Sidney Lowe had big moments at North Carolina State, from roaming the sideline in a striking red blazer for rivalry wins against Duke and North Carolina to a pair of surprising Atlantic Coast Conference tournament runs.
He just never figured out how to sustain that momentum or make it to the NCAA tournament. Ultimately, it led to his resignation Tuesday as the Wolfpack's coach.
"After five years, wins and losses matter, and they matter a lot," athletic director Debbie Yow said. "They just do."
The numbers didn't add up for Lowe.
He had an 86-78 overall record, but just 25-55 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. N.C. State was 7-33 in ACC road games and lost 13 of 16 to Duke and North Carolina. He reached the ACC tournament final in his first year and semifinals in 2010 to go with two NIT trips, but had managed little else.
Lowe, an assistant with the NBA's Detroit Pistons with no college coaching experience when he was hired, inherited a program coming off five straight NCAA tournament trips under Herb Sendek. But Lowe never finished higher than ninth in the ACC despite twice being picked to finish in the top third of the 12-team league.
In a statement from the school Tuesday evening, Lowe said he had been "truly blessed" by the opportunity to coach the program he led to a national championship as a player in 1983.
"I am thankful for this experience," Lowe said. "I am excited to follow the path the Lord takes me on as I maintain my relationship with the Wolfpack family for years to come."
His resignation comes less than a week after N.C. State (15-16) closed with a loss to Maryland in the first round of the ACC tournament.
Yow had said she wouldn't make a decision on Lowe's future until the end of the season. During a news conference Tuesday night, Yow said she met with Lowe for about an hour in the afternoon before meeting with the players — after they had met with Lowe privately — to talk about what they wanted in a new coach.
"Although it is accurate to say the decision was not made until today, I had been thinking about it so long as the games rolled along," Yow said. "I was drawing closer to a conclusion as the season wound down. I knew coming into the meeting today that — absent something unforeseen that would be shared — that we were going to go in this direction."
Yow described her meeting with Lowe as "two people in the room who care about each other and simply disagree on the way to get to the next level in the program." While the discussion included whether she would ask for his resignation, "ultimately it was his choice to step down," she said.
Associate head coach Monte Towe, the point guard on the 1974 NCAA championship team, will serve as interim coach.
"My job right now is to help the players," Towe said. "Coach Lowe knows that. I will tell you this: I have his blessing on what were doing. He told me, 'Get in there, go to work and do what you have to do.' That's who he is."
Yow said most of the coaches she'd like to interview are in the NCAA tournament, so she couldn't offer a timetable on when she'd hire a replacement. She admitted having a short list of possible candidates, that she would be "trying like crazy" to get one of them.
Lowe had two years left on his contract that paid him a base salary of around $210,000 per year. Yow said a settlement is being worked out that she estimated will pay Lowe around $900,000.
This season, N.C. State was picked to finish fourth after bringing in one of the nation's top recruiting classes to join an experienced group that included returning all-ACC big man Tracy Smith. But Smith sat out 10 games after knee surgery, while the rest of the team never seemed to come together.
As fans saw their preseason optimism fade into that all-too-familiar sinking feeling, there were entire sections of empty red seats in the upper end zones of the RBC Center. The vibe in the building dulled from excitement to resignation.
That led to an awkward decision on the future of one the school's most beloved sports figures, who was the starting point guard for the "Cardiac Pack" team that upset Houston on a last-play dunk to win the 1983 title under Jim Valvano.
"What I've heard (from fans) is they love Sidney and appreciate Sidney just like I do," Yow said, "but they'd like to win more — considerably more. I can't fault that."