Sendek Faces Monumental Task

Herb Sendek surprised much of college basketball when he decided to leave tradition-rich North Carolina State to take the head coaching job at Arizona State.

The Wolfpack have two national championships, three Final Four appearances, and 22 trips to the NCAA tournament. ASU has only 12 NCAA tournament appearances, has advanced as far as the Sweet 16 only four times, and has only one trip to the NCAA tournament since 1996. The Pittsburgh native said he felt it was the right time for his family to make the move. "This is the perfect time to be making this move for myself and my family."

Sendek has a 253-158 record, including 191-132 at NC State. The job of rebuilding the Sun Devils is daunting. The Pac-10 is full of high-profile coaches. Lute Olson is entrenched at Arizona, Ben Howland at UCLA, Tim Floyd at USC, and Lorenzo Romar at Washington are big-name coaches with less than five year tenures at their schools.

Olson has set the blueprint for building a program in the Pac-10. The Wildcats have been successful by attracting in-state blue chips and routinely mining Southern California and Texas to become a national power. Now that they are on the national stage, the Wildcats have been able to recruit players that are being recruited nationally.

Leaving the ACC behind, means Sendek doesn't have to butt heads with Duke and North Carolina, but Arizona, UCLA, and Washington are programs with national profiles, USC is improving under Floyd, and Cal and Stanford are always competitive. Leaving NC State and the ACC for ASU and the Pac-10 was curious. The ACC has multiple national television appearances per week, while the Pac-10 has two to three appearances weekly.

The ACC is the hot-bed of college basketball, while the Pac-10 appears to have a greater focus on football. But UCLA's run to the NCAA championship game, Washington's recent resurgence, and Arizona's national profile might help make winter a more intriguing sports season. The Pac-10 recently its renewed television contract with FOX Sports that will provide the conference with greater exposure, including a nationally-televised Sunday night game.

Security and assurances to improve facilities had to play a part in Sendek's decision to move on. Even with five straight NCAA tournament appearances in Raleigh, the fans were never completely happy with the results. North Carolina and Duke's success have given Wolfpack faithful the illusion that they should compete on a national level annually.

NC State has had success nationally in the past, but has never been able to sustain it year in, year out since the '80s. The Wolfpack's five straight NCAA tournament appearances over the last five seasons tied a school record. Ungrateful NC State fans had erected a website during his first five seasons when he failed to make the NCAA tournament. At ASU, where making the NCAA tournament is an accomplishment, Sendek will have time to build a program.

Sendek transfers to Tempe at the relatively young age of 43. Competing against the California schools and Arizona will take time. Both Arizona and ASU have been able to go into Texas with success. The Sun Devils have bought in Ike Diogu and Mario Bennett from the Lone Star State in the past to help them get to the tournament. Sendek will have re-mine the Texas pipeline to Tempe, recruit Southern California well, and continue to bring in international players with success. Ilian Evtimov from Bulgaria and Engin Atsur from Turkey were key contributors for the Wolfpack in recent years.

Building ASU's name and getting the Sun Devils more exposure will be telling in how Sendek is able to build a program. He scheduled aggressively at NC State. The Wolfpack played NCAA tournament teams Alabama, George Washington, and Iowa in the past two seasons during their non-conference schedule. ASU, however, played only Minnesota and Iowa in an exceptionally easy pre-conference schedule in 2005-06.

The Devils return an experienced, veteran team in 2006-07. The top seven scorers return led by five seniors. Sendek's spread offense perfectly suits an excellent three-point shooting team. NC State was second in the ACC in three-point shooting percentage at 39% and their nine made attempts led the ACC. Bryson Krueger and Kevin Kruger are adept three point shooters who should thrive in Sendek's offense. Jeff Pendergraph was an all Pac-10 freshman selection at center. Antwi Atuahene had an excellent first year at the point and Allen Morrill will return from an injury to give Sendek depth on the perimeter.

Sendek was also able to secure his first big-name recruit, swingman Jerren Shipp from Fairfax, CA. Shipp is the younger brother of current UCLA forward Josh Shipp and former Cal standout Joe Shipp. Duke center Eric Boateng also announced he is transferring to ASU. He will become eligible in 2007-08.

