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The Various Exit Scenarios Of Sidney Lowe

March 9, 2011

With the ACC Tournament upon us, Sidney's one last hurrah is on the horizon. Short of four straight wins—perhaps even with a miracle ACC title win (thoughts on this later)—Sidney will hang up his red blazer for good and the public phase of the coaching search proper will begin. ("Public," in the sense that there is a vacant coaching position to be filled. Hopefully that will be the only component of the search that is "public.")

Assuming the 2010-11 team exits the tournament prior to the Everett Case Trophy presentation, there are several schools of thought on how and when Sidney's job should become vacated.

Here are the most likely scenarios I see unfolding:

  1. Sidney resigns after the ACC Tournament, prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament. The new coach is hired when his current team's season concludes.
    I think this is more than likely how the change will occur. If the rumors are true that Lowe and his people have already begun negotiations with the athletic department, my guess is they're hashing out the details on a way to compensate Lowe fairly for what he's owed on the balance of his contract. Doing so allows Sidney to hit the NBA job market immediately, and I think he'll find work as an assistant in the league within a week of the announcement.

     

    It allows Sidney to save face, to hold a press conference with Debbie Yow versus having to watch his firing presser at home on TV, and to exit the program gracefully and with the dignity afforded one of the program's heroes. Despite what some may tell you, we State fans were disappointed with the results and we wanted Sidney to succeed badly, but the last five years don't changes the fact he's still family, and deserves to be treated as such when the end comes.

    One of the downsides of this scenario is the hasty removal of Lowe could possibly result in a wide gulf of time between the resignation and the new coach's hiring. The longer the job stays open, the more opportunity there is for rampant speculation from fans and media. The national media, in particular, will be doing everything they can to rekindle memories of 2006 and remind folks of just what a disaster that search was.

    A quick, quiet, successful search should be the ideal goal for all parties involved. Could Yow keep the lid on leaks to the media? It doesn't seem likely, especially since WRAL's Jeff Gravely ran with info from multiple sources that Lowe's buyout was already finalized. If info's already leaking and Lowe is still the coach, it will only get worse once the search begins. Compressing the timeframe of the search, if at all possible, will be key.
     

  2. Sidney Lowe is retained until the next coach is available.
    I think this is the second-most likely scenario to occur and one that I would probably employ if I were in Yow's shoes.

     

    As shamefully public as the last search was, every media member from here to Los Angeles knows who our primary targets in this search will likely be. Numero Uno, of course, will once again probably be Rick Barnes. Target #2 would be clearly be Sean Miller. As such, there will likely be much speculation surrounding Barnes and Miller's interest in the vacant State job when it comes open.

    Again, assuming Yow is gauging interest levels behind the scenes, I see the value in waiting to remove Lowe until her target has completed their season to limit media speculation and questions in the midst of the target's hopefully deep run into the NCAA Tournament. There will be media speculation regardless of how things play out, but I think it's better the media speculate as to why Yow or Lowe haven't made a move than to have potential candidates hounded about their interest levels.

    It also gives an easy out to a potential target when diffusing questions about the State job. If a media member broaches the subject, all the candidate has to say is something along the lines of, "Well, my understanding is that Sidney Lowe is still their coach. Seems silly to ask me about a job that's not available." It prevents nasty situations down the road where a coach feels forced to make public proclamations about how committed they are for the long term to their team and have no plans to leave whatsoever. Even though everyone knows how the business of coaching changes work, being branded a "liar" or "turncoat" can stick with a coach his whole career.

    Another added benefit of Lowe staying on until the new coach is ready to be hired is it limits other coaches, hoping to paint themselves as desirable commodities or to leverage a new contract from their current employer, from falsely claiming they're in the running for the State job when it's clear they were never considered. As the '06 search wore on, LSU's John Brady kept claiming interest from State's folks (this was shortly after his Final Four run), but all that speculation was merely his people trying to generate buzz by feeding info to the media. And since after the first month of the search, every candidate seemed plausible, few folks outside of Raleigh had reason to believe the rumors weren't true.

    Retaining Sidney prevents the would-be Bradys from throwing an uninvited hat into the ring.
     

  3. Sidney resigns during the NCAA Tournament but the new coach cannot named until after the tournament concludes.
    This would be where scenario two hits a snag resulting a larger gap between the removal of Sidney as head coach and the hiring of his successor due to an unexpected change of plans.

     

    This might happen if Yow planned to retain Lowe until the new hire but Sidney decides to move on earlier, due perhaps to an NBA job offer or just simply fatigue at answering questions about his job status. In either scenario, I don't see any reason why Yow should stand in his way if he (and let's not forget his coaching staff also) is ready to move on.

