From The Pages Of The Magazine ...

This feature story is from the Summer 2006 issue of the Pack Pride Magazine. It is focused on former NC State great Thurl Bailey and his support of Sidney Lowe as the Wolfpack's new head coach. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, click on the link below ...

  • Pack Pride The Magazine

    Captain's Choice
    Legend Thurl Bailey Strongly Backs Former Teammate and Fellow 1983 Captain Sidney Lowe As NC State's New Head Man

    Pack Pride Magazine
    Summer 2006
    WORDS: Scott Vogelsberg
    PHOTOS: NC State Athletics, Getty Images

    T
    hough he was busy working as a color analyst for the NBA's Utah Jazz, former Wolfpack great Thurl Bailey kept tabs on the NC State coaching search following the departure of Herb Sendek to Arizona State. Following the process through various media outlets, Bailey couldn't keep one persistent thought from going through his head.

    "Even during the vacancy, my first thought process was, ‘Man, Sidney should have that job,'" said Bailey.

    Bailey, Sidney Lowe and Dereck Whittenburg were the Wolfpack's tri-captains during the miraculous season of 1982-83, when coach Jim Valvano's "Cardiac Pack" made its memorable run to the national title. With a void at the top of the State program, Bailey felt it was Lowe's time to become the leader of the Pack.

    "I actually called Sidney to talk to him to see if anyone had contacted him, and we had a conversation about whether they were seriously thinking about him," said Bailey. "He didn't want his name thrown in there unless they were serious about hiring him.

    "So I'm really excited. I think, with recruiting and just building, he's continuing that legacy that NC State has. It's not necessarily an easy task, but he's obviously going to work hard at and get the program to the level that I think the school wants to be at.

    "I think he's the right guy for the job."

    Bailey was the right guy for the job as Lowe's running mate during their four years in Raleigh. Bailey paced NC State in both scoring and rebounding for three straight years (1981-83), culminating in career-best averages in both categories in 1982-83, with 16.7 points and 7.7 boards per game. He also led the Pack in blocked shots in three different years (1980-81, '83) and in field-goal percentage (54.8 percent) in 1981-82.

    He still ranks in the top 20 all-time at State in blocked shots (No. 1, 207), scoring (No. 17, 1,495 points), rebounding (No. 14, 759) and field-goal percentage (No. 15, 51.3). Bailey earned first-team All-ACC, All-ACC Tournament, All-NCAA Finals and All-Regional recognition during his incredible 1982-83 campaign. He took home second-team all-conference distinction and the Jon Speaks Award as the player who best exemplifies the attributes of the late Wolfpack captain in 1982, and won the H.C. Kennett Award as the outstanding all-around student-athlete of the year at NC State in 1982-83.



    "I'm really excited. I think, with recruiting and just building, he's continuing that legacy that NC State has."

    With such a storied history in Raleigh and the knowledge that his No. 41 jersey has been honored and hangs in the rafters at the RBC Center, Bailey recognizes the importance of having an alumnus at the helm of the Wolfpack program. He remembers the steadying influence that Lowe had on the Pack during his playing days and feels Lowe will have the same impact as the coach.

    "I think it's important. It does not necessarily mean instant success," Bailey said. "But I have a connection with the guy. He was the leader during that year we were making that run; he was our floor coach. We relied on to him to keep us together out there, and he did an excellent job and gained our trust. That's what it all about, whether you're a leader, a coach, a point guard … knowing what the goal and game plan is."

    The goal and game plan came together in amazing fashion in 1983 for Bailey, Lowe and the rest of the Pack. Bailey sparked NC State in the first half of the 1983 NCAA championship game with a team-high 15 points, helping the Wolfpack to the 54-52 upset over Houston for the national crown. Prior to that, he hit the last two baskets in dramatic fashion during State's improbable 71-70 win over sixth-ranked UNLV in the regional quarterfinals.

    The 6-11 native of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, went on to become the No. 7 overall selection by the Utah Jazz in the 1983 NBA Draft. He played a dozen seasons in the NBA for the Jazz (1983-91, '99) and Minnesota Timberwolves (1991-94), then spent four years playing overseas for Panionios Greece (1995), A.P. Cantu (Italy, 1996-97) and Milan (Italy, 1998). Bailey's time in Minnesota overlapped with Lowe's first gig as head coach.

    "Sidney brings a lot of great leadership qualities," said Bailey. "He actually coached me in Minnesota with the Timberwolves. That was a little awkward at first, because my ex-teammate is my head coach now. But he's paid his dues, and he deserves it.

