It's always interesting to hear coaches discuss their own job situations. Few are willing to be candid about the dreaded hot seat, often to the point of outright denial and obfuscation; rare is the coach, like Pat Knight at last month's Big 12 Media Day, who is OK with admitting that their job is on the line. (Knight's admission in October -- that this is either a "get an extension or get fired kind of season" for him -- didn't exactly come from the college coach's media relations handbook.)
Where does Sidney Lowe fall on this spectrum? Facing his own get-an-extension-or-get-fired kind of year, with a handful of talented recruits and returning stars that should give Lowe the first NCAA tournament of his four-year tenure at NC State, the coach is not exactly talking turkey, even if his players are. From the AP:
In an interview with The Associated Press, Lowe didn't dwell on uncertainty about his long-term future at the school he led to a national championship as a player. Instead, he said he was in a good place when it comes to his outlook.
"I am because I see the light, as they say," Lowe said. "I see (the program) as I envisioned it before, as moving and getting to a certain point. ... It's going in the right direction and that's why I feel good. And these guys make me feel good in terms of their work. And I don't know what that means this year, OK? But I just know it's in a better place. We're moving forward. I know we're moving forward."
[...] [Senior forward Tracy] Smith said Lowe has been more relaxed so far this year, a sign he really isn't letting job talk get to him. But Smith also said the players want to win to "keep him around."
"There's been different rumors that his job may be on the line, but I try not to think about that," Smith said. "It's basically up to us to go out and play hard, play smart and play together."
Fair enough all around, I suppose, but despite Lowe's vague discussion of the topic, his All-ACC forward is correct: There are rumors about the safety of Lowe's job. Among any coach in the ACC, and perhaps among any in the country, Lowe desperately needs a good season in 2010-11. The Wolfpack are 20-44 in the ACC (and 71-61 overall) in Lowe's four years at the school. None of his teams has finished higher than a ninth-place tie in the conference. A handful of talented freshmen -- the No. 7-ranked class in the country, according to ESPN -- might have already saved Lowe's job once. Now he has to turn his talent into wins, and he has to do so immediately.
Nor is NC State a school willing to be patient with coaches that don't live up to its lofty expectations. After all, Lowe's predecessor, Herb Sendek, led the Wolfpack to four 20-win seasons and five straight NCAA tournament appearances in his final five years at the school, but came under fire from NC State fans for his 17-54 record against Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest. Since then, Sendek has been back to the NCAA tournament with Arizona State; NC State has not.
Lots can change during a college basketball season, but this is not a week-by-week thing. Lowe has one season, and only one season, to prove to NC State fans that his diagnosis -- "we're moving forward" -- is correct. More than any coach in the country, Sidney Lowe needs to add an NCAA tournament to his resumé. And he needs to do so now.