 3:

Widely regarded as a complete Charlie Foxtrot season, Sidney managed only one win better overall (16-14) and finished with his career conference high (6-10).  Consider that Sendek’s career high record was 11-5 (Thank you Julius Hodge).  Robinson’s was 8-6, Valvano’s was 10-4, and Norm Sloan, in 2 years, went 12-0.  This represents one of the statistical categories in which Lowe holds the lead for worst coach in NC State history.
Potential Excuse: Hey, he had a bad season.  This is his third year of experience as an NCAA coach and he made some mistakes.  The previous seasons weren’t REALLY his fault, so we should give him this season as a mulligan.

Year 4:

Lowe’s fourth season saw glimmers of hope.  For the second time, Lowe was able to win 20 games, but finished the regular season one ACC win short of his previous year.  So what do you take from that?  NC State “ran off” Sendek because he couldn’t beat ACC opponents above that 50% mark the way all of his pre-1990 predecessors had, so it is difficult to say whether this is a good sign that Lowe was improving to win 20 games a season, or a bad sign that he still couldn’t produce in the ACC.  What is even more concerning is that after an impressive win over National Champions DUKE, Lowe went on a 1-7 losing spree only managing to defeat an OOC opponent, NC Central.  Sidney Lowe, in his fourth season with by-in-large “his players” could achieve a 20 win season, but without making any noise in the ACC.

For reference, when Sendek had at least 20 wins or more, he was tacking on around 8.5 conference wins a season (slightly better than 50%).  Again, we (rightfully) “pushed out” Sendek for not being able to breech a mediocre level of ACC success, compared to his predecessors, and Lowe has yet to even achieve 50% mediocrity.

Luckily, Sid had his 20 win season and a top rated recruiting class coming in.  With Lee Fowler still in charge and a top-rated recruiting class coming in, Lowe’s job was safe for another year.  Interestingly enough, many fans said we should keep Sid after his fourth year if for no other reason than ensuring Fowler couldn’t lead another botched head coaching search, similar to the one in 2006 that found Sidney Lowe in the first place.
Potential Excuse: Look, we got 20 wins and are heading in the right direction.  We have AMAZING talent coming in.  Plus, do you REALLY want Fowler looking for another coach?  Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and give him another year.

Year 5:

You’re living it.  Let’s not relive the terrible defeats and minor, teasing victories of 2010-2011 in blog form.

The bottom line is not that Sidney Lowe can’t still salvage this season into something respectable, but only to point out that Sidney Lowe has a long, long way to go until he can be called anything close to a respectable coach. Still remaining on NC State’s schedule (last night’s RPI in parenthesis) are 2xFSU (90), 2xDuke (5), Miami (33), 2xClemson (113), 2xUNC (20), VT (62), WFU (255), Maryland (115), GT (175), and UVA (143).

Consider that NC State is 0-5 against teams with RPIs of 50 or better and there are only 9 remaining games against teams with RPIs of more than 50.  If this is any indication of how the season will go, NC State could still go 20-10 (10-6), finish in the top 4 or 5 in the ACC and maybe even hit the NCAA bubble depending on how the ACC tournament goes.  That’s not necessarily an unrealistic scenario.  Optimistic, sure, not in no way unrealistic. Furthermore, Lowe’s previous 20 win seasons include wins gained during the ACC tournament.  This means Lowe could have a 21 or 22 win season in 2010-2011.

NCAA Or Not, Can Lowe REALLY Recover?
Then again, consider that Sidney Lowe is this deep into a hole of under-achievement.  Can Sidney Lowe really recover?  I’ll bring up our previous coach, Herb Sendek, one more time to make a very valid point that all State Fans should ask themselves.  Sendek had NC State competing for 3rd in the ACC pretty regularly, winning just under 50% in the ACC on average, and making occasional forays into to the top 25.  NC State was so displeased in Herb’s plateau (inability to punch into being once against a dominating program) that we pushed him away to look for a coach with more potential.  So here is the question: Is Sidney Lowe’s goal to simply not be the worst coach in NC State history and/or to reach the fanbase’s bare minimums each season, or is it to do what Sendek couldn’t do and make NC State a perennial top 25 program once again? If Lowe is able to reach the realistic goal of making it on the NCAA bubble and getting a low tournament seed, I can very easily see Lowe raising his stats to the point that he regularly competes for 3rd in the ACC and has fairly regular 20-win seasons.  I believe Lowe can reach Herb’s level of success.  However, given his inconsistent performance and extremely questionable coaching decisions (why the Hell is Harrow getting yanked out of games when he’s hot?!), do NC State fans, and by extension Debbie Yow, honestly think that Sidney Lowe, 0.550 overall and 0.318 in the ACC, can bring NC State to the top of the national heap again? Even if we manage our way into the NCAAT this season, as most people said was Lowe’s minimum requirement this season, does that necessarily mean Lowe is the coach for NC State, knowing what “a coach for NC State” should be expected to do?