    Also, and I certainly hope this isn't the case, but the targeted coach—thought to be ready to make a clean exit—hits a snag on his end, delaying the final negotiation phase. Big money and big egos can lead to unforeseen hiccups. Again, 2006 was a case study in close-but-not-quite negotiations and their pitfalls. I see nothing at the moment to suggest this might happen, but it's always a possibility in any coaching search.

    My guess is most of the exit strategy has already been planned out and a scenario predicated on an unforeseen change in plans seems mercifully unlikely.
     

  4. Sidney resigns before the ACC Tournament.
    Honestly, this is a scenario I hadn't considered previously but in some ways makes a good deal of sense.

     

    This is all conjecture, but let's say you're Yow and have done enough preliminary work behind the scenes to know that the coaching candidate you've targeted has all but agreed to take the job once his team's season ends. He's in the bag, and a homerun hire, to boot. If you wait to announce Lowe's resignation until after the ACC Tournament and, lo-and-behold, State ends up winning the darn thing—State's first ACC Title in 24 years—now what do you do?

    One four-game winning streak shouldn't invalidate five years' worth of evidence that Lowe isn't the right long-term fit at head coach, but is it wise to fire a head coach who just won an ACC Title? Remember, most everyone assumed before the season that making it to the NCAA Tournament was the benchmark to either keeping or canning Sidney, and in this scenario, he's now done that in spectacular fashion.

    You certainly can't expect Lowe to resign after winning the title—that would look foolish. So the onus would be on Yow to fire him if she were intent on making a change to land her homerun hire. Imagine the outcry Yow would have to face, especially from her Superfan #1 John Feinstein, if she fired the first State coach since Valvano to win an ACC title, regardless of how justified she would be in doing so looking at the entire body of work.

    The chances of this unfolding are slim-to-none (and slim just caught a cab out of here), but as much as we all joke about "NC State s***," this would rank right up there as one of the all-timers in State lore if it played out that way.

    (By the way, if State were to win the ACC Title, I would be 100% in favor of retaining Lowe for one more year. It would be dishonorable, in my mind, if Sidney's team met their team's goal of making the NCAA Tournament—however improbable they came about it—and Debbie shifted the understood criteria at the last minute. Give him 2011 to earn any further years on his contract, meaning he'd still be on the hot seat, but the idea of firing a guy after an ACC title win just doesn't sit well with me, and I imagine many others.)

    Another thing to consider if Sidney resigns prior to the tournament: the team can relax. They've been playing under the dark clouds of speculation about their coach's job situation for the better part of the season; for once, at the end, they'd be able to just play ball and not feel like they were playing to save Sidney's job. And hey, a loose team with nothing to lose is the worst team to face in a single-elimination tournament. The Georgia team of 07-08 is a perfect example of this scenario playing out, where the team won four games in three days (due to severe weather at the Georgia Dome on the first day of the SEC Tournament) and Dennis Felton—widely assumed to be on the way out—retained his job for one more year before being let go after the 08-09 season.

    Obviously if this were to take place, it would have to happen today (Wednesday) and given it's already the afternoon (as of the time this was published), it doesn't look like it's happening that way. You wouldn't do it tomorrow, as announcing it the day of the team's opening round game would be poor timing for all parties involved and might come off like a School/AD trying to grab the spotlight.
     

  5. Rather than Sidney resigning, Yow fires him using a timetable from one of the four prior scenarios.
    Envisioning any of the four scenarios above unfolding with Yow pulling the trigger seem equally implausible to me for a reason I touched on above. Sidney Lowe is still, and will remain, a very large part of the Wolfpack family. Yow's not stupid and will spare Lowe the embarrassment of an awkward press conference in which either he's not there (I wouldn't be) or (even worse) he's sitting beside Yow at the table somberly as she explains why Sidney will no longer be retained as head coach. I've seen those latter press conferences and they're every bit as tense and awkward as you would expect.

     

    Whether Lowe resigns or is fired is merely semantics; the result is still the same. But firing a coach versus him retiring feels vastly different. A firing implies a forcible removal the coach resists until the bitter end. It's hard to have an amicable firing.

    A resignation, however, feels more like result of a coach's choice than a struggle. Lowe can greet the press, and his fans by proxy, to express his thanks for the years of support and his hope that the program continues moving forward. Yow can thank Sidney for his hard work and for setting the table for the next coach to be successful from the start.

    A firing would be an unwanted end by just about everyone, and I don't see the situation concluding that way. It'll be one of the first three scenarios, almost certainly.