The hiring of Sendek and the recruitment of other well-known coaches demonstrates that the ASU administration has a greater commitment to winning than they have in the past. Plans include building a new practice facility.

ASU has a long way to go to catch the Pac-10's elite programs. They are the only conference school that has never advanced to the Final Four and the glory days of Byron Scott and Alton Lister were almost 25 years ago. Getting Sendek was a definite coup for the Sun Devils, however. Coaches with national profiles moving to the Pac-10 have become a trend in recent years. The problem for Sendek could be that the other coaches are established at their schools and have roots out west.

Using Olson as a role model, Sendek said, "He (Olson) was very successful at Iowa in a well-established program in the Big 10 and he made a quantum leap to Arizona at a similar stage in his career." The differences between Olson and Sendek are stark. Olson had a Final Four appearance at Iowa and had previously coached on the West Coast at Long Beach State, Long Beach City College, and in Southern California high schools.

It will take Sendek a few years to rebuild a dormant program. Previous coach Rob Evans was able to build Mississippi into a consistent team that hadn't had much success before his arrival. He wasn't able to build ASU, even with 2005 Pac-10 player of the year Ike Diogu.

Sendek discussed that his plan was to worry about ASU first. "Our focus had to start and end with ourselves. We had a saying [at NC State] 'It's about us, not them.' We have to embrace who we are."

If ASU is able to do that next season, the Sun Devils should be good enough to achieve an NIT berth. Once recruits see success, then Sendek can aim at the more accomplished programs. With the Pac-10 as competitive as ever, the Sun Devils will be an interesting program to keep an eye on.

Comments and Conversation

May 20, 2006


“He scheduled aggressively at NC State.”
What a joke!

Sendek played next to nobody out of the ACC at State.
State’s non-conf. schedule strength was terrible every single year.
We were nearly always an NCAA bubble team going into the ACC tourney. 2 of the 5 years did we NOT need to win a game or two in the ACC tourney to get an NCAA bid.
And as far as State fans having the “Illusion” that we should compete nationally…..just who was Duke nationally before K got there? That’s right…nobody.
When Jimmy V left State, we were tied with UNC for ACC and NCAA titles. Duke was a distant 2nd in ACC titles and had ZERO NCAA titles.

So we endured about 10 years of mediocrity until Sendek finally got us back in the Big Dance. Fine, but he was unable to get us a title of any kind, and he went 8-38 against Duke and UNC, which is unacceptable.
You have to beat your rivals OCCASIONALLY. Sendek never beat Dean Smith or Roy. Beat K twice…all the other wins came against Doherty, Gutheridge and K’s replacement in 1996.

I think it’s true that ASU will be happy just to get to the NCAA’s. Sendek will do just fine there.

May 21, 2006


You see why Sendek left NC State. Unless you win the national championship every few years and regularly beat Duke WHILE they’re rated in the top 3 or so, it’s completely unacceptable to many NC State fans who live in the clouds. ASU will do well with him as coach. Defense is Sendek’s forte and teams will be much improved even in the short-run because of that.

May 21, 2006


If its illusional for NCSu fans to think they can regularly compete with Duke & uncch, the I take it that it was illusional for uncch to think they could compete with NC State back in the 50’s….and for DUke to think they could in the 70’s and 80’s. I guess it is ok for them to try to improve and get to the top, but NC State is stupid for just not giving up!!! We MIGHT not ever win big again….but we won’r ever give up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 22, 2006


Over the ‘81, ‘82, and ‘83 seasons (coach K’s first three years), Duke was 38-47, 13-29 in conference. Their average finish was 6.7 in an eight-team conference. Meanwhile, the other two area teams, UNC and NC State, were the past two national champions. Duke had never won a national title, much less multiple titles like both their neighbors had. Apparently, Duke was still under the “illusion” that they “should” be able to compete, not just with State and Carolina, but on a national level annually.

How’d that work out for them, I wonder? I guess they should have “known their role” and been content playing third fiddle in their own backyard.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site