I leave you with some of the insightful words of Julius Hodge after last night’s loss to BC:

Tweets from Julius Hodge following 75-66 loss to BC, 1/11/2011

About NCStatePride

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NCStatePride has been writing for since 2010 and is a 2009 graduate of the College of Engineering.

10-11 Basketball Coaches Debbie Yow General NCS Basketball

110 Responses to Benchmark Sidney Lowe: Can He Recover?

  1. Classof89 01/12/2011 at 11:47 AM #

    The most important numbers to me are 6-27, Lowe’s current record in regular season ACC road play. He must go.

    Has there ever been a coach with this kind of record in ACC play allowed to return for a sixth season?

    NCStatePride: Read the article; it answers your question. Les Robinson was worse than Sidney Lowe in the ACC and coached for 6 seasons. Sidney Lowe wasn’t the worst coach in NC State history, but that’s not the point. This isn’t a slam piece on Lowe, it’s an analysis of whether Lowe can be who we want him to be and whether he can overcome the hole he’s dug himself in.

  2. Tampa-Pack 01/12/2011 at 11:51 AM #

    So, pretty much the same story no matter who is on the floor… In fact you might be able to argue he has a worse record with better talent. He was able to somewhat coach-up lessor talent, which initially gave me some excitement, but I think we all see where this is going.

    “0.550 overall and 0.318 in the ACC” – well he is out performing his record in the NBA…

    Hope it doesn’t get too ugly between the fans and alumni before Yow can pull the plug.

  3. Tampa-Pack 01/12/2011 at 11:56 AM #

    Also just read the Hodge tweets. Wow, so apparently no one wants to work out, complaining about playing time, “whiner and divas”, etc. Nice job, “coach”…

  4. LKNpackfan 01/12/2011 at 12:00 PM #

    Sid’s a good guy who knows basketball, but it’s pretty clear he cannot get through to 18-22 year old kids. Strategically we’re sound, but tactically? Middling (to be fair).
    This team has the make-up to be a pretty damn good one, but I’m not sure we’re going to see it with Sid at the helm.

  5. inhoc... 01/12/2011 at 12:08 PM #

    hello? why can i post on here?

    Because you pissed me off!
    Seriously though, posts with a lot of links frequently get trapped by the spam filter. But sometimes posts get sent for moderation with no apparent reason. This time you were the lucky winner.

  6. baxter 01/12/2011 at 12:13 PM #

    I’d be okay with firing Sid and letting Hodge interim. I mean, could it really get worse? I kid.

    But seriously. Harrow is going to be a liability on defense all season, are you just going to bench him permanently?

  7. phillypacker 01/12/2011 at 12:18 PM #

    So in other, words, judge the rest of the season by the first half of the season, regardless of the fact that State has:

    1. Been playing 3 freshman and two sophomores (Leslie, Harrow, Brown, Howell and Wood)

    2. Playing without its leading scorer, dare I say dominant scorer, inside presence for most of the season so far, who will probably be first team All-ACC

    3. Were very competitive at Arizona (14-3,2nd in PAC 10), #21 Georgetown, at #7 Syracuse. Getting blown out by Wisconsin, which only the other night lost at home for like the first time in years, sickened and saddened me, especially the low effort level.

    4. I don’t know what “recover” means. If someone had told me we would be 11-5 (even against a very week RPI) with all of our losses against excellent basketball teams and if we had known how strong BC would be at this point in the season, I would have been happy with that. Adjusting to ACC/elite competition is a steep learning curve for most freshman, regardless of talent level (see Harrison Barnes).

    5. And oh by the way, why in the world are we bringing Sendek into this? Let it go. We have talked the guy to death. I have to think about him every year at least once because we were born on the same day, not day of the year, day (2.22.1963).

    6. This piece proves the adage about lies, damned lies and statistics. This team should show great improvement in the next few weeks.

    Before someone brings up the whole thing about horse shoes and hand grenades (being close I mean), I am not Lowe’s committed defender. There have been a lot of disappointments over the last few years. If he doesn’t have a very good season this year, as in 19-25 wins, at least into the 2nd-3rd round of the NCAA, I would like to show him the door. But the saying that improving is “lose by a lot, lose by a little, win by a little, win by a lot.”

