Tuesday, April 04, 2006

An Open Letter to Herb Sendek

Methinks the NC St. faithful will soon find out what Cinderella sang about in in 1988. You don't know what you got till it's gone. Over the weekend, Herb Sendek took the reigns of the Arizona St. Sun Devils and left Raleigh on his own accord. Hard to blame the guy considering all the heat he has been under despite his recent success. Seems making 5 straight NCAA tournaments is not enough in the capital city. The NC St. faithful also want him to hold his own against Duke, UNC, and Wake. While Sendek has struggled as of late against the other North Carolina schools, it is important to look at the overall body of work. When Sendek arrived on the NC St. campus in 1996, the Wolfpack had struggled through 5 straight losing seasons under Les Robinson. Sendek immediately turned the program around. He posted winning records and NIT appearances during his first 4 seasons. His fifth year was a disappointment as NC St. slumped to a losing record. However, in year 6 the Pack returned to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1991. They even won a game over defending national semifinalist Michigan St. before succumbing to #2 seed Connecticut in the 2nd round. NC St. returned to the tourney the following season, falling to Cal in a nailbiter in round 1. The next season was arguably the best for NC St. in 16 years. The Pack got their highest tourney seed (#3) since 1988. The fact that they were upset in the second round by Vanderbilt should not lessen the accomplishment. Although the regular season would be a struggle the following year, the postseason would more than make up for it. NC St. sputtered to a 7-9 finish in the ACC, but still managed to snag an at-large big to the NCAA tournament. They defeated the Charlotte 49ers in the first round and then upset Connecticut in the 2nd round to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1989. This past season, the Pack again made the field of 65 and won a game for the 4th time in 5 seasons. And Sendek has done all this depsite producing exactly one NBA draft pick in his tenure at NC St. Compare this to the plethora of players Duke and UNC have sent to the pros in the 10 years Sendek has been at NC St. Heck even Wake has seen a handful of players drafted. Some may interpret this as an indictment of Sendek's coaching ability, when in reality he has gotten the most out of the players he has. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t, but Sendek has at least concocted an edible goulash.

The problem with the NC St. faithful is that they believe they are UNC and Duke. As a Wake alum, sorry to disappoint you, but we fall a notch below those two powers in the college basketball food chain. Let's be realistic, NC St. was last a national power under Norm Sloan in the mid to late 1970's. They were a solid program under the cheater Jim Valvano in the 1980's, but winning that title in 1983 was probably the worst thing to happen to Wolfpack fan's perception of themselves. Newsflash, NC St. was not the best team in 1983. I say this not to demean their accomplishment, but to put the program into perspective. They rode a fluky hot streak to national prominence, and somehow feel entitled to make another tournament run as a low seed. Pack fans also seem to think that NC St. is a high profile job that will attract numerous established coaches (Rick Barnes, Rick Pittino, etc.). While it's possible the Pack may luck out and get a very good mid-major coach assistant to be their new coach, no established coach is going to pick up and move to Raleigh. They have not been an elite program since the Ford administration. To steal a line from the aforementioned Pittino, "Everett Case, Norm Sloan, David Thompson, and Tommy Burleson ain't walking through that door." As a Wake fan, I'm more than happy to see Herb Sendek leave the ACC. In all likelihood, that's one less game where Skip Prosser gets outcoached. I wish him well in Tempe.

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