Sidney Lowe is in an unusual situation at N.C. State.
He has yet to coach the Wolfpack basketball team to the NCAA tournament in four seasons, but he's experiencing a huge surge in popularity because he just signed an excellent recruiting class.
Forward C.J. Leslie and guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown give N.C. State a class that's rated at or near the top of the ACC. All-Star Sports analyst Bob Gibbons said earlier this week that presuming that Brown is academically eligible (Lowe said he expects Brown to be able to enroll in summer school), N.C. State's class probably noses out North Carolina's as the best in the ACC.
Nonetheless, N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler was ousted last week, in part because the basketball team's lack of success under Lowe has dissatisfied some fans.
Here are some excerpts from Lowe's comments Thursday night at the Wolfpack Club's Raleigh Caravan stop:
On Fowler's departure: "I have a program that I’m trying to develop. I think it’s going in the right direction. I think we’re starting to get the right kind of people, the right kind of players, in here to compete at the highest level. And that’s the only thing I can concentrate on. One great thing about Lee is that he always talked to me about the business. And coming from the NBA, I knew about the business. And it’s unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to you, but it happens. And he was always good to me, and I wish him well."
On wanting to win for Fowler's sake: "You always want to do your best for the people that hire you. But I have a little more at stake than the average guy because I went to school here. So it doesn’t make me work any harder. It doesn’t make me try any harder. I want to win for N.C. State. I want to win for the people that support us. I want to win for the people that are always behind us, good and bad. Those are the ones I want to win for. You want to win for the die-hard fans, which I know we have a lot of them. And I know we’re moving in the right direction."
On N.C. State's recruiting class: "Having played this game before, there’s one thing I know. No matter how good a coach you are, you can’t do it if you don’t have the same type players that the good teams have. And we’re starting to get that. You’ve seen it all over. You have great coaches. They might get a tough team, they might get a young team, and they struggle a little bit. But they’re still the same coach. But I like our direction right now."
On whether the fans are expecting too much from the freshmen: "I like the excitement. It’s hard to tell college fans not to get excited and expect a lot. That’s just the way it is. They’re freshmen. They’re going to make mistakes, but they’re good basketball players. They’re going to do more good things than bad things. It’s going to take some time with them, but I think you’ll see they’re quality players."
On what was the key to signing such a strong class: "Time. Just time. Being able to recruit them as freshmen and sophomores. Not going in as a junior and really trying to get in there. It’s a tough deal. When you’re recruiting against top programs in the country and those are the players we’re going after, you have to wait. You have to be patient with it. Getting [to see] Ryan as a freshman, seeing Lorenzo as a freshman, seeing C.J. with his early commitment, that meant a lot. So time has been the really big deal here. It just took longer than all of us, not just our fans but me as well, but hopefully we’re going to reap the benefits now of being able to be on these guys. And now going forward we have other guys we’ve been on since they were freshmen and we’ll be in the hunt on those guys as well."
On whether the recruits' proclamations (Leslie predicted a top-5 finish for N.C. State) have been a bit too bold: "I’m not one to talk. You let your play do the talking for you. You don’t need to give your opponents any incentive to beat you. But you like the confidence. He’s excited and sometimes guys will say things they probably shouldn’t have said. That just means he’s got to come out and back it up now."
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.
Tim Crothers is an author and former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who is joining the sports staff to write a regular column during the rest of the college basketball season.