Pack Pride got the opportunity to sit down with NC State athletics director Lee Fowler and discuss a number of issues surrounding Wolfpack sports.
Why did you decide to use a search firm for the football coaching job and not the basketball coaching job?
In basketball I didn't because I know every head coach in the country personally, and I've worked with basketball my whole life. I had no need to get access to coaches with someone being an intermediate for me and the basketball coaches. In football, I felt like to get the best coach for this school, using a search firm would be good because he has contacts with football coaches. He's a football guy.
I felt like it was very important to get that help in this case. It turns out we may have ended up at the same place we did but I didn't know that going in. I sure as heck like where we ended up. I felt like it was best for the university at that time to use a search firm.
Looking back at the basketball search, do you feel like you would have used a search firm if you had to do it all over again?
I wouldn't because I've worked with a firm. I know how a firm conducts their business and that's the same way I did it.
A firm is more about a coaching feeling comfortable where he can call them and his name wouldn't get in the public. In this case, the coaches felt they could call me and their names wouldn't get in the public. If I had to hire another basketball coach tomorrow I probably wouldn't use a search firm.
A lot of football guys don't know me, don't know a lot about me, but a lot of basketball guys do. Just because I was on the basketball committee, the head of the basketball committee, they know who I am, they know I know basketball. Football guys don't know much about me, don't know what I know about football. It gives them a comfort level with them being able to call and talk to someone they feel will know a lot about football.
I look at both of those hires as hiring major corporation leaders. They've got to be leaders. It's a process you go through.
|"We're in such a great area with such a great basketball tradition."|
In high school there were two or three girls I really wanted to date, but they didn't want to have anything to do with me. I knew I wanted to date them, but we didn't date because they didn't like me. I did date someone in high school, but she wasn't in the top three. So you don't always get the person that you think is good for the program because they may not want to come here.
I can assure you, in the basketball search I talked to every coach in America that I felt like I had any chance at all with because I didn't want to leave any stone unturned. That's all a search firm can possibly do... I got to more people than a search firm could probably get to.
More thoughts on the basketball coaching search:
The only reason I got abused for my search is mine started after every other had finished. Other searches take that long, but I was the only person out there so the national media had to write about something.
[A week] or so into the search we were through with [John] Calipari and the guy from Texas. That didn't take long, and then we started our real work as we started to make sure we talked to... I'll go to my deathbed with people not knowing who we talked to, but I talked to nearly every coach in the country.
A lot of coaches... people like to be courted but not everyone wants to be under contract with you. There's always interest. We're in such a great area with such a great basketball tradition. We have two national championships.
Comparing both searches, were you surprised by the interest you received in the football search?
Not really. It's funny, people always tell me you need to have a list... I always have an ongoing list of people that I watch, I like the way they coach, or the things about their program. When I talked to the Chancellor and the search firm the first time, I had a list of about eight coaches, and Tom O'Brien was one of them. I didn't know if I could get to him, but he is a guy I've always respected.
In basketball, the only reason Sidney wasn't on my list is because I didn't think he had a degree and I didn't even think he was close. He would have been on my first list. He would have been one of my first guys. Sidney and I know each other, we've played golf a few times together, and I really thought he was good... very talented. We zeroed in on him real quick when I found out he was real close to getting it. That made it a little bit longer because we had to feel comfortable with that happening.
Since Tom O'Brien has taken the job, what has impressed you the most about him?
I think his organizational skills, his staff that has come with him, and the longevity that he has with those staff members.
He's a man of few words but with a lot of actions. He knows where he wants to go and what it takes to get there. That's what has really impressed me.
Can there be fewer "commercials" on the video board at football games? Other schools
have a lot of frequently updated stats and scores?
Some of the things we do we have to do because we seat 60 [thousand] and others seat 90. Revenue is very important to us to make sure we can compete, so some of those things are dictated by the amount of money that we need to do what we do with less fans.
|"He knows where he wants to go and what it takes to get there."|
When you've got 90,000 fans coming like Florida State does, that's a lot more revenue. Some of those things are driven by that, but I've never noticed if ours are a lot more than someone else. I haven't done research on that so I don't know if it's true or not, but it may seem that way.
Why do you sometimes very publicly, either accidentally or not, throw back-handed
comments at NC State fans when they do not necessarily agree with the way that you
think things should be?
Any statement I've ever made I've never meant to back-handidly get after NC State fans. I made statements about the Internet. The only thing I don't like about the Internet is there is no opportunity to discuss. It's all statement out there, whether it's right or wrong, and then people take the statement and run with it as fact. After the horse is out the barn, there is nothing you can do about it.
