It didn't take Sidney Lowe long to express just how happy he was to be the new head coach at NC State. After he was introduced as the Wolfpack's 18th men's basketball coach, Lowe pumped his fists in the air at former teammates Alvin Battle, Cozell McQueen, and Ernie Myers, and promptly turned to NC State AD Lee Fowler and Chancellor James Oblinger to thank them for the opportunity given to him.
"Let me first thank you and the chancellor for this great opportunity," Lowe said to Fowler. "This is definitely a dream come true for me. We've talked over the year [about] my feelings about NC State and how I always wanted us to be first at everything and do well.
"I'm here to continue and restore hopefully those glory days that we once shared. I'm very excited about that."
Lowe's plan seems simple. He wants to win, he wants to have fun, and he wants to create a family atmosphere at NC State, the same atmosphere he experienced during his playing days under Jim Valvano.
With his former teammates in attendance, Lowe thanked them for their support and stressed how much he wants the Wolfpack family to come together during his tenure.
"I'm looking out in the audience here, and I see some of my former teammates supporting me and that's what it's all about," said Lowe. "They know I love them, and I appreciate them. I want to see them more and more when I'm here finally, and that's what we want to get back to. We want to get back to having our players around.
"I want these young men to know the history of our school. I want them to know our former players. The guys that were out there sweating and laying it on the line.
"We're going to be committed. We're a family. As I've told my players, there's only one other thing more important to family and that's God."
For Lowe, he's just happy to be back at NC State with the Wolfpack family.
"Here I am... just right now living a dream."
Simmons Is A Priority
With all of NC State's current players except freshman Ben McCauley present, most media members sprinted to speak with Cedric Simmons following the press conference.
Simmons, one of the ACC's most improved players, has declared for the NBA Draft but has yet to ink with an agent, leaving open the door for a possible return to NC State next season. Lowe even did some early recruiting of Simmons during his press conference, drawing laughter from the crowd when he joked that if he had a big man in his program, he would get plenty of touches on the offensive end.
|"He's been on the NBA level so he knows what it takes to get there. He knows what it takes to win, he's a national champion."|
Simmons had a huge smile on his face and rightfully so. Last season he often played away from the basket and didn't receive the touches or shot attempts that other top big men in the ACC received.
The 6-foot-9, 230-pound center averaged 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks as a sophomore, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors. Simmons was also named to the 2005-06 ACC All-Defensive Team, and his return would give NC State one of the league's top frontcourt players.
He and the rest of the Wolfpack players met with Lowe earlier on Saturday, and he was impressed with the new head coach.
"I'm excited," said Simmons. "He's been on the NBA level so he knows what it takes to get there. He knows what it takes to win, he's a national champion."
As for a timetable on a final decision, Simmons wouldn't give one but he did point out that his family would not play a major role in what he chooses to do.
"I don't think my family's situation is real bad or real terrible," he said. "It's not like we're hurting for money or anything. The decision is based on me, not my family or my parents."
Simmons has until June 18 to withdraw from the draft. The NBA draft will be held June 28.
Getting It Done On Both Ends
Lowe didn't talk much about offensive or defensive philosophies. He stressed academics and winning. It's that simple.
"My vision for our team, for this school, we want to do it on both ends," he said. "We want to do it in the classroom, and we want to do it on the floor. That takes a lot of commitment.
"I think my story and what I've gone through and to be able to stand here today, hopefully is something our players can look at and say that's the way you stick with something."
Lowe's story is a special one. After leaving NC State for professional basketball without a degree, he is set to graduate next month from St. Pauls College in Virginia with a bachelor of arts degree in Business Administration. Lowe's path wasn't easy, as he balanced work, family, and school, but in the end it all paid off for him.
"The feeling that I have right now, knowing that I'm going to have my degree, is a feeling that I've never had before," said Lowe. "It's a different type of feeling."
"Our new coach understands what NC State is all about, and what the people of the state expect of us," Chancellor James Oblinger stated. "When we talk about our players, we talk of student-athletes. [Coach Lowe] will develop both sides of that equation, the student side as well as the athlete side. He will help us produce graduates ready to reach their full potential.
"He knows what it means to be committed to education. He is an adult learner who has balanced work, school, and family to complete a degree."
"The fact that [Lowe] has worked hard to complete his degree when none of his NBA employers required that says a lot about the view he takes on education," Oblinger added. "He's held himself to that high standard."
Expect Lowe to hold his players to that same high standard.
Play Free... Have Fun
Lowe seems to have a much different approach to coaching than former Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek. He plans to play more uptempo, but he also wants his players to just have fun.
"I told them I don't have a lot of rules," said Lowe. "Just a few... to play hard, play smart, and play together. But the most important thing, and the biggest rule I have is to have fun. You've got to have fun playing. That's my biggest rule, to have fun.
|"I think coach Lowe is going to let guys express themselves, play how they want to play. Like me, I'll be able to get to the basket more."|
"We're going to be more uptempo. We want to get up and down the floor. I want them to be able to express themselves. We have some excellent athletes and guys that are capable of doing some special things.
"I just want to allow them to be free. We will get up and down the floor."
That is just fine for some of the current Wolfpack players.
"Really it made everybody smile in the media room today when he told us we were going to be uptempo," freshman guard Courtney Fells said.
"I like the words," added Simmons. "I like having fun and playing free."
The happiest player appeared to be sophomore guard Gavin Grant. Grant, a 6'7 wing from New York, came on strong late in the season when he received more playing time and really showcased an ability to attack the basket and score in transition while getting to the free throw line. A fast-paced offensive system suits his skillset perfectly.
"He's giving the players around here the freedom and confidence they need," Grant said of Lowe. "I was definitely impressed with the way he met the team. He told us he wanted us to be free and have fun out there. Herb, he wasn't focused on having fun, he was more focused on we've got to win and it was this way or no way at all.
"I think coach Lowe is going to let guys express themselves, play how they want to play. Like me, I'll be able to get to the basket more."
With Grant, Fells, Brandon Costner, Andrew Brackman, and possibly Simmons all returning, Lowe will have plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal. Expect the Wolfpack to play fast and hard, as Lowe wants to see his team compete on both ends of the floor.
"The day before [he accepted the job], Sidney called my dad, and they talked about it," said McMillan. "My dad said he was a perfect match. His family is there because they didn't want to move to Detroit, and he played at NC State. He knows the conference, he knows his competition, and he knows what winning is all about so my dad was definitely excited for him and thought he was a good choice."
As for Jamelle, the hiring put NC State right back in the mix for his services.
"NC State is definitely a place I'd consider especially with the coaching staff they've hired," he said. "They have a positive and bright future ahead of them... it's basically a matter of them wanting me."