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Ryan Craig

Lowe must demand more from his players

Posted January 9, 2009

N.C. State men’s basketball coach Sidney Lowe spoke to the media Friday afternoon, just days before his squad was set to take on Clemson to open its ACC conference slate this year.

One of the most interesting things he said was in response to a question about his players’ collective reaction to the loss to Florida.

“Very hard – they took it very hard, which, you know me, I like to see that," coach Lowe said. "That tells you that, one, they want it, and two, that it hurts. While it might sound bad, I want them to hurt, because you want them to say to themselves that they never want to have that feeling again after a ballgame.”

In case you might have forgotten, the Wolfpack was up 10 at halftime in Gainesville, but ultimately lost to the Gators when Nick Calathes and the rest of his Florida team scored five of the game’s last seven points to pull out a 68-66 win.

The loss left the Pack winless in its three biggest non-conference games, losses to Davidson, Marquette and Florida that came by a total of 10 points.

I completely agree with coach Lowe in that there are times when you need to hurt as an athlete in order to fuel the desire to get better.

I never played basketball at the college level, but almost anyone that has played any sport knows the hurt of falling short of a goal, however large or small, and the subsequent vow you make to yourself about how you’re going to work to make sure you never have to face that failure again.

The issue I have with Lowe on this subject lies not in the fact that he likes when his players are disappointed with losses, but more so in the fact that I think he needs to demand that attitude more from his players, even after lackluster wins, rather than simply praising them when they voluntarily express it.

Get in somebody’s face. Call them out from time to time in the media if you have to.

After lackadaisical efforts that result in close wins against bad teams or upset losses, Lowe needs to take a harder stance with his players. He needs to make them more like - well - him.

This is not a group of freshman and sophomores feeling its way through the transition to the college game.

There are Ben McCauley, Courtney Fells, Brandon Costner, and four other juniors and seniors who play significant minutes for this team – you should be able to be hard on these guys and not have to worry about messing with their heads. If the team was a herd of underclassmen I could understand handling them with kid gloves, but not a roster full of multiple letter winners.

Yes, there is a fine line between motivating them with tough love and hurting their confidence, but it seems like there are too many postgame interviews after underwhelming performances during frighteningly close wins that include something about how it’s good to be able to win close contests.

I’m sorry, but there is no time when beating Loyola (MD) by two points is acceptable. I don’t care that the Pack was dealing with injuries - that is a team that State should beat by 20, night in and night out. Same goes for Presbyterian and Centenary from last season, though I will admit the togetherness and game-night effort of last year’s team was not as good as this year’s edition.

The thought that the players should be satisfied with eking out a close win because they held off the vaunted Greyhounds and their 4-7 record (at the time) is ludicrous. I’ll take the “we learned a lot about ourselves in being able to win this close game” line when the team on the other bench is someone from the ACC, or even on a neutral court against a perennial NCAA Tournament mid-major program, but Loyola (MD)? Come on.

That attitude begins with the coach - and if the players can't take it then they can find another way to get their education paid for.

Lowe has done an admirable job getting his team to play harder and with more cohesiveness this year than in year’s past, and with a few more recruiting classes, I believe there will be enough talent in Raleigh to challenge some of the big dogs down the road for the conference title.

But talent won’t get you anywhere unless you have players that demand the most from their talent each and every time they lace up their sneakers and take to the hardwood. Lowe had that desire, and he has a national championship ring to show for his efforts.

If State is to take the next step toward ACC relevance, they need to stop concentrating on wins and losses and start grading themselves on effort.

Coach Lowe needs to make sure they feel the same way they did after the Florida game after “bad” wins, ones in which they may have pulled out a game, but where the effort and execution wasn’t nearly at the level where it needed to be.

The wins against Loyola (MD) and others will come if they play hard and smart every night, and the victories will be by margins that won't need explaining away.

It's Lowe's job to make sure that the determination needed to earn those wins is more about demanding the best from yourself than whatever is good enough to win on that particular night.

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  • acsoccer87 Jan 10, 2009

    Couldn't agree more with this article. Sydney needs to get more emotional with the kids and expect more from them. That's the one way Herb and Lowe seem to be similar in that they never get on their players enough.

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