The 2003-04 Wolves coaching staff poses together for a picture on Media Day on Oct. 2, 2003. Saunders is in the middle holding the basketball, and assistant coach Sidney Lowe is on the far right. Eleven years later, the two are back in the same positions with the Wolves.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

Column: Loyalty Is Everything, And Flip Has It With Sidney Lowe

by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

Loyalty speaks volume in sports just as in life. It shows the mark a relationship can have on a person and what it means to have that level of familiarity and trust between two individuals working toward a common goal.

We saw it over the past three years in Rick Adelman’s coaching staff. Adelman was a master when it came to delegation and trust among his assistants, and it’s why his group stayed so close to him through the years. They trusted and believed in one another. Terry Porter played for Adelman in the 1980s and 1990s, then linked up with him as an assistant in Sacramento and Minnesota. Jack Sikma and T.R. Dunn had multiple stops with Adelman as his assistants as well.

When you know someone, it makes all the difference. And it’s universal. There’s a reason why University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill, for instance, has had success turning program after program around. His coordinators stay with him, and it’s not a revolving door. When you have stability and familiarity, it is far more conducive to success.

We’re seeing that trend once again here with coach Flip Saunders and his first assistant coach hire.

Sidney Lowe isn’t a new name in Minnesota. He’s been here several times in several capacities ranging from player to analyst to assistant to head coach. His last two stops here, however, were with Saunders as an assistant in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s. He was part of Saunders’ group that went to the Western Conference Finals in 2003-04, and he actually stayed on Saunders’ staff in Detroit for a year.

They know each other. They trust each other’s work flow and philosophy. That’s sometimes overlooked and underrated from the outside, but you don’t need to tell Lowe how much it means to him.

“You know, we had conversations over the phone and talked and discussed some things, and we talked about other opportunities that I have. And he asked me what did I think, and I said I’m coming no matter what,” Lowe said. “It doesn’t matter who calls, I’m coming. But that’s my belief in him, my trust in him, my loyalty to him, and our friendship. So it didn’t matter what was out there. When he called me back, it was done.”

It’s a relationship that began back in the Continental Basketball Association with Saunders, then coaching Rapid City, making a phone call to Lowe to see if he’d join the squad for the stretch run. That led to an opportunity for Lowe to return to the NBA and, eventually, link up with the Wolves. He’d be there for the next five years in four different capacities.

When Saunders offered him another opportunity to join the Wolves in 1999, by then with a playoff-caliber team led by Kevin Garnett, Lowe was on board once more. He stayed for a year before getting a shot as the Vancouver Grizzlies’ head coach. He spent two years there before returning to Saunders’ staff once more, this time joining a team about ready for the most successful run in franchise history.

They’ve stayed close through friendship and basketball throughout, which at this point spans 25 years.

“I’ve always obviously admired his style and his philosophies and the way he approaches the game, so I’ve learned a lot from him and, you know, when the opportunity was there I jumped on it,” Lowe said.

Think about the people in your life that you believe in and for whom you have respect. I’m sure there are bosses and colleagues you’ve had along the way that you tend to work best with and those you’d like to continue working for after your initial opportunity passed. It makes sense for Saunders and other coaches around the league to continue bringing back familiar faces. If you have new people each time you begin your coaching venture in a new place, you’re going to need to start from Square 1. This is not Square 1 with Sidney Lowe.

This is a story that is older than even the franchise’s existence. The next chapter is about to be written.

“I think it helps a great deal,” Lowe said. “Having been in the seat before, you know, what he’s going through, what he’s going to deal with. But, you know, working with the players, developing players, you know, we’re there to take care of a lot of stuff that he doesn’t need to worry about. So, that’s our job is to assist. I think having been in that seat before, you know exactly what he’s going through.”

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