TIM PEELER: Lowe, Yow Revel in Return to Reynolds
BY TIM PEELER
He stood on a stage in front of a packed house, broadly smiling with his teammates and head coach Jim Valvano, as they celebrated with students, fans, faculty and staff the improbable 1983 national championship they had won two nights before, a 54-52 upset of top-ranked and heavily favored Houston.
For Lowe, it was a magical, glorious farewell, the perfect way to bid farewell to his record-setting collegiate career.
So when he was presented with the idea of opening his inaugural season as NC State’s 18th men’s basketball coach in Reynolds which will happen tonight when the Wolfpack men and women hold the Red-White Game, beginning at 7 p.m. Lowe jumped at it. (Seating will be limited to the first 7,000 spectators.)
He also liked the opportunity of sharing the moment with the Wolfpack women’s basketball team and Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow, whose love of the old building dates back to her trips there as a girl to the Dixie Classic.
“We thought it would be the perfect place to debut,” Lowe said.
No disrespect to the RBC Center, of course, the current home of Wolfpack men’s basketball, which Lowe says rivals the NBA’s best arenas. He just has a soft spot for Reynolds, the place where he recorded most of his then-school-record 762 assists.
“It’s Reynolds,” Lowe said. “They have gutted the place and changed some things around since I played there, but it is still Reynolds, one of the great places in the history of college basketball.
“As a player, it was an unbelievable place. We dressed in the lockerrooms in the basement and then walked up the stairs to get to the court. By the time you got there, you were loose. You didn’t have to stretch out or anything.”
Lowe and his staff which includes three other point guards who played for the Pack in Reynolds: associate coach Monte Towe, director of basketball operations Quentin Jackson and administrative assistant Justin Gainey talk about the old days in Reynolds “almost every day,” even though the men’s team no longer plays or practices there.
And he still vividly remembers his greatest single moment there, when he led the Wolfpack on a fast-break against defending national champion North Carolina. As he was being chased by Sam Perkins, Lowe opted not to go up for the layup himself, and bounced the ball backwards between his legs to a trailing Thurl Bailey, who slammed home a thunderous dunk that nearly exploded the famous noise meter that hangs in Reynolds’ rafters.
That was the moment, the players say, that started the Wolfpack’s run to the national championship.
“The place was so loud on that day, it was unbelievable,” Lowe said.
Yow, entering her 32nd season as the Wolfpack women’s head coach, has similar feelings for the building that was started before the beginning of World War II, but wasn’t finished until legendary coach Everett Case, the father of ACC basketball, began winning championships in Raleigh.
When it opened in December, 1949, Reynolds was the premier basketball arena in the South. Its importance in establishing the Wolfpack’s basketball tradition with the 11 Dixie Classics, the first 13 ACC Tournaments and several NCAA Regionals, including the 1974 East Regional semi-finals and finals is impossible to calculate.
Yow, a native of Gibsonville, N.C., remembers going to the Dixie Classic with her father, Hilton. When she became NC State’s first women’s coach in 1975, the place used to overwhelm her.
“It just seemed really, really large,” Yow says. “Sometimes when I was in the arena, I really didn’t know which side was which or the back from the front. I would get turned around all the time.”
Now, Yow knows every inch of the place as well as anybody on campus. She can sit in her corner office and hear her players doing their individual workouts and playing pickup games.
And she can’t wait to unveil her team, which features two returning starters from last year’s 19-12 team that went to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year and a Top 10 recruiting class, in tonight’s festivities. It’s the first time in years that the Wolfpack women have had a Red-White contest.
“It just means so much to us, doing it in conjunction with the men,” Yow said. “It’s a lot more exposure for us. It’s a great opportunity all the way around. Wolfpack fans will get the chance to see the first glimpse of both teams’ personnel and get a little preview of Wolfpack basketball for the coming year.”