Lowe had an 86-78 overall record, but just 25-55 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. He inherited a program coming off five straight NCAA tournament trips, but he 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 says 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.
First-year athletic director Debbie 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 unforseen that would be shared — that we were going to go in this direction."
There had been a handful of exciting moments under Lowe, from an upset of highly ranked rival North Carolina and a surprise run to the ACC tournament final in his first season to an upset of eventual national champion Duke and a run to the ACC tournament semifinals in 2010. But he failed to sustain any momentum from those big wins, never making it to the NCAAs and twice going to the NIT.
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.
Lowe had said he wasn't focusing on his future. But the 75-67 loss to Maryland in the first round of the ACC tournament Thursday night felt like Lowe's farewell.
"I love this school," Lowe said. "I poured my sweat here for four years to give it my best, and it was my hope and dream to come back here and do something special again. So, yeah, it means a lot more to me than it might mean to another coach or something.
"It hurts me because I know what it's about down here. I know what it's like, and I know what it's like to win here. I know how the people will get behind you and the true fans will stick with you and enjoy that thing some. Yeah, it means a lot more to me."
Lowe 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. He arrived in 2006 after a messy monthlong coaching search that missed on top targets — including John Calipari and Rick Barnes. Lowe called his hiring a "dream come true" and embraced the program's tradition while talking of building on the success of Herb Sendek before him.
But Lowe, an assistant with the NBA's Detroit Pistons at the time, had no college coaching experience when he was hired.
N.C. State went 7-33 in ACC road games with 23 of those losses coming by double-digit margins under Lowe. The Wolfpack also lost 13 of 16 to Duke and North Carolina, including the past 10 meetings with the Tar Heels.