Sidney Lowe Answers the Call

by Bill Heller
This story appeared in Timberwolves Tonight in 1989-90.

It's the middle of the '86-87 winter, and Sidney Lowe is enjoying living in Sarasota, Fla., where he's made the difficult transition from pro sports to life in the real world. He's managing a restaurant, the Magic Moment. He's playing lots of tennis and golf. He's happy with his life, his family — wife Melanie and son Sidney Jr. — and his future.

He's confronted the dreaded reality athletes at all levels must face: the one that says I'm not good enough.

Lowe just said "no" to chasing his dream of making the NBA. "When I took that year off, it wasn't just to take a year off," he said. "I was enjoying what I was doing at the Magic Moment. I enjoyed the weather. I was finished with basketball."

Wrong.

Three years later, Lowe is plying his trade of basketball — again — before crowds of 24,000 at the Metrodome.

From serving breakfasts to serving assists. From meals to steals. From dinner to being a winner.

For Sidney Lowe is deeply entrenched with a winning habit. The habit will live despite the season of losing — a guarantee for a first-year expansion team in the NBA. "It's been an adjustment," Lowe said. "I haven't been used to losing ball games. It's tough being able to live with it. You never accept losing. You just try to concentrate and go on to the next game. It's tough for me to handle losing. I don't like it."

He never has. Lowe was weaned on winning as a teenager at storied DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. At DeMatha, Lowe played football but became an All-American in basketball.

Moving on to North Carolina State, Lowe averaged 11.3 points and 7.5 assists his senior season, leading the Wolfpack to a mammoth upset of the University of Houston to win the 1983 NCAA Tournament.

Lowe spent the 1983-84 season in the NBA with Indiana, then played a total of 21 games the next year with Detroit and Atlanta. He landed with Timberwolves coach Bill Musselman in the CBA and guided the Tampa Bay Thrillers to CBA championships in 1985 and 1986.

Musselman entered Lowe's life five years ago with a 6 a.m. phone call the morning after Lowe was cut by Indiana. Musselman wanted Lowe to play in the CBA. "The guy says he's Bill Musselman," Lowe said. "He knew I was going to get cut before I did, and he calls and starts talking to me. I was still half asleep, and I was wondering who in the world is this talking to me. I finally woke up; we talked, and before you knew it, he convinced me to play for him in Tampa."

Lowe plays one way, one Musselman loves. Lowe's stocky build — he's 6 feet tall and 203 pounds — doesn't conjure images of a prototype point guard. His performances do.

Lowe's peripheral vision is remarkable, almost as if his eyes were scanners, probing the entire court for opportunities. With Lowe, the refrain isn't "the shot goes up" — rather, "the pass goes to an open teammate, then the shot goes up."

Whipping a pinpoint blind pass through a maze of players or delicately lofting a long touch pass to ignite a fast break are his personal stamp on the art of passing. "Making a great pass is a great feeling," Lowe said. "I know the fans get excited about it. My teammates get excited. I'm excited. It's something a lot of players can't do. A lot of guys want to score. Very few players want to pass the basketball. I'm glad I'm one of the guys who does."

So are his teammates.

Though Lowe's name is seldom matched with double-digit points in the Timberwolves' box scores, he does occasionally score. In the Dec. 27 thrashing of Houston, 108-91, Lowe flirted with a triple double, finishing with career highs of 22 points and eight rebounds with 13 assists, one below his NBA high. "Everything was flowing smoothly that night," he said. "I 'career-ed' it that night. Too bad I didn't get two more rebounds."

Too bad the Wolves haven't had more W's for all their close games. "We're young, and you can tell we're young," Lowe said. "We're always at a height disadvantage. Our big guys work so hard. I hurt for them sometimes after a game. They work so hard, and we don't get the win."

Lowe, who's split playing times with first-round draft pick Pooh Richardson, says he's confident the wins will come. "We have some good players, and the fan support is tremendous. Everybody's behind us. I'm still excited. I'm excited about being back in the league."

It wasn't an easy round trip. Lowe took his first step in 1987, when his former North Carolina State teammate, Thurl Bailey, convinced him to play in a summer game in Utah, where Bailey plays for the Jazz. "That one game convinced me to give it another try," Lowe said. "If I didn't go to that game, I probably wouldn't have gone to Albany."

Albany (N.Y.) is where he rejoined Musselman, who had left the Thrillers — when they relocated in Rapid City, S.D. — in search of an astonishing fourth consecutive CBA championship. All Lowe did was led the Patroons to a 48-6 regular season, the best winning percentage (.889) in the history of modern basketball.

The following season, while Musselman spent a year of scouting with the Timberwolves, Lowe, traded from Albany to Rapid City, sat out most of the winter before joining the Thrillers with eight games left in the regular season. After the Thrillers won the first round of the playoffs against Cedar Rapids (Iowa), Lowe was called up to the NBA by the Charlotte Hornets. His first game couldn't have been much sweeter: Lowe got a rousing ovation from a crowd of more than 23,000 fans. "This is where I played in college and where I lived," he said. "I have a lot of friends here, but I didn't expect that."

Lowe didn't waste the opportunity. Although he scored just 23 points in 14 games and shot 32.0 percent from the field, he averaged 6.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.0 steals with just 9 turnovers in 250 minutes.

The Timberwolves signed him as a free agent on Aug. 3, 1989. Lowe was delighted to be with Musselman and the basketball-hungry fans of Minnesota. "I'd say it's a pretty good comeback story," he said. "The NBA is coming back to Minnesota after, what — 30 years? — and it's a comeback for me, too, after being out of the league for awhile. I never doubted I could play in the NBA, but I doubted that there was ever going to be the opportunity again."

He remains confident victories eventually will come with this opportunity: "Coach keeps us filled with confidence that we can win. Right now, we're trying to get some wins. They're hard to come by."

He's not about to stop chasing them.