I think we'll see the end of Sidney's tenure come from one of these scenarios. As unpredictable as these things are, however, expect the unexpected.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. SlackZac permalink
    March 9, 2011 6:36 pm

    you forgot the “State wins 10 in a row (11?) to win the National Championship and Lowe is welcomed home a conquering hero” scenario.

    it could happen.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      March 10, 2011 3:59 am

      You’re right, I did. Clearly an oversight on my part. Back to the keyboard!

  2. Xyz permalink
    March 9, 2011 7:12 pm

    nice article.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      March 10, 2011 3:58 am

      Thank you very much!

  3. Interwarfascism permalink
    March 9, 2011 8:45 pm

    Retaining a coach because you believe you have the home run hire in the bag–is not the best course to take. Just ask anyone that roots for Michigan.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      March 10, 2011 3:57 am

      Thanks for reading!

      Yeah, there’s no way Yow could delay hiring her homerun hire a full year. Winning the title and retaining Sidney as a result would mean any hiring plans would disintegrate. That, of course, would make the decision to retain Sidney another year all the more difficult.

      I don’t think we’ll have to worry about it, and if by chance we do, I’ll be still enjoying the ACC Title victory.

  4. Smithjq permalink
    March 9, 2011 9:54 pm

    Great article. With DY pulling the strings, I expect this to be handled with grace and dignity. I hope the rumors of mutual planning are true…

    • Anonymous permalink*
      March 10, 2011 3:46 am

      I do, as well.

      Though I hope you know I’m referring to rumors of “mutual planning” between Lowe and Yow, not Yow and a future coach. Maybe I’m reading too much into your comment, however.

  5. St8isGr8 permalink
    March 9, 2011 10:26 pm

    Nice article and well thought out. Three things to consider:
    1) Rick Barnes is not even on the radar, he may be considered, but for now, he is not even in the top ten. This is not my oppinion, I have sources very close to the center of this.
    2) Smith, I like Debbie Yow as an AD, she does have class, moxie, and historical ties to the university. But she is not very well liked amoung the college coaching community. Again, this is not speculation, it’s a hard fact. Gary Williams IS very well respected and liked amoung his peers and as such his opinion carries much influence. This will make it more difficult for her to pull a head liner from within this fraternity.
    3) One of the names that I am hearing a lot, will suprise most of you. He has a won number of national titles at the major college level and his team is the clear favorite to win one again this year, but he has never beaten or even faced K or Roy, and I promise you that you will not see this one coming if it happens.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      March 10, 2011 3:42 am

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Yeah, after reading some more info today, I’m starting to think most folks think the Barnes train left the station for the final time in 2006. Probably the best for everyone.
      2. I, too, have concerns about Yow’s reputation and what impact Gary might have on this hire if the coaching candidate if he’s called for his opinion (and any coach thorough enough to do a good job would do his due diligence and speak with Gary).
      3. If it’s who I think you’re referring to, I wouldn’t say his team is “a clear favorite” to win the title this year. Perhaps it’s not who you’re speaking of.

  6. packalum08 permalink
    March 10, 2011 3:29 am

    You’re not speaking of Bob Semling at USWP (DIII), are you? That would be surprising. I’m hoping that Yow’s being a not-so-favorite of the coaching community doesn’t hurt as much concerning the hiring of a younger coach, though that may not be the case. Either way, I’m just ready for this to play out. It’s gotten to the point where I have a hard time watching any college basketball because of the pain and frustration I feel.

  7. good2bjking permalink
    March 10, 2011 6:38 pm

    As always a good read Curle … #3 in St8isGr8’s post coaches the UConn ladies.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      March 11, 2011 2:50 am

      Dear Lord…REALLY?!?

  8. Allen W. Smothers permalink
    March 10, 2011 8:58 pm

    PLEASE… my god….. Don’t throw out the JIVE that Geno Auriemma could EVER put us on the anything resembling the level of UNC or Duke!! That’s simply a pipe-dream… AND you must be talking to different people than one’s who actually cover the Pack, because I’ve NEVER heard his name involved with this situation!

    • good2bjking permalink
      March 10, 2011 10:09 pm

      agreed … only person I’ve seen/heard mention is Dane Huffman throwing it out on a blog post as someone to consider …

  9. ST8ISGR8 permalink
    March 12, 2011 8:47 pm

    I am not referring to people that cover the Pack, just those that sit pretty close to those who will make the decision. And yes, G.A. is a name that has been mentioned in inside circles. I am not saying that he is a leading candidate or that he will even be contacted, but I have been told that he has been mentioned in discussions. You have to remember that Debbie Yow has been a coach at the highest level in Womens College basketball. She knows the sport and she does have connections. And I agree, I don’t think that Geno could ever put us at the level of UNC or Duke and I am not by any means advocating him. But he has been one of the most successful coahes at the highest level of Womens basketball… but it is a different game then the mens game.

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