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Lowe, Sidney

Sidney Lowe

1960—

Professional basketball player, coach

"From the first time Sidney Lowe picked up a basketball, he has been preparing for this job," wrote Tim Peeler of the North Carolina State University Athletic Department in a press release issued in conjunction with Lowe's hiring as the school's head basketball coach in 2006. There was a bit of college-sports hype in that statement, but Lowe had strong connections to the Wolfpack basketball squad, having been a collegiate star there and having made his off-season home in the city of Raleigh since 1985. He brought a varied set of experiences back to North Carolina State, including a career on the court as a pro basketball player and several stints as a coach in the National Basketball Association. Those stints were short ones. "Sometimes they say the hardest part is keeping the job," he observed ruefully to Jet. "The easiest part is getting it." But after a successful first season at North Carolina State, Lowe seemed a strong candidate to become one of college basketball's coach-institutions.

Sidney Lowe was born in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 1960. He and his four brothers and one sister were raised by their mother Carrie, a cleaning woman, in a troubled part of the city. Lowe started playing basketball in Washington's youth leagues, and his mother put aside money so that Lowe could attend a Catholic institution, DeMatha High School, in suburban Hyattsville, Maryland. "It was a very tough background," DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten told Chip Alexander and Thomasi McDonald of the Raleigh News & Observer, "but she poured her heart and soul into giving Sidney an opportunity, and he took advantage of it."

DeMatha was noted for a strong basketball program, and during Lowe's junior year he was part of a squad that went undefeated over 28 games and won a high school national championship. He was surrounded by talented players but stood out as a natural leader. "If ever you saw a coach on the floor, that was Sidney," Wootten told Tim Peeler. "He understood the game so thoroughly, even as a high school player. He had a tremendous feel for the game. He made everybody else better. He made everybody else believe in themselves. He wanted to be part of something greater than himself. He left his ego at the door."

Lowe followed a well-established pipeline of DeMatha players who joined North Carolina State's program, enrolling there in 1979. He was recruited as a point guard by coach Norm Sloan, who had a sartorial as well as a sports-related influence. "I liked Coach Sloan—loved his jackets," Lowe recalled to Peeler. "I think I liked the yellow-and-black one the best. If he hadn't worn those jackets, I might not have been attracted here. Norm Sloan is the main reason I came to N.C. State." Initially he was turned off by Sloan's flamboyant replacement, Jim Valvano, who arrived in Lowe's sophomore year.

But he improved rapidly as a player under Valvano, who was also noted as a sharp dresser, and he later came to regard the legendary Wolfpack coach as a mentor. Lowe made the United States team that brought home a gold medal from the World University Games in Romania in 1981, helping to defeat the Soviet Union in one game with a last-minute length-of-the-court basket. North Carolina State made the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament in 1982 and went all the way to the NCAA championship the following year. Regarded once again as a team leader on the court, as a kind of coach-in-the-making, Lowe finished his North Carolina State career with school records for single-season (271) and career (762) assists. His career assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.94 remained ranked as the best in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2007.

Lowe was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1983 and never finished his North Carolina State degree, an omission that caused him problems when he was slated to be rehired by his alma mater years later—he had to take classes on-line for a degree from St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Virginia. Traded to the Indiana Pacers, he played 78 games as a rookie in the 1983-84 season but was never a strong scorer in the NBA. He played for the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks the following year and closed out his pro career in 1990 after stints with the Charlotte Hornets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. His greatest successes came during three seasons (1986-88) in the Continental Basketball Association, where he played on championship teams (the Tampa Bay Thrillers in 1986 and 1987, and the Albany Patroons in 1988) in all three seasons.

After spending a year as the Timberwolves' color commentator in 1991, Lowe was hired by the team as an assistant coach by the team the following year. Midway through the 1992-93 season, the struggling franchise elevated Lowe to head coach. Although the team's record improved during the 1993-94 season, Lowe departed for an assistant coach slot with the Cleveland Cavaliers the following year. He remained in Cleveland until 2000, when he returned to Minnesota to work as an assistant under head coach Flip Saunders.

Lowe got his second shot as an NBA head coach when he was hired by the Vancouver Grizzlies in 2000, remaining with the team through its move to Memphis and two consecutive 23-59 seasons. In the fall of 2002 he was fired after the team lost its first eight games, and he returned to Saunders' Minnesota team. He moved with Saunders to the Detroit Pistons in 2005 and accompanied the Pistons to the 2006 NBA playoffs even as he was in the middle of the hiring process at North Carolina State. On May 6, 2006, he was named the Wolfpack's new head coach, succeeding Herb Sendek. Lowe already lived in Raleigh with his wife, Melanie, and their three children.

At a Glance …

Born on January 21, 1960, in Washington, D.C.; raised by mother Carrie, a housecleaner; married Melanie; children: Sidney Jr., Lindsey, Lantzen. Education: Attended North Carolina State University, 1980-83; St. Paul's College, Lawrenceville, VA, BA, 2006.

Career: Indiana Pacers, professional point guard, 1983-84; Detroit Pistons, 1984-85; Atlanta Hawks, professional point guard, 1985; Tampa Bay Thrillers (Continental Basketball Association), professional point guard, 1986-87; Albany Patroons (Continental Basketball Association), professional point guard, 1987-88; Charlotte Hornets, professional point guard, 1988-89; Minnesota Timberwolves, professional point guard, 1989-90, television analyst, 1990-91, assistant coach, 1991-92, head coach, 1992-94; Cleveland Cavaliers, assistant coach, 1994-2000; Minnesota Timberwolves, assistant coach, 2000-01; Vancouver Grizzlies (moved to Memphis, 2002), head coach, 2001-03; Detroit Pistons, assistant coach, 2004-06; North Carolina State University, head coach, 2006-.

Addresses: Office—North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 8502, Raleigh, NC, 27695-8501.

Lowe's debut year in his first college coaching post was a stressful one; he was rushed to a hospital suffering from dehydration during a game against archrival North Carolina, and his son Sidney Jr. was arrested on an armed-robbery charge. But he made a positive impression in Raleigh with his enthusiastic attitude and his stylish collection of 87 tailored suits, capped by a jacket in instantly recognizable North Carolina State tomato red. The jacket was worn during the Wolfpack's shocking 83-79 victory over North Carolina. "I thought he was wearing that because that showed how much he wanted to win that game," senior guard Engin Atsur told Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times. "You can't wear a jacket like that and just go out and lose by 30."

Best of all, Lowe could point to victories over each of the Wolfpack's in-state rivals, North Carolina, Duke, and to a winning season with 20-16 record, although they were only 5-11 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The team made it to the finals of the ACC tournament, losing to North Carolina, and won two games in the postseason National Invitational Tournament. "State has got themselves a great coach," Morgan Wootten told Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times. "You give him a couple years and they'll be right there."

Sources

Periodicals

Jet, February 1, 1993, p. 46; April 12, 1993, p. 47.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, March 23, 1994, p. 0323K7313.

News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), February 4, 2007; March 5, 2007; March 11, 2007; April 1, 2007.

Washington Times, February 14, 2007, p. C1.

On-line

"Pistons' Lowe Agrees to Coach NC State," ESPN,http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=2433439 (December 5, 2007).

"Sid Lowe," National Basketball Association,http://www.nba.com/coachfile/sid_lowe/index.html (December 5, 2007).

"Sidney Lowe," North Carolina State University, http://www.gopack.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=41960&SPID=3731&DB_OEM_ID=9200&ATCLID=522019&Q_SEASOn=2007 (December 5, 2007).

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