    We are on the cusp of the lose by a little/win by a little. The five I mentioned who dominate the rotation will get better by the minute. As Adrian Branch said before the game on ESPNU, “they don’t know how good (or was it great) they are.” Confidence, discipline and focus will come.

  8. rtpack24 01/12/2011 at 12:18 PM #

    Horrific sub towards end of game, do not get off a shot after timeout, numerous blown defensive assignments, no box out after missed free throw causes loss of possesion, BC only had one guy on lane their last two trips to the line and they hit their freethrows, however if you watch the tape we did not box out either time and BC player was in position to get rebound or put miss back in. These are all areas that are the coaches responsibilty. We have talent however the product on the floor speaks for itself.

  9. rtpack24 01/12/2011 at 12:19 PM #

    In defense of Les, he had recruiting restrictions that no other D-1 program in the country had.

  10. boonami 01/12/2011 at 12:29 PM #

    Guys, I’ve heard that at practices, the associate AD or even Yow herself attends so his days are probably numbered if he doesn’t right the ship soon and can someone explain to me why we can’t play D; especially perimeter D? there is a high screen or pick and our guys get “lost” and don’t recover.

  11. Manu Ginobili 01/12/2011 at 12:32 PM #

    I appreciate the analysis, but in my opinion, the conclusion should be this: he should have been fired after year 3. At that point it was obvious he couldn’t coach. He may be a good assistant coach in the NBA, maybe a good recruiter in the NCAA, but he’s not a good head coach. His terrible NBA and ACC records support this.

    I am one of those who thinks that maybe not letting him go after year 3 was a good thing in the end tough; we didn’t have to go through another Lee Fowler coaching search. But let’s face it, in light of what we are seeing this season and if Debbie Yow is as good as advertised, we will be talking about our new BB coach in one year from now.

  12. erichack 01/12/2011 at 12:36 PM #

    phillypacker – very good points…personally, I have only seen two games this year…wisconsin, just awful, and wake, enjoyed it very much…so not sure where this team is, but seems to be a team trying to gel into a unit based on alot of the comments i have seen to date…at this point I just want to look at this season and make judgements as to what to expect for the rest of the year…after the year is over we can discuss our long term commitment to Sidney…as for the rest of this year, I am optimistic…our guys have played against some of the best teams in the country, the acc is weak, we have depth and talent, we have key guys that are young…that is a recipe for a fun year…we have a talented team that should be able to win enough games to approach a 20 win season…my focus is can we be playing our best ball at the end of the year…that is the type of team we have this year…the acc is weak this year and a serious run at an acc championship is very possible if we get it clicking at the end of the year…ncaa run would be good…it would be great to see a sweet sixteen appearance…go pack!

  13. Wulfpack 01/12/2011 at 12:38 PM #

    What is so frustrating is this team has all the ingredients to be very good. But we’re not. Even in a down ACC. Wasted opportunities.

  14. Wolfy__79 01/12/2011 at 12:41 PM #

    based on hodge’s comments, he would be a great assistant hire. at the elon game last week i noticed we had tony bethel on the staff now? i love tony as much as the rest of our alumni, but he lacked fire on the floor and wasn’t an elite player. i don’t have any problem with him being there as much as i do with so many elder assistants that clearly don’t have any impact. a young herb sendek would be a great assistant. someone to instill more discipline. i think our loyalties have undermine us with the basketball program.

    i’m pulling hard for sidney. but a decision has to be made.. first by sidney during this season on if he can make the best of what he has. but more importantly by Yow at the end of the season. i think our loyalty problem has finally taken a backseat. Sidney Lowe has this season to make the best of it and earn his position. I do think if he can make the connection his ceiling is where we expect a head coach for our beloved NC STATE basketball program. yet we, wait… he still hasn’t recognized or found the solution for the disconnect with the coaching/motivation part of the job.

    This is a good article giving the numbers and also summarizing the theme for team each year. the season is not lost but i think everyone has a good idea of what needs to happen for Lowe to earn his keep!

  15. 61Packer 01/12/2011 at 12:47 PM #

    You can throw out numbers all day long, but the most significant numbers to me are the attendance numbers from last night- 3,652. And if you think that’s because it was Boston, try 3,700 in the Greensboro Coliseum a few weeks ago. UNC and Duke each drew well over 20,000 there in previous weeks. The painful truth is that NC State is no longer a basketball program of any significance, and if anything, we continue to get worse. How Low can we go?

    I’ve followed State since the 1950s, when State dominated the ACC and Coliseum sellouts were routine despite a much smaller fan base, and regardless of the talent level then, those players were taught fundamentals and knew how to play as a team. Defense and intensity were the keys. We’ve reached a point now where many think Pack fans think that talent is all we need to be good again. To those folks I say, “HOW’S THAT LITTLE TALENT THINGY GOING THESE DAYS?”

