Thursday, March 5, 2009

N.C. State's Lowe regains control

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe probably lost his team in 2007-08, when N.C. State crumbled with nine consecutive losses to finish 15-16.

But there was little doubt after senior night Wednesday at the RBC Center that Lowe has regained control of the program.

Senior center Ben McCauley was displaced in the lineup last season when he was a junior by J.J. Hickson, who spent just one season in the program before leaving for the NBA. But after contributing a team-high 20 points and six rebounds in the Wolfpack’s 74-69 defeat of Boston College on Wednesday, McCauley praised Lowe.

McCauley was recruited by Lowe’s predecessor, Herb Sendek, who left for Arizona State after McCauley’s freshman season.

“It was tough at first,” McCauley said. “The main reason I came down here was Coach Sendek, and for him to leave was really tough to swallow because I was still a young guy. I was still a freshman on campus.

“The moment I met Coach Lowe, I knew he was here for the right reasons. I knew he was the right pick for the job. And I knew that I wanted to stay and give it my all. The first year was a great way to get off the jump with him, and I think it’s carried over. His attitude and the mind set he brings to this team, I think is not only going to do well for the rest of this year, but for years to come.”

That is strong praise from a player Lowe suspended from N.C. State’s offseason exhibition trip to Toronto for conduct detrimental to the team. And Lowe returned the compliment Wednesday night.

He said that recently he had a heart-to-heart talk with McCauley about his senior season. Lowe told him he was proud of the way McCauley has matured.

“I don’t think there was one day this year that he came to a game or practice and wasn’t ready to play,” Lowe said.

In coaching, putting players in the proper spots on the floor with good X’s and O’s is only a small part of the job. Because of his vast experience in the NBA, Lowe understands that part of the game so well that assistant coach Pete Strickland recently said he felt like a rookie in his first season on the staff.

But managing personalities is something Lowe had trouble with last season. At least in the case of McCauley, it appears that’s a problem Lowe has conquered in 2008-09. As a result, N.C. State (16-12, 6-9 ACC) is assured of a winning season now that demonstrates some improvement over 2007-08. – Ken Tysiac