I believe that if you have a disagreement with somebody you ought to call. I'll talk to anybody. Call me on the phone, and we'll discuss it. Of course I talked with one guy and he put the whole conversation on the Internet and some of that stuff I didn't say.
As a matter of fact my greatest quote ever was... what was that the "lunatic fringe?" I never used the word lunatic in my whole career. I never said that but that's what he... I said there was a fringe group out there that seemed to be 20 or 30 people that control everyone else, and he just put "lunatic fringe." Now everybody in the country talks about the "lunatic fringe."
I never said the [phrase] "lunatic fringe." There's a fringe of people, 20 or 30, that are on the Internet controlling everyone's opinions. He called it lunatic fringe. He thinks we're all the lunatic fringe. How do you fight all that stuff? You can't. People write me horrible emails, and I'll put "God Bless You, Thanks for your opinion and Go Pack." If I start arguing with every single person... but I'll be glad to talk on the phone with anybody.
I'll explain these things. It's hard for people to know it because they are just out there blasting away at you. I truly don't think some of them want to know. They just like being mad at the world.
From your position, 2006 was probably the most interesting year since you arrived at NC State.
What are some of the accomplishments of the athletic department that make you the proudest?
I'm proud of our coaches and our student-athletes everyday of how they go about their business. I know the bottomline is winning, but they really do. We've come a long way.
I think the programs that already have the facilities up-and-running are starting to show that they can compete on a national level. We still have a few sports that are in need of their facilities, softball, track, and our soccer program probably more than anybody else.
I'm probably the proudest of getting Reynolds finished, getting baseball and tennis completed. I honestly believe a lot of people gave to it, and I came here wanting all programs to have a chance to compete.
I probably feel when I go home at night the best about the fact that we've improved every sport here and given them an opportunity to have a better chance to win.
|"Sidney cares so much about NC State, and he cares so much about the college game."|
How impressed have you been with Sidney Lowe in his first season?
I've been really impressed. I wasn't that concerned after we talked about who his staff would be. He knew and I knew that he needed to hire a college staff. Now if he would have hired two or three pro assistants that would have worried me.
Sidney cares so much about NC State, and he cares so much about the college game. He came through on a national championship team which makes a big difference.
A lot of people have probably never thought about this, but I get the comments so many times, "Sidney is so much better a floor coach than I could imagine he would be." I'm not saying that, they are, and I'll say, "Do you realize Sidney has coached 15 years in the NBA?" If you go 15 years times 82 games, do the math. He's coached more games than Kryszewski has, more games than Roy Williams has. He's been involved in basketball, actual game-coaching, more than all of those guys. At most they are coaching  games a year... he's coaching 82 or more. He's coached a lot of basketball. He's seen situations... nearly every possible situation. He's been a head coach, he's been an assistant coach.
He's been preparing himself for a top job. I'll be honest with you. This is the first head coaching job he's had where he's had a chance to compete because of the two franchises he was with. I talked with Joe Dumars at Detroit for a long time and Joe said, "Lee, I'm telling you, Sidney is about to be a head coach at a franchise he can win. The problem was when you're young in this league you're only going to get head coaching jobs at newer franchises. That's where the young guys coach. Now Sidney is so well thought of in the NBA he's going to be a head coach at the Knicks or the Lakers or somewhere like that because people really respect him and know he can do the job."
He was getting ready to be a head coach at a major franchise and be successful. I knew Sidney was going to be really good because I knew he loved the Red and White, I knew he cared about it, I knew he was very organized, and I knew after he got his staff together that he was going to recruit well.
I think the one thing, you can look at Pitino, Calipari, guys that have been in the NBA, high school players will be attracted because they want to get to that level and those coaches know what it takes. I knew with his personality he'd be a great recruiter. That's half the war... getting players. He does such a good job of reading people, knowing who he can get on to... he's got all the tools to be a great coach. He really does.
In talking with you, it seems you're really happy. How happy are you at NC State?
I love it here. I kid the Chancellor, I tell him I'm ready for a lifetime contract. The only job I went after was the Georgia job, and I turned it down before it was offered to anybody. The Tennessee job, I never talked to them, never interviewed for it but everybody thought I was in it because I'm from Tennessee. I'm not interested in any other job. I want to see this thing through.
We're just now getting to the point where I think we can be very competitive in the two major sports and every other sport. As my daddy would say, "The grunt work has been done." Now we've just got to get the right coaches in place, and they may already be here. With facilities we should be able to tell that, move forward, and be successful.
I think the future for NC State is now. It's a very exciting time to be here, and I'm not looking to go anywhere.
I'm very happy. My youngest daughter has already been accepted to State, and she'll be going here next year. I promise you I love my daughter so I'm not going anywhere unless someone shows me the door.