    "Anything that I can do as his ex-teammate and alumnus of the school, I'm definitely going to do it."

    Lowe's hiring sparked similar feelings from several former NC State players. Bailey hopes that having Lowe take the reins will allow the current Wolfpack program to more fully embrace its storied past.

    "I certainly hope so, even as you try to move forward and continue what even being in the ACC means," said Bailey of the Pack family being re-united. "I think it's the premiere conference in college basketball1—not to say there are not other powerhouse conferences, but with the schools you're talking about [in the ACC] and the history of those schools, it's important to keep your past close to you. Maybe you're not proud of all of it, but when you look at what's been accomplished there, it's not just 1974 and 1983. You don't hide from those things; you embrace them and you make what has gotten you where you are now a part of all that. I'm certainly glad, because those were four of the best years of my life, and they taught me a lot.

    "Sidney will be the epitome of what was really good and where they want to go."



    "He was the leader during that year we were making that run; he was our floor coach. We relied on to him to keep us together out there, and he did an excellent job and gained our trust."

    Lowe always seemed to know where to go with the ball on the floor, and Bailey said he recognized that early on. As the unquestioned leader, Lowe knew the right buttons to push for NC State during his entire career in the Red and White.

    "I think that goes without saying. Coaching has always been in his blood, and even as a player, he exemplified that," Bailey said. "He didn't treat us as subordinates, especially the seniors, Dereck and I. He treated us as equals, and we all knew our roles. We all knew that if other guy wasn't pulling his weight, it wasn't personal, but we'd say, ‘You've got to pick it up.' And the sophomores, the juniors and freshmen all appreciated that. That was the leeway that Valvano gave us."

    Bailey predicts that Lowe will rely heavily on his experiences from the 1983 team as he seeks to motivate and inspire the current Wolfpack players.



    "Let me tell you something: The ring I wear on my finger is a symbol of a lot of things that have culminated. Every time I speak or talk about it, it's not just about basketball—it's about growing up to be men and being responsible and knowing what it takes to create something together."

    "I think he'll relate to it ever single day," said Bailey. "That's what those young fellas are trying to get to, and that's what March Madness is all about. It's not just about the game, and that's one thing he'll relate: Those four years or however long they have left in college will go by very fast, and you should learn all the lessons that you can take away from that. Even if they don't play pro ball, they'll learn life lessons; I use them every day.

    "Let me tell you something: The ring I wear on my finger is a symbol of a lot of things that have culminated. Every time I speak or talk about it, it's not just about basketball—it's about growing up to be men and being responsible and knowing what it takes to create something together."

    Through the dizzying array of twists and turns provided by the State coaching search, one aspect of Lowe's hiring did not receive the attention it deserved. Lowe became the first black men's basketball coach to man the sideline on Tobacco Road.

    The significance of that milestone was not lost on Bailey, who praised the vision of chancellor James Oblinger, athletics director Lee Fowler and the rest of the NC State administration in tabbing Lowe.

    "Even on another side, it's awesome that they hired an African-American coach," Bailey said. "That says a lot about them that with a lot of qualified people out there, and, in a league like the ACC, just to give that opportunity to Sidney. But I think it's important, especially in today's day and age and going out and recruiting kids and earning their trust and being there and growing up in the same environment they've grown up in …

    "There were a lot of great candidates out there, black or white, but I'm a little bit partial. I have a history with Sidney and I think that it's awesome. It's huge."

    One of Lowe's first moves was to name former Pack guards Monte Towe—who left his post as head coach at New Orleans to take the position—and Quentin Jackson as assistant head coach and director of basketball operations, respectively. He also retained a holdover from Sendek's staff in Larry Harris, giving Lowe a strong, proven supporting cast.

    Bailey knows that giving a nod to the rich Wolfpack tradition while assembling a solid core of assistants is crucial to Lowe's success.

    "It's very important, because you're only as strong as your support," said Bailey. "Sidney can have all the knowledge in the world, but first of all, he's saying, ‘I know I can't do this alone. I've got to have people that have confidence in me and that I have confidence in them.'

    "His staff will help these kids get a great education, first of all, and learn something while they're there."

    Both Bailey and Lowe learned plenty about life and education during their days guiding the Pack to the national title. Now Lowe embarks on a journey that will hopefully lead State back to that lofty perch—and he'll have the backing of a former teammate and fellow captain during every step of the way.


  • Pack Pride Top Stories