    We’re way past the point of arguing whether or not this coaching staff can coach at this level. What we need to be doing is telling NCSU administrators to relieve the head coach now, and hand the job to an interim (Towe perhaps) who can at least restore fire and motivation to this program.

    And if NCSU administrators still don’t understand what’s happening, I suggest that they watch RBC Center attendance carefully in the next few weeks. Yeah, they’ve sold a lot of LTR seats, but the empty seats are gaining.

  16. Wolfy__79 01/12/2011 at 12:51 PM #

    great enthusiasm phillypacker. Lowe has another oppurtunity to make it count and i’m rooting for him until the end. we should not have fired Sidney Lowe after year three, if this is all we give him then we say he shouldn’t have been hired. five years is fair to him, but not anyone else! Yow will do what is best for NCSU, she is a great professional and a wonderful addition to the PACK. ntm Woodson. if nothing else Sidney has revamped our talent and opened a few doors for new recruits. if another coach were to be hired, he would inherit a very capable team!


  17. LRM 01/12/2011 at 12:52 PM #

    61, you do know the game last night was AT Boston College, not the RBC, right? I’m pretty sure you can’t blame State for the poor attendance at Conte Forum, which, to be fair, wasn’t drastically less than it usually is.

  18. tjfoose1 01/12/2011 at 12:52 PM #


    Sid is gone. Only question is who replaces him

  19. tjfoose1 01/12/2011 at 12:56 PM #


    wow. “Thank you sir, may I have another” comes to mind while reading your Sid defense/excuse comment.

  20. graywolf 01/12/2011 at 12:57 PM #

    tjfoose1: at least I feel better having Yow at the helm than Fowler. My hope is that if Sid is gone we end up with a top notch coach that can recruit.

  21. LRM 01/12/2011 at 12:58 PM #

    “6. This piece proves the adage about lies, damned lies and statistics. This team should show great improvement in the next few weeks.”

    I understand what you’re saying, but we’re way past using “improvement” as a benchmark.

  22. jamieinkorea 01/12/2011 at 1:09 PM #

    Three minutes left, tight game. In comes Gonzalez. Heave from half-court, missed defensive switch. BC up by six within 30 seconds.

    This is the story of the season. Did JG catch SL doing something illegal and is getting the starts because of that?

  23. tractor57 01/12/2011 at 1:12 PM #

    Year 5 – put up or shut up
    Unfortunately to this point of the shut up variety

  24. Lock 01/12/2011 at 1:14 PM #

    “We” (I can use ironic quotation marks too) ran off a coach who outperformed our current coach. Our current coach is a part of our school’s history so I was willing to give him his 5 years to see if he could iron out the problems that he wasn’t able to in year 1, 2, 3, or 4. But they’re still here, even with the incredible talent we’re supposed to have.

    Admittedly that ‘incredible talent’ is a group of freshmen for the most part, and unless you’re one of THOSE schools, relying on freshmen is a guaranteed mediocre season at best. But that’s not the problem. It’s the continued coaching inconsistencies that plague us, and unless we hit the NCAAs this year, it’s time to move on.

    I love you Sid. I love what you’ve done for the school, and what you want to do for the school yet. But it ain’t workin’. Nobody can blame us for letting Sid go if we don’t reach the tourney this year, and if we can keep those freshmen around, surely we’ll be a more attractive destination this time around…? One can hope. And if one’s a State fan, that’s about all one CAN do.

  25. BJD95 01/12/2011 at 1:22 PM #

    I agree with Manu Ginobili – I would have fired him after Year Three, too. It’s not about what’s “fair” to Lowe, just like it wasn’t about Sendek before him. It’s about what’s in NC State’s best interests. Nobody other than NC State under Lee Fowler would have hired Sidney Lowe. Nobody other than NC State under Lee Fowler would have kept him for five seasons. If NC State cuts Sidney Lowe loose after this season, I am 99.9% certain that he will never be a D-1 head basketball coach again. The parallels to Lee Fowler’s AD job search come to mind. And Fowler knew he was inexplicably tied to Lowe’s performance, so Fowler was always Lowe’s only life raft.

    Those are the cold, hard facts. Why should NC State continue to employ a guy who’s clearly in over his head, and who the market clearly says shouldn’t have a job like this? Fortunately, I believe that Debbie Yow bases her decisions on realities, not conjecture or sentiment. Thank God.

    For the record, there is absolutely no way Lowe can or should be able to save his job. This year’s ACC just sucks out loud, and creates no reasonable measuring stick. The evaluation period is over. I’ve seen enough.

Leave a Reply